Friday, January 21, 2011

A New PED? Deer Me!

Read a fascinating article today concerning the latest Performance Enhancing Drug (PED) and was surprised to learn that the product is from deers in New Zealand, which goes to show you that there is more to New Zealand than The Lord of the Rings. There is no sense rehashing the article as all the information is right there in the link. But the text does bring up some interesting arguments that are worth exploring further. But to recap quickly for those of you who don't want to click the link: The velvet on the antlers of deers are scraped, freeze dried, and then converted to liquid or spray form and acts similar to Human Growth Hormone (HGH). It supposedly helps the body recuperate quickly. It can only be detected with blood tests and only in a short period of time during use.

The Fan's first reaction was that it's not a drug if it's natural. But to make sure, a jaunt to to look up the definition of "drug" and found this:

according to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (1) : a substance recognized in an official pharmacopoeia or formulary (2) : a substance intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease (3) : a substance other than food intended to affect the structure or function of the body (4) : a substance intended for use as a component of a medicine but not a device or a component, part, or accessory of a device
There is nothing there about a "drug" having to be "unnatural" or derived from non-natural materials. So we can throw that argument out the window. According to the article, that paragon of sports virtue, the World Doping Agency has classified the compound as a PED. Currently, the substance is banned by sports but MLB does not take blood samples and only tests urine.

Here's what needs to happen. There needs to be a major world symposium on what should be legal or illegal in sports. The symposium should include athletes, leagues, fans, physicians and other experts. Yeah, the Fan knows that there are more important things in the world such as hunger, war and pollution. But sports is such a worldwide phenomenon that we need to figure this out. Why would a natural extract like velvet from deer antlers be illegal and cortisone legal? Why should HGH be illegal and blood transfusions legal? It's a confusing mess. You can take vitamins but not supplements. Shooting B-12 is okay but shooting HGH is not.

The next question is whether there should be different rules for different sports. The NFL is apparently littered with supplements and abusers. Nobody cares. The article itself quotes Roy Williams as saying he uses the antler stuff all the time. But, as the article pointed out, if Albert Pujols was connected with the deer stuff, there would be outrage. Should rules be different in different sports?

The next question is whether taking anything that occurs naturally in nature (is that redundant?) should be illegal. A couple of years ago, the Fan read an excellent book on Babe Ruth. Contrary to what most believe, Ruth was not a slothful athlete that just got by on his talent. He went to an exclusive gym in New York that helped him for over a dozen years. Not many players were doing that at the time. Was that an unfair advantage? Perhaps the gym gave Ruth dietary supplements and suggestions that would give him an edge in his conditioning and strength. Other players wouldn't be able to afford such things. Did that give Ruth an unfair advantage? Some would say yes. If Ruth played today, he would be scrutinized too.

Vitamins are performance enhancers in the basic definition. They aid the body in bone and muscle growth. But those are okay because many in America take vitamins and they are perfectly legal (though not tested by the DEA which is scary). Merrium-Webster defined cortisone as, "a glucocorticoid C21H28O5 of the adrenal cortex used in synthetic form especially as an anti-inflammatory agent. Cortisone has been around since 1949 and we read regularly of players getting shot up with it. Isn't that by definition a performance enhancer?

Players are often shot with Novocaine and other pain killers to allow them to play through pain. Aren't those PEDs? But again, those are allowed. It's all a moralistic and slippery slope. As for the Fan, there is no problem with anyone taking a product that occurs naturally. Cortisone is much scarier because it masks injury and threatens a player's career. If that is okay, then deer antler velvet should be okay. There is a bottom line here. Most fans could care less about what an athlete puts in his body. Half of the people in this country thing marijuana should be legalized. We are all adults here and an amazing amount of resources is spent chasing producers and users of drugs we can't all agree on that they are harmful to us.

Nobody wants to see 80 homers because ball players start looking like Transformers. So there needs to be clear cut rules certainly. But no muscles are ever built without a lot of hard work by those building them, no matter what they take to get there. There are other ways to even the playing field such as deadening the ball and raising the mound. We've got to figure this thing out because athletes are now living in an age of information and science never known in sports before. This science will always be a step ahead of the testers and the moralists.

Deer antler velvet? Geez. The Chinese have been using that for centuries.

1 comment:

bpreston said...

Athletes have been using deer antler for years to overcome injuries and to enhance their performances.