Thursday, July 15, 2010

Matt Chaney talks HGH testing in NFL

Matt Chaney, the author of Spiral of Denial: Muscle Doping in American Football, was recently interviewed by Soren Hansen Hygum of the German Web site DraftdayDK regarding possible hGH testing in the NFL.

Q1. With your knowledge about the game and drugs: How extensive is the use of HGH in the NFL?

Chaney: I believe use of recombinant hGH is a widespread problem in the NFL, impacting competition. Recently, Tampa Bay Bucs running back Earnest Graham estimated 30 percent of NFL players use growth hormone, while former St. Louis Rams lineman DeMarco Farr estimated about half of players use. This week, former Packers lineman Tony Mandarich admitted using rhGH and steroids in the NFL, and he said dozens to
hundreds of doctors are prescribing such drugs to the athletes. Retired NFL players have told me a large majority of active players use rhGH, at all positions in any given year, and many retirees enjoy the drug’s reinvigorating effects long after they’ve left the game and anabolic steroids.

Q2. Why is HGH seemingly popular among athletes (track and field, NHL, NBA, MLB, NFL)?

One reason is the drug’s rapid rejuvenation of depleted muscles, and many athletes believe hGH helps restore joints from wear and tear, even injury. For size and power, athletes believe androgens, testosterone and/or anabolic steroids, are necessary in concert with “Growth” to achieve great gains. The standard, time-trusted drug stack for beating urinalysis is hGH and low-dose testosterone. The prescription records of numerous Carolina Panthers players from 2002 to 2004 corroborate this fact, their receipt of PEDs like hGH and testosterone from private physician James Shortt, who’s since convicted of criminal drug charges. In track and field since 1984, athletes, coaches and gurus have discussed the stack of low-dose testosterone and hGH stack for its effectiveness at both enhancing performance and evading detection.

Q3. The NFL does not test for HGH because the players feel that only a urine test will expose the use of HGH. Do you agree with that argument (against the blood test)?

I’m currently re-exploring the question of NFL players’ resistance to drug testing, which I’ve discussed with athletes and other qualified observers for over 20 years. One enduring reason is players do not trust management with such a powerful tool, not only for possibly revealing foreign substances but also other medical data. Contemporary players are very wary of releasing health information they consider private, regarding drugs or otherwise. In addition, American football players do not trust any sort of testing for
preventing muscle drugs—steroids, hGH and more—and I don’t blame them. Standard urinalysis is proven an utter failure, with gaping loopholes and questionable science, yet football players still must take part in the charade. They don’t want any more technology added to the mix, unless it unequivocally turns back the drug(s) it is touted to prevent. The current WADA blood test for rhGH, designed to differentiate the dominant GH isoform from its bio-engineered clone, apparently is useless for battling abuse in any sport, much less the
NFL. No drug-savvy football player in America would be so stupid as to flunk this test, with its detection window of only hours. Moreover, if by chance chopsticks would catch a fly, so to speak, the accused athlete and his representatives, ranging from personal agents to union officials, would immediately challenge the isoform test in court. Some pro football players make more money annually than USADA has in its entire operating budget. NFL players would crush the GH-isoform test in American trial court. Now, all that said, an intriguing development is WADA’s current move toward adding the GH-biomarker test to its anti-doping employ. The biomarker, said to have a 14-day detection window for “outcome” substances of GH in the
bloodstream like the potent enhancer IGF-1, could raise the stakes against determined dopers while assuring other players that valid prevention is finally in place. However, expert critics denounce blood-profiling for anti-doping, including Dutch statistician Klaas M. Faber, who ridicules the suspension of German speedskater Claudia Pechstein for the “adverse analytical” finding he says is based on invalid data. Pechstein, of course, has never tested positive in a direct analysis for doping, and her experience represents the kind of prosecution and punishment any person would resist—and especially affluent American athletes and their support networks. Blood testing must be sound, solid in its science and backed by heavy legal resources for meeting the formidable challenges of policing American athletes for PEDs; I don’t think it is.

Q4. For years WADA has criticized the NFL for not doing enough to prevent the use of illegal drugs including HGH. Is that a fair critique?

I think WADA specializes in public relations, not preventing doping and protecting athletes and fair play. Anyone who says WADA has successfully battled doping in the Olympics and others sports is moronic or, worse, deceitful.. Performances of Olympic athletes continue to elevate through the roof, especially for the speed factor, with no reasonable explanation other than doping. I trust WADA and USADA would accomplish as much against drugs in American football, like hGH, as have the NFL and NCAA in almost a
quarter-century of their anti-doping: Nothing.

Q5. Some experts feel that the NFL four-game suspensions are laughable (like the one Texans linebacker Brian Cushing recently received). Do you agree?

I once hoped that policy of testing and punishment could make a difference in athletics, root out drugs and protect all athletes. It cannot. It only persecutes the few athletes to get caught, among the masses who use drugs for competitive gains. I’ve been in the athlete’s position, facing the question of whether to use drugs or
not to compete at high level, and I chose to inject testosterone for succeeding in college football, 1982. I’d do the same today in American football, much quicker too, since nothing can stop drugs and the players have become gigantic attack robots. I refuse to endorse punishment of individuals for doping anymore, without valid and reliable detection in place, and that is nowhere in sight.

Q6. How do players react to such suspensions?

It devastates them, from collegiate to professional competitors. They know they’ve been singled out, and unfairly. That’s why it is folly to add more ineffective testing to American football at this point in time. The players won’t stand for it. They will fight back, and in the court of law, foregoing the kangaroo arbitration process of sport anti-doping.

Q7. How should the NFL in your opinion try to prevent the use of HGH - if possible?

I’ve virtually given up hope that any technology will ever prevent muscle doping in any sport, from steroids to hGH, and elimination is out of the question, isn’t it? Experts tell me a fortune is needed for research and development to improve the current model of anti-doping, probably billions of dollars, with still no guarantee
for success. That kind of funding is impossible, especially in our cash-strapped world. Possible remedies are scant, but for American football I espouse immediate reduction of doping and injuries by placing size limits on players from preps to pros. Forget testing. Football organizations can place restrictions on player sizes, law
enforcement can probe illicit PEDs in sport and culture, and if problems persist, well, then the trial courts of America will kill the sport with lawsuits. The choices are clear.

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