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Steroids in Sports: Questions Answered

Get Answers to 16 Questions About Performance-Enhancing Drugs in Baseball and Other Sports

What would you want parents to keep an eye out for if they have a young athlete?

If they've got a young athlete and his muscles suddenly go up dramatically, that's probably the single best way to look for most of these drugs.  Behavior changes in puberty -- all behavior changes don't mean they are taking drugs.

The big thing is if a person is suddenly bulking up. It doesn't come without working, as well. It's a combination of the person who starts to work out a lot but taking a steroid. Somebody whose performance goes up dramatically -- they were the sort of the middle of the pack and they're suddenly at the top. Now, this may be a normal growth spurt, but those sort of things, as a parent you've got to be suspicious that maybe your kid is doing something.

And if they do have those suspicions, what do they do?

You can go to the physician and have them tested for these drugs, just the same way as the sports authorities test for the drugs. Basically, the physician can send off tests for these drugs. I'm not saying that's what they should do, but I think that's what I would do if I felt it was important.

Do they drug-test young players in high school?

They usually don't. I think we're going to see more and more of this happening. The other group who don't [get tested] are the masters athletes, the people over 60. It's clearly something that stretches through all ages, into old age.

Are all performance-enhancing drugs illegal?

No. A number are very legitimate. We should not throw out the baby with the bath water.

How do you test for these drugs? Can you test for all of them?

The tests for growth hormone, at the moment, are very poor. The Olympic Committee is hoping that this year they will have an adequate test for growth hormone.

The tests for the others begin usually with a urine test looking for alterations in the urine testosterone ratio. All of them will affect that ratio. If that looks abnormal, the modern testing is now do to NMR scanning [nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy] and you can actually pick up the peaks, the abnormal peaks, of the different compounds. Most of those are known.

Where you can get away with it is if you have a compound that nobody actually knew existed.

We've got to recognize that there are a whole new set of ... pills that are being developed to help people in rehabilitation following surgery.  And all of these are, quite honestly, much more powerful. They can be taken orally. They have less side effects, and my assumption is that now that most of the steroids are gone, that people are going to find a way to get growth hormone and the next thing you'll see is this large new class of drugs, these selective androgen receptor molecules [SARMs] -- will be used by the athletes. Many are in phase I and phase II trials.

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