Steroids are used in all sports – ALL sports. Â Those that argue that somehow steroid use will not give their athletes an edge and are therefore not used in a sport like basketball are either naive or they are uneducated about the powerful affects of these drugs.
I firmly believe that anabolic steroid abuse exists in the NBA and has for years. I realize that this is one very touchy subject and purely speculation on my part with only the occasional player being caught (Rashard Lewis in 2009, among others) using PED’s but read on and I think you will see my reasoning even if you don’t agree.
I’m not here to accuse any single NBA player, just to present the facts of what anabolic steroids are, why they are useful to NBA athletes, and how I fear that once drug testing becomes stricter we are in for a rude awakening.
I actually hadn't planned on writing a piece on this polarizing topic as most sports fans are incredibly uninformed as to what steroids actually are/do and attempt to lump ALL nutritional supplements into the "performance enhancing drugs" (PED) category. I have heard casual fans accuse creatine supplement users of "cheating" without even the smallest understanding of what creatine actually does and where it comes from. This bothers me tremendously as I am working toward my personal training certification and have been studying dietary supplements for years. Creatine is NOT a steroid, people!
I decided to write this when I stumbled upon this ridiculously ignorant quote from the past by our wonderful NBA commissioner Mr. David Stern:
“The sport of basketball emphasizes a specialized set of physical abilities – particularly quickness, agility and basketball skill – that are distinct from those required in a number of other sports. Accordingly, illicit substances that could assist athletes in strength sports (such as weightlifting and football), power sports (such as baseball), or endurance sports (such as cycling or marathon running), are not likely to be of benefit to NBA players.”
After reading this quote and reviewing the NBA's steroid-testing policy I felt compelled to voice my opinion and present the facts, critics be damned.
First off, I want to briefly describe what a steroid is and actually does without getting too scientific on you. Anabolic steroids mimic the effects of testosterone, increase protein synthesis, and enhance anabolism. If you're asking yourself "what in the world is all that mumbo-jumbo?" I completely understand but in reality it's pretty darn simple. Steroids do the following: 1) increase testosterone levels which are responsible for muscle and bone mass 2) enhance protein synthesis which permits steroid users the ability to create more proteins (muscle) from the food they eat and 3) increase your body's ability to stay anabolic, which is important because when you are catabolic you are in a muscle-wasting state, which no athlete wants to be in.
Whew! Ok, enough of the scientific garbage. How does all this relate to athletic performance?
Well, those who cycle anabolic steroids correctly will increase their strength, speed, power, and muscular endurance. They also enhance recovery between workouts and games and allow users to maintain strength gains during long, brutal seasons when muscle and strength loss would normally occur. Sounds pretty awesome, right? Think those types of benefits would be useful to NBA players? Check and check.
Ever noticed how in some cases, in a player's second or third season, they enter training camp with a far more muscular build and then MAINTAIN that build throughout the marathon-like NBA season that is absolutely filled with cardiovascular exercise which typically causes muscle loss unless you are genetically elite?
Yeah, me too.
That’s not to say that the majority of players don’t bust their behinds during the offseason to come into camp in great shape NATURALLY – I don’t dispute that for a second. However, there have been several instances in the past where player A shocks me with an unbelievable body transfomation during training camp and claims it was a new training regime he undertook or perhaps a new meal-replacement shake his trainer recommended. The NBA offseason is only a few months long!
Those in the NBA office who attempt to explain that NBA players would not benefit from steroid cycles are either totally ignorant regarding their benefits or understand that many of their players are probably using and therefore would like you to believe they are useless on the basketball court. They neglect to mention that Marion Jones utilized steroids in sprinting and that pitchers were never suspected because it was thought that bulk would “slow them down”. We know better now, don’t we?
No matter the risk steroids would be worth the investment for some players if they could indeed get away with it. We're talking extra millions of dollars for increased performance, you know.
Sure, there are dangerous side affects to misusing steroids long-term but most athletes have coaches (Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, anyone?) who schedule specific cycles to prevent most side-effects.
Again, I am not going to name specific NBA players who come to mind as there simply isn't evidence that would support my claim. What I will say is that the NBA's testing policy is incredibly weak and essentially allows NBA players the ability to utilize anabolic steroids 8-10 months out of the year. Why is this? Because the NBA does not subject their players to randomized drug testing AT ALL during the season after their rookie year and every season thereafter they are tested just during training camp.
That is the reason only a handful of NBA players (Lewis, Don McLean, Soumalia Samake, and Darius Miles) have ever been suspended for PED use. If a player decided to use steroids they could cycle off of them safely in plenty of time for their training camp urine tests. Those five players who were caught just weren't cautious enough.
Even Congress has decided that it's time for the NBA to become more serious about testing. Check outTHIS ARTICLEÂ to learn more. Here's a small excerpt:
“In preparation for this hearing, we had an opportunity to review the NBA drug policy. And with all due respect, the NBA policy on steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs is simply inadequate. Indeed, of the professional sports policies this Committee has reviewed, the NBA policy appears to be the weakest.Â
Under the NBA policy, NBA players face no random testing at all once they complete their rookie year. They are only tested once each year, during their one-month training camp.Â
The policy also fails to cover a vast number of drugs. There are literally dozens of steroids and stimulants that are outlawed in Olympic competition that are still legal for use in the NBA. The policy fails to cover performance enhancers such as human growth hormone or EPO. And it fails to cover designer steroids.”
So before we all praise the NBA for being clean and drug-free let's see what happens once they revamp their drug testing regime. While I don't necessarily want our league to be dragged through the mud I'm sick and tired of hearing so-called "experts" claim that steroids would not be beneficial in pro ball.
They absolutely would be and I hate to say this but if they call for stricter testing I think we're in for a big surprise.