Baseball and Doping: Human Growth Hormone

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For children who are well below the average height according to their age and stage of development, human growth hormone, or HGH is prescribed by physicians to stimulate the pituitary gland and encourage normal growth and development. Evidence has also shown that HGH influences the increase in lean muscle mass in adults and may improve physical performance. Since the 1960s, athletes have been using the banned substance as a performance enhancer in sports. The illegal use of HGH has only been recently tested successfully as new blood tests have been developed for detection in the early 2000s.

HGH in Sports

Professional athletes involved in sports are under intense pressure and scrutiny to perform to perfection, and there seems to be an inner culture in professional sports that accepts the use of performance enhancers. Despite many warnings about the risk of potential side-effects and penalties for illegal use, athletes continue hgh use in sports to increase muscle strength, injury resistance, reduced body fat and improved endurance. HGH has been found in some capacity in almost every sport practiced around the world. Some of the greatest baseball players of all time have tested positive for HGH. Premiere players such as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and a long list of others have been added to a growing list of players that have tested positive for doping with the banned substance. You can also see this with the NFL testing article that is available.

The Controversial Effects of HGH

Although researchers have reported an increase in muscle mass with use of the growth hormone, many have reported that studies suggest that the strength of the musculature did not increase. In addition, the long-term use of HGH can actually decrease the athlete’s stamina and induce the effects of fatigue. The evidence still remains controversial and studies continue to spark new debate about the positive and negative effects of HGH on the adult body. Click here for an overview of all sports testing for professionals.

The Risks of Using Performance Enhancement Drugs

Although HGH is naturally produced by the body during childhood, the levels drop off significantly after the growing process has ended. Researchers have found that excessive levels of HGH in adults may cause a condition known as acromegaly that causes the bones in the body to continually enlarge and thicken. This can be a life-threatening condition, especially as the skull enlarges and continues to apply pressure to the brain. In addition, the physical deformities to the face can be significant and devastating.

Growth Hormone Testing

Although banned by the Olympics in 1989, testing for HGH was almost impossible to detect until the early 2000s. Since the hormone closely resembles natural substances, the usual drug urine tests used on athletes could not detect the presence of metabolites and failed to screen athletes properly. Finally, a blood test was developed and is now in use for screening minor and major league baseball players as of 2010 and 2011 respectively. Unfortunately, the new screening and growth hormone testing has tarnished many players’ careers and reputations.

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