One expert amazed any athlete would use Stanozolol

Updated: August 5, 2005, 3:46 PM ET
Associated Press

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.

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"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 was stanozolol.

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 100 meters.

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 disease.

"Where Mr. Palmeiro got his stuff is news to me," Castaldo said.

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 violation Tuesday.

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."


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press