Friday, April 4, 2008

All Bulk, no bite

The risk of embarrassment, shame, and penalty for professional athletes secretly using human growth hormone (UGH) may be for nothing. A new study from researchers at Standford University and Santa Clara Valley Medical Center found that HGH serves to enlarge muscular size but not strength.

The analysis. Which relied on data from 44 previous studies, determined that healthy people from age 13 to 45 who took HGH gained about 5 pound but showed no marked increase in biceps or quadriceps strength. They were also more likely to develop joint pain, lose endurance, and maintain higher levels of lactate, which fatigues muscles.

The added bulk in HGH users, the study found, resulted largely from muscles retaining more fluids-a potential benefit for body builders or fitness models but of no consequence to ballplayers or cyclists. Lead researcher Hau Lui admits that the results are far from conclusive on whether the banned substance could help in hitting home runs or conquering a mountain stage. The study did not examine the effects of HGH when used in concert with anabolic steroids, a tandem some scientists believe to significantly enhance athletic performance.

For many athletes, HGH is preferred over steroids because it remains undetectable in drug tests. But it is not immune to tough policing efforts. The testimony of former athletic trainers has exposed widespread use of the substance in Major League Baseball. Former Senator George Mitchell's report, released this past December, implicated such high-profile players as Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte.

The greatest evidence against the findings of this new study is that so many finely tuned athletes believe HGH provides a competitive edge-and are willing to risk so much on that conviction. - WORLD

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