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).