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The hGH issue and baseball

September 11, 2007

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What is hGH?

Human growth hormone, abbreviated as hGH, is a protein hormone produced naturally in the pituitary gland of the brain. It is believed that hGH is the controlling hormone of many functions associated with age, including energy and resilience. It stimulates growth and cell reproduction. There appears to be agreement that levels drop after the age of 30.

What benefit might an athlete derive from using hGH?

First, there is debate among those who have studied hGH about exactly what it can do to improve athletic performance. Since hGH builds muscle and strengthens connective tissue, some athletes believe it will not only make them stronger but also shorten the time to come back from injury. Some believe hGH, taken in combination with steroids and/or insulin, helps achieve these results.

What are the dangers of taking hGH?

Among the side effects most often mention as a result of excessive use of hGH is acromegaly. Acromegaly can result in diabetes, increased chance of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and arthritis. The condition can be attended by a marked growth of hands, feet and the head.

When was hGH banned by baseball?

It was banned by Major League Baseball in 2005. Steroids testing and discipline resulting from positive results started in 2004. In 2005, the list of banned substances was broadened, and penalties were made harsher.

What about testing for hGH?

MLB does not test for hGH. The International Olympic Committee says it has had a test for hGH since before 2004. But like much else about hGH, the issue of testing is not clear cut. There are contentions that even administering the test is tricky and that it often is not practical. Further, there is debate about whether results are accurate.

Where does baseball's investigation of performance-enhancing substance use stand?

It's hard to say. The investigation led by former Sen. George Mitchell is well into its second year and has been conducted in secrecy for the most part. Early in the probe, investigators visited several baseball organizations, including the Orioles. In terms of public disclosure, the New York Yankees' Jason Giambi is the only active player known to have had a formal discussion with Mitchell's investigators.

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