Thursday, August 9, 2007

Reports of the Steroids Era's Death Are Premature


The Sports Rumors advanced the following thesis yesterday:

The steroids era has officially come to an end. Last night, as Barry Bonds’ 756th homerun sailed into right centerfield shattering Hank Aaron’s record, it brought along the conclusion of the most damaging time in MLB history. We don’t know the exact figure of how many MLB players were juiced up from the end of the 90’s through 2004. We know how many were caught, but not how many were really using....

Most of [the] players who were juiced up during the past decade simply stopped when the testing got tough, they went back down to their average numbers, and essentially got a free pass. Players like Luis Gonzalez, who out of no where blasted 57 homeruns in 2001 at age 33 (when his previous career high was 31) are back down to their 20 homerun average and free and clear of any trouble. The media doesn’t go after these players though. They go after the big fish. The big fish were Sosa, McGwire, and most importantly, Barry Bonds.

While it's true that Bonds and Sosa haven't hit 60+ home runs lately, it may be premature to proclaim that the steroids era is dead. Yesterday on KLAC, someone (it may have been Lee Klein) was noting that the players seem to be a few years ahead of the drug tests, so that today's players may be using stuff that is undetectable by today's tests.

Let's look at HGH. Please. The World Anti-Doping Agency loudly proclaims the following:

Does a test for hGH exist?

A test for hGH was first introduced at the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. The test to detect hGH abuse is a blood test.

Is the hGH test reliable?

The current test is reliable.

Sounds great, but keep on reading.

Why has there been only a limited implementation of the current hGH test?

The current test is based on the blood matrix and has been implemented on a limited scale to a number of the WADA-accredited anti-doping laboratories worldwide.

The antibodies used for the current tests are produced in a research environment. The production of antibodies in a research environment is characteristically small.

Industrial production of the anti-bodies is the next step for the widespread implementation of the hGH test.

When will the industrial production be ready?

A proto-type of a commercial kit has been made. WADA is moving to the final stage which involves working with a commercial company for its large scale production and distribution. WADA anticipates that these kits will be available in late 2007.

So the test isn't ready for prime time yet. And worse, the test only has limited detection capability:

Why have there been no positive cases for hGH so far?

The test was introduced at the Athens Olympic Games in 2004 and other major sport events. However, because hGH is often taken by doping athletes in the off-season to optimize performance, the test is most effective when implemented in a no-advance-notice out-of-competition strategy.

And HGH is a common doping agent that we all know about. What about the agents that the general public doesn't know about yet?

I think we all agree that the last ten years have been dirty. But I can't claim that the next ten years will be clean.


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