In a recent interview with the USA Today, Dallas Mavericks owner and tech billionaire Mark Cuban said the NBA should be looking closer at its drug policy that bans Human Growth Hormone (HGH), especially for players who are recovering from injury.
According to the USA Today article, Cuban recently shared his thoughts on HGH with NBA league officials at a Oct. 23 Board of Governors meeting in New York. At that meeting, he told the other owners that teams and fans could benefit from players using HGH to expedite an athlete’s return to the basketball court after injury.
“The issue isn’t whether I think it should be used. The issue is that it has not been approved for such use. And one of the reasons it hasn’t been approved is that there have not been studies done to prove the benefits of prescribing HGH for athletic rehabilitation or any injury rehabilitation that I’m aware of. The product has such a huge stigma that no one wants to be associated with it. I believe that professional sports leagues should work together and fund studies to determine the efficacy of HGH for rehabbing an injury,” Cuban told USA TODAY Sports. “Working together could lead us from the path of demonizing HGH and even testosterone towards a complete understanding. It could allow us to make a data based decision rather than the emotional decision we are currently making. And if it can help athletes recover more quickly, maybe we can extend careers and have healthier happier players and fans.”
Cuban, who made his fortune in the tech industry before buying the Mavericks, has long touted the benefits of using science to enhance all aspects of life, including sport. In an interview on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” last year, Cuban said HGH has never been proven to help a baseball player of basketball player and that the substance has been banned “for no good reason.”
Although use of HGH without a prescription is illegal under the 1990 Anabolic Steroids Control Act and the World Anti-Doping Agency and the International Olympic Committee classify HGH as a banned substance and test for it, the NBA’s policy is less clear. NBA players are not allowed to take HGH, however, currently, the league does not utilize blood testing to screen players for using it. In 2011, the NBA Players Association and the league agreed to let a panel of experts weigh in on the issue of HGH use, but no findings have been reported as of yet. NBA Commissioner David Stern had hoped to have HGH testing implemented by the beginning of this season, however talks with the players’ union broke down in September and no deal could be reached.
A similar fate happened to the NFL this fall when the NFL Players Association blocked the league’s attempt at implementing blood tests for HGH before the start of this season.
Unlike other sports, NBA players have largely stayed clear of performance-enhancing drug (PED) controversies. Only three players – Rashard Lewis, OJ Mayo, Hedo Turkoglo – have ever been suspended for violating the league’s drug policy.
Still, it seems unlikely, despite Cuban’s support, that HGH will ever get the blessing of a major sports league. Organizations like the World Anti-Doping Agency apply a lot of public pressure on sports to never allow the use of PEDs and its hard to imagine them ever changing their mind even if Cuban funded a study that proved the benefits of HGH use for athletes outweigh the risks.