Gregory Landry Discusses Steroids In Sports

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Gregory Landry Discusses Steroids In Sports

Premiere Date: 
July 25, 2013

Following news of Ryan Braun's suspension, Dr. Greg Landry discusses steroids in sports.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Frederica Freyberg:

We move now from ticks to someone in the news this week who has become somewhat of a nuisance of his own, at least for baseball fans, Milwaukee Brewer Ryan Braun. This week the MVP winner conceded using performance-enhancers, in a deal he struck with Major League Baseball. He agreed to sit out the rest of this season and in turn take a roughly $3.5 million cut in pay. So far the press has focused mainly on Major League Baseball’s new sanctions on the use of these drugs. But what exactly are these drugs? How widespread is use beyond the pro playing fields? And how do they help a guy hit a ball farther. We asked UW-Madison athletic’s team physician, Greg Landry.

Greg Landry:

Many of them build muscle and individuals that use them do get stronger, sometimes bigger, and therefore that translates sometimes into a better athletic performance.

Frederica Freyberg:

What are the long-term effects, though? If kind of that usage of these is getting stronger, what are the long-term effects?

Greg Landry:

Well, for some of them we don't know. And for anabolic steroids, there's the potential to develop cancer when you’re using anabolic steroids. It turns out, most of the side effects are actually reversible, which is why they're so popular.

Frederica Freyberg:

And they’re so popular, is their use really prevalent? And we just learn about the Lance Armstrongs and the Ryan Brauns?

Greg Landry:

Well, at certain levels it's quite prevalent. I think, fortunately, at the college level, use is down, partly because of drug testing. But the problem is, they work. That's why so many choose to use.

Frederica Freyberg:

What about at the high school level?

Greg Landry:

There's evidence that there are a number of high school athletes using anabolic steroids. I don’t know about trending. Some of the data is getting a little bit old. I suspect that there's still use in certain high schools. It's too expensive to do drug testing at the high school level, so many are using and getting away with it.

Frederica Freyberg:

And what do physicians like yourself say to emerging athletes about the use of these?

Greg Landry:

Well, we'd rather they not take the chance. There are lots of side effects and they're potentially dangerous, and we'd rather young people not use them. One of the things that I counsel them is on at almost all levels now, including Major League Baseball, it's cheating. And I'd rather they improve their performance through legal means and ethical means.

Frederica Freyberg:

What are the means of improving one's performance without the use of these drugs?

Greg Landry:

Well, a lot of young people, and probably even some of the professional players, don't realize that they could do a lot for themselves by improving their nutrition. Many of them are on excellent strength and conditioning programs, which help improve their performance, but I think one of the new areas in sports medicine is improvement in nutrition.

Frederica Freyberg:

And what should somebody eat to get the kinds of results that someone would get with these performance-enhancing drugs?

Greg Landry:

Well, it varies a little bit from individual to individual. I think that there's good evidence that athletes need a bit more protein than the normal person. They also need more carbohydrates. And sometimes they will do better if they concentrate on complex carbs rather than simple carbohydrates.

Frederica Freyberg:

Do Badger athletes get tested for these drugs?

Greg Landry:

Oh, yes. They're tested by the university. They’re tested by the Big Ten conference, and then they're also in jeopardy for testing by the NCAA.

Frederica Freyberg:

Why would an athlete, like Ryan Braun, risk what he is now in the midst of by taking these drugs? Why would he do that?

Greg Landry:

Well, I can only guess. I have no idea. I worry that sometimes the athletes get poor advice. Based on the leak of the drug test results, it appears he was taking testosterone, and perhaps somebody told him that that might not be detected, when in fact the scientists, the chemists have very good ways to detect whether you're taking extra testosterone.

Frederica Freyberg:

And are there a whole array of these kinds of drugs that athletes, and managers potentially, get different information on, on which clears faster and which builds faster?

Greg Landry:

That's right. In the past there were a host of pharmaceutical-type anabolic steroids that tended to stay in the body quite a long time and are actually fairly easily detectable through drug testing And then I think that most of the athletes have realized that just using testosterone will tend to have fewer side effects. Some of the short-actings leave the body fairly quickly. And if they know when they're going to get tested, they can actually stop it in time to clear their body and not be detected.

Frederica Freyberg:

It's really disturbing that high school kids and maybe even younger, have you seen, decide to start doing this for the competitive edge.

Greg Landry:

Well, I've not seen anybody younger than high school. I suppose that can occur. But, you know, I think with the emphasis on college scholarships and what not, you know, I think every kid has the dream that they'll make it in a professional sport when in fact the odds are extremely slim. So there's big money in professional sports, and I think that's part of what drives people taking risks and using performance-enhancing drugs.

Frederica Freyberg:

What do you think about that as a physician?

Greg Landry:

Well, I-- part of my job is to educate people about the potential effects and side effects. I think whether they're banned or not is up to the individual governing body. There are some very bright people in this country who think that a hundred years from now we won't be drug testing for anything and that nothing will be banned.

Frederica Freyberg:

Why?

Greg Landry:

I can't imagine having that happen because I think what will happen is athletes will kill themselves, and that's what drove this to get started in the first place, is when cyclists in the '60s were dying because they were overdosing on amphetamines.

Frederica Freyberg:

Why do they think that in a hundred years nobody will care?

Greg Landry:

Just because it's so hard for the chemists to keep up with the athletes. The athletes keep coming up with new ways to beat the tests. There are probably a lot of individuals who, in fact, are using and are not caught.

Frederica Freyberg:

Dr. Landry, thank you.

Greg Landry:

You're welcome.  


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