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Wednesday 17, Dec 2008

  Steroid use in baseball “hasn’t died by any means” a year after Mitchell Report

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steroids-mlbIt was in Dec. 13, 2007 when the bombshell that was the Mitchell Report was released. The 409-page, 20-month, and finger-pointing report has focused on the use of anabolic steroids and human growth hormone in the Major League Baseball.

The dwindling confidence of fans and the heightening pressure from legislators had forced MLB commish Bud Selig to request former senator George Mitchell to conduct an independent investigation on use of performance-enhancing drugs in the sport.

The Mitchell Report has aired out MLB’s dirty laundry in public podium and has prompted the league’s officials to take steps to clean up in the aftermath – it implemented tougher penalties for erring players.

Now, a year later, how has the Mitchell Report impacted America’s pastime?

“It appears that [steroid] use is down, but it’s probably too early to make a definitive statement,” Mitchell wrote in an email to Boston Globe. “Our investigation provided further evidence of what has been a widely held belief – that some athletes will use substances that they think will enhance their performance if they believe they won’t be caught. Because of the money involved, there will always be persons seeking to develop new and undetectable illegal performance-enhancing substances.”

“Major League Baseball and the Players Association have responded positively to the report, and they’ve taken significant steps to improve the approach to the problem of performance-enhancing substances.”

But to Dr. Charles Yesalis, an anti-doping expert and professor of Health Policy and Administration, Exercise and Sport Science at the Penn State, MLB’s response needs more than just the press releases – it requires an independent testing program. MLB’s current program is mostly dictated by collective agreement of team owners and players. In short, it’s self-serving.

“Independent oversight means there is a totally independent third party running the program, which they don’t have,” said Yesalis, who has testified before Congress re steroid abuse.

“The era of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball is still in its infancy,” said Yesalis. “It hasn’t died by any means, and to think otherwise is terribly naíve.”

Only three players were suspended last season for violating the major league anti-doping policy. In 2003, the first year of random testing, 104 major leaguers tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

In the minor league, specifically at the Dominican Summer League, at least 40 players tested positive for anabolic steroids and other prohibited compounds.

Thursday 03, Jul 2008

  Ian Thorpe to sue French newspaper over steroid use

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Ian Thorpe steroidsFormer freestyle swimmer Australian Ian Thorpe has launched a defamation suit against a French nationwide daily which alleged of an irregular drug test.

The article appeared in March last year in an online edition of L’Equipe which claimed a drug screening revealed abnormally high readings for testosterone and a hormone in Thorpe’s system.

The Olympic champion has expressed his denial after the publication. He was insistent that he had never violated anti-doping policies.

“My reputation as a fair competitor is the most valuable thing I take out of my time in swimming,” the retired champion told the media last April.

As a result of the allegation, the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority launched a six-month inquiry. Said inquiry found no evidence that Thorpe used anabolic steroids to boost his athletic performance.

Thorpe’s lawyer, Tony O’Reilly, has filed a defamation claim in the NSW Supreme Court on June 24.

Thorpe, also known as the Thorpedo or Thorpey, has won five Olympic gold medals, the most won by any Australian. In 2001, he became the first person to win six gold medals in one World Championship.

All major sports organizations, including the International Olympic Committee, ban the use of anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. In many countries, anabolic steroids are classified as controlled substances.

However, sport bodies always encounter difficulties when testing for anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. This is because users of these substances could find ways to avoid detection.

Charles Yesalis, Sc. D., has voiced out this view before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection and the Subcommittee on Health.

“Drug testing …,” according to Yesalis, “(is) less effective against performance-enhancing drugs that are used during training or used to enhance an athlete’s capacity to train. For example, testing can be circumvented in several ways. Generally, to avoid a positive test, athletes can determine when to discontinue use prior to a scheduled test or, in the case of an unannounced test, they titrate their dose to remain below the maximum allowable level, as is the case with testosterone.”

Anabolic steroids are commonly used in power/strength sports like bodybuilding, weightlifting and swimming. Anecdotal evidence suggests that anabolic steroids improve athlete’s performance and physique.

Anabolic steroids are not exclusively used by human athletes to boost performance. In thoroughbred racing, use of these compounds is also prevalent.