Baseball players would be wise to avoid any health product promising enhanced performance, warns Dr. Jon Hallberg.
Hallberg is in Fort Myers, Fla. for meetings with minor leaguers in the Minnesota Twins system. He spoke with Tom Crann of MPR News' All Things Considered about athletes and drug use.
Below is a transcript of their conversation, edited for length and clarity.
TOM CRANN: A couple of states, Colorado and Washington state, have changed laws regarding marijuana for recreational use. For the players who live in those jurisdictions, is there any change whatsoever with Major League Baseball?
JON HALLBERG: Not at all. Major League Baseball sort of shares the same view that the federal government and the Drug Enforcement Agency share, and so we do need to remind the players, not only if they live in those states but if they travel to them to play games, that even if they got a prescription from a legitimate doctor who writes something for them, that if they test positive for it, it is an offense.
They get put on the treatment track and I have to evaluate them for abuse, and it's just a real mess, so we really need to make sure that they understand that these rules do not change despite the state laws.
CRANN: This season, there is a change to the test that's done for Human Growth Hormone, HGH. What has changed?
HALLBERG: Well, in fact, there has not been any testing before because with our current testing, it's not detectable in urine, and that's the standard way that drug tests are done. This is actually a blood test, so this required a great deal of negotiation between Major League Baseball and the players' union, and they agreed this past January to allow that this season.
A lot needs to be determined: How they're going to do it. Who is going to be randomly chosen. But I'm letting the players know that this is on the horizon.
CRANN: This big Biogenesis investigation that made news and has snared up a couple of very high-profile players. No Minnesota Twins were involved in that, but is anything coming out of that that will effect Major League Baseball moving forward?
HALLBERG: Well, I think there are two things. One is that very high-profile players with very deep pockets who can sort of do whatever they want to do, or so they feel anyway, can work with people in companies like Biogenesis and be told that this thing is not detectable, there's no way anyone can find out that you're on this particular supplement, and Lance Armstrong is sort of the poster child for that. He was cleared multiple times, but they kept his samples, and then they checked later on when they knew it was there, so that's dangerous.
Maybe more germane to the younger guys that I'm talking to, is to remind them — don't listen to anybody, whether it's a parent, a girlfriend, a coach, trainer, anybody that says that they can give you something that is going to improve the way you play, it can lead to all kinds of problems.
CRANN: Also then the golfer, Vijay Singh, talking about a deer antler spray. That just seems to be problematic.
HALLBERG: Yeah, it almost sounds like a joke, but apparently it's sort of the velvet on the deer antlers, and they can extract from that something called Insulin Growth Factor, IGF1. His case was eventually thrown out by the PGA.
But the fact is that, certainly no different than any of the warnings we're giving players, this is a supplement, and if it claims it's going to help you heal faster or grow stronger, it raises all kinds of red flags. So the product itself is likely going to be banned, but before that happens, we're already telling the players, look, if anything says it has insulin-like growth factor, that is banned and you cannot be touching that stuff.
CRANN: Sounds like there's a common thread here, a bottom line in what you are telling these young players?
HALLBERG: Absolutely, and what I'm telling the players I think is true for all of us. I think that when products make claims that sound simply too good, people should be staying away from that stuff. We don't really know what's in them. There are dozens and dozens of products that have things in them that are not on the labels, and we're all very wise to stay away from them.