NEW YORK -- Stanozolol, the muscle-building anabolic steroid
that Rafael Palmeiro tested positive for, can help athletes avoid
being sidelined by injury and make them perform better -- but it's
so easily detected that one expert said he's amazed any player
subject to drug screening would dare use it.
"No tested athlete in their right mind should be using that
drug," said Charles Yesalis of Pennsylvania State University, who
said he was "shocked" when he heard reports that the Baltimore
Orioles slugger had tested positive for the drug.
No known masking agent can hide stanozolol use from a drug
screen, said Dr. Gary Wadler of New York University, an expert on
drug use by athletes. When taken by pill it can linger in the body
and be detected for several weeks to a month, while an injection
can be identified for up to several months, he said.
Palmeiro began serving a 10-day suspension Monday for failing a
drug test that took place sometime after his testimony on Capitol
Hill in March that he never used steroids. House Government Reform
Committee chairman Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., said Wednesday in a
telephone interview with the AP that the panel would look into
whether Palmeiro committed perjury.
Major League Baseball has not specified what drug the test
found, but a person with knowledge of the sport's drug-testing
program told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity that it
Palmeiro has said he never intentionally took steroids and that
he doesn't know what caused the test result.
Stanozolol, an anabolic steroid also known by the brand name
Winstrol, can help an athlete get stronger, build muscle mass,
boost acceleration, recover faster from workouts and other physical
stresses and become more assertive, Wadler said. He said there are
no firm data on how well stanozolol works in comparison to other
anabolic steroids when abused by athletes.
Yesalis said stanozolol appears to be moderately effective at
building muscle, but not as potent as some alternatives.
Wadler said there's some indication that stanozolol is less
associated with highly bulked, body-builder type muscles than other
anabolic steroids are.
He also said stanozolol could help a player avoid serious injury
because it helps the body recover from physical stress. Palmeiro
forged potential Hall of Fame career numbers based largely on
longevity -- in 20 years, he never went on the disabled list, and
joined Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray as the only players
with 3,000 hits and 500 homers despite never finishing higher than
fifth in MVP voting.
Major League Baseball players have tested positive for
stanozolol in the past. Among 1,133 drug tests administered by the
sport in 2004, 11 of 12 positive results detected stanozolol.
Wadler said he wasn't sure why that particular steroid was so
popular, but speculated that one reason might be the lack of
extreme muscle bulking.
He also said athletes probably are comfortable with the drug
because it's been in the competitive arena for so long -- at least
since 1988, when Olympic sprinter Ben Johnson tested positive for
the drug and was stripped of his gold medal and world record in the
Athletes have to use it six to eight weeks at least to get any
benefit, Yesalis said. They might take it either as a pill or an
injection, though Wadler said oral anabolic steroids have fallen
into disfavor because they carry a risk of liver problems.
An injectible form of the drug has been used by veterinarians,
but it is no longer commercially available in the United States and
so is not used routinely now in this country, according to the
American Veterinary Medical Association. It had been used mostly in
horses but also other animals like dogs and cats, to speed recovery
in animals debilitated by surgery or disease.
Stanozolol pills have been used to treat a rare genetic disorder
called hereditary angioedema, but doctors in the United States say
they've switched to alternatives in recent years because of lack of
supply. Ovation Pharmaceuticals Inc. of Deerfield, Ill., says it
stopped making the drug about two years ago.
Anthony Castaldo, president of the United States Hereditary
Angioedema Association, said "compounding pharmacies," which make
customized medications for individual patients, produce the pills
in the United States for prescription use by people with the
"Where Mr. Palmeiro got his stuff is news to me," Castaldo
Palmeiro was the seventh player to fall under baseball's new,
tougher steroids policy; Seattle Mariners right-hander Ryan
Franklin became the eighth when he was also suspended 10 days for a
Palmeiro's case prompted baseball commissioner Bud Selig to
reiterate his desire Thursday for even more stringent testing and
harsher punishments for steroid users, including a 50-game
suspension for a first offense, 100 games for a second and a
lifetime ban for a third. He also called for an independent
authority to administer baseball's drug testing program.
"I am saddened by the recent announcements of violations of
baseball's drug program," Selig said in a statement Thursday.
"There exists some doubt in the public sector about our sincerity
in eliminating steroids from the game. That is wrong. We must
create an understanding everywhere that when we say we need to rid
the game of steroids, we mean it."