PEDs, syringe

International anti-doping official says NBA testing has gaps


It’s kind of been assumed that the NBA was a place where steroids and other performance enhancing drugs were not an issue. We picture bodybuilders and football players and the Barry Bonds of the world — guys who bulked up — as PED users. Not long, thin basketball players.

But to suggest that drugs that would help a player workout harder and recover faster wouldn’t help a basketball player is preposterous. To think that in a league where guys don’t blink about flying to Germany for special blood treatment on their knees wouldn’t consider PEDs is naïve.

That has been the thrust of a series of stories Henry Abbott has done at ESPN and TrueHoop. And if you think it can’t be done because the NBA tests guys, the director general of the World Anti-Doping Agency would like to have a word with you. He did with Abbott for ESPN.

“They’ve got gaps in their program, between what they do and what we suggest would be better,” David Howman said…

“They do not feel they have such an issue as the other major leagues and therefore haven’t addressed it in quite the same way,” Howman said. “I just think you’ve got to be very careful when you start saying performance-enhancing drugs are not beneficial in any sport, because you’re going to be proven wrong. And you’ll be proven wrong when you’re not expecting it.”

The NBA did not comment.

Changes to drug testing in the NBA — specifically for human growth hormone — was one of the issues sort of put to the side at the end of the lockout and the CBA negotiations (along with changing the draft age and more). It is something the league and players union would have to negotiate.

So far, finding PEDs in the NBA has not really been a serious issue. But when the motivation is the money, fame and lifestyle the NBA brings, do you really think a lot of people wouldn’t use them to make it?

Thursday morning one liners

Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka

What is wrong with the Thunder’s offense in video form — no movement off the ball. That is one thing they have to change going forward.

Derrick Rose recanted his PEDs comments from the other day, but that doesn’t mean the story should really go away. The idea that an NBA player may be taking designer drugs to speed recovery (like cyclists and marathon runners have been caught doing) seems logical if not probable. It needs to be looked at with more detail. The issue is more complex than just “that doesn’t happen in the NBA.”

Remember how we all criticized the Devon Harris for Jason Kidd trade at the time? Still think that way?

The Thunder’s Russell Westbrook stormed off the court without shaking any Mavericks hands Wednesday night. If you killed LeBron James about that a couple years back, you better do the same for Westbrook now. Personally, I thought neither was a big deal.

What is the deal with all these NBA prospects seemingly trying to avoid Milwaukee?

An update on the health of Boston’s Marquis Daniels.

Jerry West talks Golden State.

The family of the young boy who fell to his death out of one of the luxury boxes at Staples Center after a Lakers game has filed a lawsuit.

Hot Rod Williams has been arrested.

Portland president Larry Miller still saying everything is just fine in Portland after the firing of Rich Cho. Sure it is.

Rose’s statement denying he said PEDS are problem in NBA

Chicago Bulls v Miami Heat - Game Three

The note had actually been available for more than a week in ESPN The Magazine, but nobody had really noticed the controversial statement. Read into that what you want about ESPN the Magazine (even ESPN reporters did not know or follow up).

But finally somebody noticed and Sunday morning news started to spread quickly —NBA MVP Derrick Rose said the NBA had a “huge” issue with performance enhancing drugs. He said the problem was a 7 on a scale of 1-to-10.

But quickly Rose shot the story down, and by game time had released a statement saying basically he did not say that, reports Aggrey Sam of CSN Chicago.

“Regarding the quote attributed to me in ‘ESPN The Magazine,’ I do not recall making the statement nor do I recall the question being asked,” Rose said in a statement released by the Bulls. “If that was my response to any question, I clearly misunderstood what was asked of me. But, let me be clear, I do not believe there is a performance enhancing drug problem in the NBA.”

The NBA does do drug testing and a couple of current players — Rashard Lewis and O.J. Mayo — have missed games due to suspensions for use of PEDs in recent years. But the consensus around the league is there is not a culture of PED use and it is not a problem. That is a sentiment echoed by players, coaches, front office, the players union and even David Stern.

Rose denies saying PEDs a “huge” NBA problem

Miami Heat v Chicago Bulls - Game Two

UPDATE 2:55 pm: Through a Bulls spokesman, Rose has denied saying that PEDs are a huge NBA issue. He said that the question was phrased differently, more along the lines of how big a problem would it be if the NBA were rampant with steroids.

Just having been around the league, this is not an issue that really comes up. That doesn’t mean it’s not an issue, and that some players aren’t using, but there is a lot of testing by the league and it just does not feel rampant.

We will update as the story develops.


1:15 pm: The conventional wisdom has been that performance enhancing drugs have not been an issue in the NBA — bulk strength is not considered as important as speed in the NBA, and there have only been a couple of guys who have tested positive for anything on the banned list (O.J. Mayo of the Memphis Grizzlies had a 10-game suspension at the start of this season).

But the league’s MVP Derrick Rose tells ESPN Magazine that performance enhancing drugs are a “huge” problem in the NBA and one the league needs to get more serious about. (via the IB Times of San Francisco and CBS Sports Eye On Basketball).

Rose was asked the following question by ESPN the Magazine, “If 1 equals ‘What are PEDs (Performance Enhancing Drugs)’? and 10 equals ‘Everybody’s Juicing’…How big of an issue is illegal enhancing in your sport?”

In response, Rose said, “Seven. It’s huge, and I think we need a level playing field, where nobody has that advantage over the next person.”

This comment flies in the face of what pretty much every league official, team official and virtually every player asked about the issue has said. David Stern before congress, LeBron James in interviews, union officials have all said that the NBA did not have a culture of PED usage and it was not an issue.

In a panel at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference a couple years ago, then Suns executive Steve Kerr talked about the great concerns teams have wanting to monitor everything that players take as supplements to keep them from taking something on the banned list.

But we all also know there are designer drugs out there that can escape detection. During the long grind of the NBA season, a drug that could help a player recover more quickly would be a huge advantage.

These comments will thrust the issue back into the spotlight, and it will not become another issue that is part of the ongoing (and already contentious Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations).