Wednesday, October 24, 2007

If Paul Byrd Is The Result Of HGH Use, Should We Even Care About Who Used It?

Paul Byrd is proof positive that HGH doesn't do shit for you.

In a couple months, George Mitchell is going to release his report on performance enhancers and baseball. Other than the fact there may be no Red Sox in the report because of George Mitchell's rampant bias (nother story, nother day), the most controversial part of the release will be the names of players within the report. We know so little about what and how the information was gathered that any implications of having your name associated with this report is far from damning and may ultimately be of no effect whatsoever. I mean, what did they find? Was the player seen with a needle in his ass or was a shipment of HGH sent to his home? If Kirk Radomski rats out someone, is that enough? How will those implicated be segregated in the report? Will there be an HGH section and a steroids section? What about "the cream" and "the clear?" What will those people fall under? It's my understanding that those treatments simply help you recover from injury more quickly. Will everyone just be labeled a cheater? These are important questions and at some point I'll address them in a lengthy post that you probably won't read. For now, what's important is that Paul Byrd took HGH. And he sucks. So doesn't this help invalidate the idea that anyone who takes this shit has a significant advantage over someone else? Isn't the fact that Paul Byrd was no better than anyone else while taking performance enhancing drugs a good thing for baseball?

Paul Byrd is a below-average Major League pitcher. I really like watching him pitch, but he really kinda sucks and always sort of has. He's crafty but his stuff just sucks. A report came out that he used HGH from 2002 - 2005 and though he says it was under doctor's care and Byrd claims he was treating a pituitary condition, no one is suggesting that this particular form of HGH was a detriment to his performance. I mean, though I'm no pharmacologist, kinesiologist or any ologist of any kind, I work under the assumption that the hormone itself has the same effect no matter what you are using it to treat. So Paul Byrd's body was benefitting from the positive effects HGH. And he still sucked. Now maybe you could argue that Paul Byrd wouldn't have been a Major League pitcher without the assistance of the HGH, that's fine. But if the uproar over performance enhancing drugs is that it makes below-average players more average, then maybe we've been wasting our time worrying about it. The real reason people are upset about performance enhancers is that they believe these drugs are creating false superstars. They're not worried about Paul Byrd or Alex Sanchez or Guillermo Mota, they're worried about the baseball playing Fatheads on their kids' walls. But if Paul Byrd is any indication, and I'd argue that he is, maybe HGH doesn't have anything more than a moderate effect on a person's performance. Now maybe it helped Byrd play another year or come back from Tommy John more quickly, but it hasn't increased the pace on his fastball and it doesn't give him movement on his curveball and I don't think Byrd's ugly mug or webbed feet (I have no idea if he has webbed feet) have grown any. So why are we so upset about it? I've NEVER seen any study showing that HGH helps people perform "better." In fact, there are a gazillion articles that suggest it doesn't do shit or at the very least that the effects are inconclusive (here are a couple good ones: here and here). And if it doesn't have a positive effect on performance but is just "bad" because baseball says so, then it should be treated separately from steroid abuse and should fall into the same category as weed and coke abuse. Those drugs aren't performance enhancers but are banned by MLB (and yes, I'm aware those drugs are illegal while some HGH use is not) and I'm guessing they won't make the Mitchell report.

Lastly, I'm not saying that I condone HGH abuse or steroid abuse (especially steroids) by athletes. Obviously someone is telling them that the use of those substances will have a positive effect on their play and the players know that baseball has banned the substances. Whatever banned substances they use should result in some kind of penalty. The difference is that steroids have been proven over and over again to have a marked impact on an athlete's ability to build muscle mass and recover from a workout while the evidence for the impact of HGH is less definitive. Steroids are also outrageously dangerous even under the treatment of a physician if taken orally or injected (the cream and the clear are a different story, I'm told). But I don't think it's fair to lump HGH usage into the same category without black letter evidence that it has a similar impact on a player's performance. It's confusing for a fan and is really disingenuous to throw both treatments into the category of "performance enhancers" without further explanation. Right now, there are a couple players accused of taking steroids: Giambi, Bonds, Palmeiro, Sosa and McGwire (amongst others I'm sure). Those guys looked and acted the part. When you think steroids and what it can do for a player, those guys are the result (allegedly).

The guy now under fire for taking HGH is Paul Byrd. He looks and acts like my UPS guy. Maybe Paul Byrd isn't the poster child for HGH use but he's someone we now know did use the drug. And if Paul Byrd is what happens when someone takes HGH, then I frankly don't give a fuck about whoever makes the HGH list from the Mitchell report.

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