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More Mainstream Media Human Growth Hormone Misreporting

On Monday the news wire services were all abuzz with the report that Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is not the performance enhancer that athletes, and others, have led us to believe. A closer look at this “study” done by Stanford researchers reveals that once again many journalists and editors are too lazy to understand this issue, and therefore are incapable of providing accurate information on the subject.

Via Google News Alerts I got over a dozen stories with leads such as this one, “A new report suggests human growth hormone isn't the 'wonder drug' many believe it to be,” from the Associated Press and headlines like, “Stanford Research Finds HGH Doesn't Help Athletes,” from the web site of a San Francisco area CBS affiliate.

There are scores of other articles that use similar headlines and leads, and give readers a false impression of the nature of the data that is contained in the Stanford review.  Check out for yourself how many of these articles use almost the exact same kind of headlines and teasers.  Incredibly there are some professional editors out there who decided to run with the "Growth Hormone Doesn't Help Athletes" headline despite the fact the Stanford paper didn't review any studies that dealt specifically with athletes or dosages of HGH that athletes use.

The problem is that these headlines and leads are all wrong. First of all, this information was not the result of an actual study, but comes from of researchers who did a review of recent studies, none of which involved athletes, performance and the dosages and other drugs – such as testosterone – that athletes take in conjunction with HGH.

Journalists and editors alike are too lazy to check their facts and apparently read the articles that they are publishing. In the same story with the headline that blared to us that HGH doesn’t help athletes there is this passage, “the new research has some limitations and sheds no light on long-term use of HGH. The scientists note their analysis included few studies that measured performance. The tests also probably don't reflect the dose and frequency practiced by athletes illegally using the hormone. Experiments like that aren't likely to be conducted.” This statement was present in just about every story that was released on this issue.

This passage makes the entire exercise of reporting these “findings” meaningless. Editors and journalists who based on this review report that HGH isn’t a performance enhancer, are derelict in their duties. Without taking into consideration the specifics involved with how athletes use HGH, steroids and any other performance-enhancing drug (PED), this story has absolutely nothing to do with anything.

This study is a meaningful as a study that looks at the efficacy of a pain-reliever based on dosages and frequency of dosages that are a fraction of the dosages necessary to elicit a positive response.

The line from the above passage, “Experiments like that aren’t likely to be conducted,” should have served as a jumping off point for a responsible journalist to discuss the fact that people who misuse PEDs do so without regard for the ethical constraints that bound legitimate people of science. There isn’t a human performance lab anywhere in the world – legitimate world – where researchers could dose athletes with HGH, testosterone and insulin to see how they respond to training and competition, and then measure these results against clean athletes. This just isn’t going to happen, ever.

People need to understand that the legitimate scientific community is always going to be behind those folks who operated outside of the boundaries of ethics and laws. And by people I mean members of the press as well as the general public.

About Sal Marinello