Stallone, not Clemens, the focus of congressional HGH hearing

Updated: February 12, 2008, 2:20 PM ET
Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- In the final warmup before the blockbuster hearing, Congress took aim at Rocky instead of the Rocket.

The House Committee that on Wednesday is expected to hear the differing viewpoints of Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee did its pharmacology homework Tuesday, holding a hearing on the "Myths and Facts about Human Growth Hormone, B-12, and Other Substances."

The consensus from the four doctors who testified: Neither HGH nor vitamin B-12 appears to help athletic performance very much, although much more research is needed on HGH, which also has a litany of unappealing side effects.

"There is no credible scientific evidence that growth hormone substantively increases muscle strength or aerobic exercise capacity in normal individuals," said Dr. Thomas Perls, director of the New England Centenarian Study at the Boston University of Medicine.

Clemens wasn't mentioned by name even once during the two-hour hearing, but two members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, as well as one of the witnesses, were critical of actor Sylvester Stallone of "Rocky" fame. Stallone recently said he used human growth hormone to get buff for his new "Rambo" movie, and defended its use by saying: "Everyone over 40 years old would be wise to investigate it because it increases the quality of your life."

"You look at Sylvester Stallone and say 'That's a different body for a 61-year-old man,"' said Dr. Alan Rogol, a professor of clinical pediatrics at both the University of Virginia and Indiana University. "He may very well have been taking human growth hormone. None of us in this room know what else he was taking. And I think it's the 'what else' -- meaning the anabolic steroids -- that made him what he is."

The hearing was sparsely attended. Only four of the more than three dozen congressmen on the committee were present during the opening statements, and there were plenty of empty seats for spectators.

The scene is sure to be quite different Wednesday, when a packed house is expected to listen to seven-time Cy Young award winner Clemens and his former personal trainer, McNamee, who have made contradictory claims about whether Clemens used steroids and HGH.

Committee members and witnesses bemoaned the "Internet myths" regarding HGH and discussed the need for a better means to unmask the substance, which currently is not detectable through a urine test. Their comments went well beyond sports, including concerns that some people consider HGH a way to slow the aging process.

"In a way, the problems in baseball are instructive as to the wider problem in society," said Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press