Human Growth Hormone 101
No baseball all-stars or their personal trainers took questions at today’s House oversight committee hearing. Instead, the committee spent the morning dutifully learning about the Human Growth Hormone and vitamin supplement industries.
When George Mitchell released his report on baseball steroid use in mid-December, Chariman Henry A. Waxman and ranking member Thomas Davis, R-Va., immediately called for public hearings and sworn depositions from baseball stars and their trainers that alleged performance enhancing drug use. They have since narrowed their main hearing tomorrow to the he-said, he-said feud between Yankee pitcher Roger Clemens and his ex-personal trainer, Brian McNamee.
Pundits have accused the committee of stargazing. But they tried to lay the groundwork today for what they hope to more globally gain by probing whether Clemens or McNamee is lying. Four human growth hormone and vitamin clinical experts answered questions about the effects of HGH and other supplements.
Some helpful clarifications emerged. Dr. Todd Schlifstein, who works for the New York UniversityDepartment of Rehabilitation Medicine, said HGH cannot be effectively used alone to enhance athletic performance. Meaning, Schlifstein testified, that if an athlete is using HGH they have to be using anabolic steroids to make the HGH do its job.
HGH is also a growing e-commerce force, as the four experts talked about how its distributed over the internet with loose scientific facts and celebrity endorsements.
“There’s two billion dollars a year for these hucksters,” said Thomas T. Perls, an Associate Professor the Boston University School of Medicine. Perls testified that there is essentially an internet “cult” for hormone-increasing drugs.
Schlifstein concurred that the public is getting rooked. “They’re getting information from the same place that’s trying to sell them something,” he testified.
Which is where Congress might come in.
“The federal government may be able to specifically address the network that is distributing propaganda to young people,” argued Brian P. Bilbray, R-Calif. “This is a predatory activity.”
Young athletes wanting to get stronger and old people wanting to look younger were cited by both panelists and lawmakers as the most vulnerable to HGH. In his remarks, Waxman elaborated how the FDA must also play a role in regulating HGH and preventing the many fraudulent growth hormone products flooding the market.
So the committee made the case that they’re looking at a legit public health issue. And if they have to cite over-sized celebrities as examples, so be it.
“There is unfortunately a tendency for the good-looking body in the run way being connected to steroid and human growth hormone,” said Darrell Issa, R-Calif. Issa cited as examples Stallone, Hulk Hogan, California Gov. Arnold Scwarzengger and former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura.
“We have had at least two governors who had incredibly good looking bodies that maybe contributed to their elections,” Issa concluded.
But should there be an asterisk behind Ventura’s 1998 electoral triumph?