The NBA has always taken a strong stand.
The league supported Magic Johnson when he announced he was HIV positive at a time when little was known about the disease. Opponents were assured the virus wasn’t contagious and were forced to play Johnson.
Just this year, the NBA enforced a mandatory dress code to improve its image to fans.
But now commissioner David Stern must take another stand and enforce testing for Human Growth Hormone.
The gauntlet has been dropped on Jason Grimsley for his use of HGH. The former Arizona Diamondbacks reliever recently had his home raided by the FBI after an undercover officer delivered HGH to his house. Grimsley is cooperating with investigators and pointing fingers at players throughout the league.
In extremely poor timing, a week later NBA Players Association Union Executive Director Billy Hunter told Bloomberg News he would not allow blood tests that would detect HGH.
“We don’t participate in a sport where there’s a need for growth hormone,” Hunter said to Bloomberg News.
USF Director of Sports Medicine Eric Coris agrees with Hunter, but feels the use of HGH doesn’t provide an advantage for any athlete.
“Tests have shown that (HGH) simply does not provide any gain for any athlete,” Coris said. “People are saying that (HGH) shouldn’t be tested in basketball because it doesn’t improve any skills, but it should be tested in baseball and football. That doesn’t make any sense.”
HGH in small quantities breaks down fat cells and increases muscle and bone growth. This is something any athlete could benefit from, but Coris feels HGH is not the solution athletes are hoping for. Tests on animals have suggested that HGH may cause early death.
The NBA prohibits the use of HGH, but it can’t be detected in urine specimens.
“The (blood) tests for it are simple to perform and they are accurate, but expensive,” Coris said. “You can buy (HGH) anywhere on the Internet, but can easily get a contaminated (batch) and get sick.”
This is interesting, considering that just a few days before Hunter made this announcement, Stern criticized the development of American basketball players.
“There is something totally wrong with the development system for young basketball players,” Stern told Bloomberg News. “But I also believe that the production of American players and their development is going to go through a renaissance. If we have to fuel it ourselves, OK.”
Those statements by Stern, along with the player union’s refusal to be tested for HGH, make it sound as if players are being giving the green light for its use.
Hunter holds a view shared by many: There is no reason that a basketball player would take steroids of any kind. Baseball fans thought the same thing as recently as 10 years ago.
The Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks championship matchup presents a perfect example of why steroids could be used in basketball. During the regular season, Shaquille O’Neal ripped Erick Dampier of Dallas. He said “Erica” might be a dominant center in the WNBA.
Is there no possible way Dampier would consider finding a shortcut to prove O’Neal wrong? Couldn’t he use upper body strength to defend Shaq in the post? Wouldn’t Dampier consider using HGH to make up for the 60 pounds he gives up to O’Neal?
Since these are all real possibilities, shouldn’t the NBA have to deal with them?
An entire generation of baseball is tainted; the Hall of Fame classes for the next 20 years will have a cloud over their careers because of steroids. If the NBA leaves the door open for HGH use, it is only a matter of time before someone is tempted enough to take the drug. If basketball is not seen as legitimate to fans, interest will be lost in the game.
So far there haven’t been any NBA players accused of taking HGH, but with the temptation there, how long will it last?
With the policy in place, history will repeat itself sooner rather than later.