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HGH In Sports: Should It Be Legal?

I previously wrote about a possible issue of human growth hormone (HGH) use in the NBA. About two months later, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban stated that he thinks that HGH should be regulated in the NBA, as a step in an athlete’s recovery process.

As an NBA owner and an entrepreneur, Cuban has every right to want to enhance the best interest of his company. Think about it in terms of investing in your education. If you can obtain a supplement to better understand a subject like math, rather than reading the book the old fashion way, the former option seems like a more viable and easier option.

However, in this situation, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned that viable option. But is that the right move?

Should HGH Be Allowed In Sports?


HGH is only allowed by the FDA for prescriptions in a limited amount of circumstances, which include growth issues in children and a muscle-wasting diseases associated with HIV and AIDS. In spite of this, HGH has found its way to international and professional athletic competition, causing it to be banned in Major League Baseball, the National Football League, and soon to be in the NBA.

Yet studies have shown that athletes who have used HGH have not gained any athletic performance. In addition, during an interview with ESPN in 2006 a Los Angeles spine surgeon, Dr. Rick Delamarter, said he has seen first hand the benefits of treating athletes with HGH. “I have seen the benefits of growth hormone post-operatively in recovering from surgery. . .And recovery periods are sometimes cut in half,” Dr. Delamarter states.

Think about it, if HGH can help cut recovery times in half, many players would be more of a factor than non-factor. Over the last two NBA seasons, high caliber players like Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Love, Marc Gasol and Brook Lopez have all missed significant time due to major injuries. A considerable amount of money has been invested in these players and owners would like to see that investment flourish, in addition fans wanting to see these players play. As Mark Cuban suggests, HGH may solve those issues, if it is correctly tested and regulated.

So How Can HGH Become Legal?

Before the NBA can regulate the potential use of HGH, the FDA has to increase the use of HGH, which involves various steps.

  1. The first step for a new drug is to perform laboratory and animal tests to learn how the drug works and if it will be safe enough to be tested in humans. (Note: Since HGH has already been shown to work safely in limited situations, it would need to be proven to work safely for recovery purposes.)
  2. Second, there are a series of clinical trials in humans, which occurs in three phases. The FDA monitors to test the drug for effectiveness and safety.
  3. Next, the data from all of the tests are sent to the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) in a New Drug Application (NDA). After which, a team of CDER physicians, statisticians, toxicologists, pharmacologists and chemists review the data and propose labeling.
  4. If the review establishes that a drug’s benefits outweigh its known risks for its proposed use, the drug is approved for sale.

As imagined, the process to get a drug regulated through the FDA is meticulous and takes years to accomplish. Although Mark Cuban is not supporting the use of the controversial drug, he wants to see research done to show the potential benefits for athletes recovering from injury.

Mark Cuban’s Stance

Mark Cuban has an interesting stance on HGH and making it legal in the NBA

Mark Cuban has an interesting stance on HGH and making it legal in the NBA

The Dallas owner discusses the potential situation USA Today Sports the potential solution:

“I believe that professional sports leagues should work together and fund studies to determine the efficacy of HGH for rehabbing an injury.” Cuban also discusses a huge issue around allowing HGH, which is the negative reputation regarding HGH in sports. “The product has such a huge [public] stigma that no one wants to be associated with it.”

Cuban has valid points to fund increasing studies to see if HGH can be beneficial for athletic recovery. If HGH is proven to help athletic recovery time, it will not only help professional athletes, but recreational athletes with significant injuries as well.

HGH has a negative perception in the media as a performance-enhancing drug, but there has not been research or a study to show empirical evidence that HGH use enhances a player’s performance ability. Although HGH may have side effects like carpal tunnel syndrome or edema, if the team doctors regulate the drug there would be a less likelihood of a player abusing the drug and increasing his or her risk of enhancing the potential side effects.

Mark Cuban has an interesting view on HGH and its place in professional sports. If proven to provide more aid than harm, HGH in professional and recreational sports may provide a new outlet for athletes recovering from injury. If given the option, players like Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo may opt to use HGH to increase their recovery time to return to the court. That way owners aren’t paying these players to sit through injuries and fans will be able to see their favorite players play.

Still A Longshot

Nevertheless, the implementation of HGH in professional sports like the NBA is a long way from coming to fruition. Various testing has to be done to ensure the safety for athletes that use HGH for recovery purposes, which can take many years. There are many questions that still need to be asked and answered in regards with HGH and its effectiveness. HGH also has to overcome the negative stigma and ethical challenges of its use in professional sports.

How do you feel about HGH use in sports to assist athletes with their recovery? Comment below and tell us!

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