If you go to the ChicagoNow homepage and type Steroids, Performance-Enhancement in their search box, you will find (based on what pops up) that I spend a good deal of time reflecting, writing, and offering my thoughts on the use of illegal performance-enhancement as a means to succeed in sports.
In addition, perusing some of the links that appear would immediately demonstrate my bias as I certainly have a negative view of this behavior and the athletes who engage in these tactics. From my perspective, any athlete who travels this path to artificial success is an extremely poor representative of that term--athlete--and not worthy of any [false] achievement gained by its means.
However, along comes a piece from CBS St. Louis (cbsstl.com, sports section) KERBER: Stem Cells In Sports -- Do We Know Enough? that tempers my negative bias on the topic as it brings to light future possibilities for athletes that support a slightly different mindset. Imagine, if you will, that a torn ACL [knee] or ruptured UCL [elbow] could be repaired, maybe even regenerated, to the point where the repaired joint would recover back to its original functioning ability. Not better than original, a key piece for me here, just back to its original functionality.
What would you say if that were possible? Good? Bad?
And what if the best way, maybe the only way, to do that would be to combine stem cells with HGH, before, during, and/or after, a surgical procedure; would it be OK under those conditions? Aside from the possible religious issues that the use of stem cells might present, what about the use of performance-enhancement drugs [HGH] to help heal an athlete who was injured? Does any of this shed a different light on the use of these substances for the purpose just described? It certainly gives one more food for thought and, for me, causes some reflection based on an article I did over a year ago.
Back in March of 2010 I published a piece, A-Rod, McGwire, Bonds, Baseball, and Performance Enhancement: Where Do We Draw the Line?, that gave my take on how we might better draw a line between appropriate performance-enhancement and inappropriate performance-enhancement. It is in the second part of that piece, Where Do We Draw the Line? Part II - The Guidelines (under the third and fourth recommendation), where I attempt to clarify what might be allowed, and not allowed, and under what conditions. Basically, I try to "draw that line" between acceptable and unacceptable means of enhancing one's performance.
Here, take a look at the two most relevant guidelines based on our present discussion:
3. Medical Conditions:
Any substances prescribed for legitimate medical conditions, while under doctor's care and supervision, are deemed legal as long as:
- Amount taken complies with doctor's prescription
- Performance-enhancing substances in the patient do not exceed normal levels
- Any anabolic/androgenic and/or performance-enhancing effects are limited and not significant enough to cause a true imbalance in the competitive field of play or advantage for the athlete in question
4. Surgical Procedures:
Any surgical procedures performed on an athlete must constitute a medical need and be for the sole purpose of regaining normal functioning due to injury or abnormality.
In addition, these procedures can only be recommended by a medical professional with expertise in the field pertaining to said surgery. Examples include (but are not exclusive to) ACL repair, Tommy John Surgery, arthroscopic cartilage repair, or any other surgical repair or technique that brings the body back to a normal functioning state.
The bolded items under each guideline above are important, especially in relation to the topic of stem cells and HGH use for injury repair covered in the CBS St. Louis article. Even though the parameters set are strict, they do offer the kind of flexibility needed to allow for use of substances and/or procedures in the manner of which we are discussing. That is, as long as the goal (of these substances/procedures) is to return an athlete to his original state of functioning--not beyond that normal state. This, from my viewpoint, is paramount since it is not giving the athlete an advantage that did not exist before the substance [HGH, Stem Cells], or procedure, was used.
With some possible adjustments, maybe additions, and a sprinkle of a little common sense, I would like to propose my original five criteria from Where Do We Draw the Line? Part II - The Guidelines as a framework from which to build a more comprehensive, forward-thinking approach to appropriate performance-enhancement. If nothing else, they might at least help create a basis for others to draw from.