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Stallone, not Clemens, the focus of congressional HGH hearing

2/12/2008 - MLB

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.