WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Baseball players and other athletes use steroids for one reason — they work.
Former Sen. George Mitchell, who launched an independent probe into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in March 2006, on Thursday named dozens of Major League Baseball players who used banned drugs, despite rules and health warnings.
They can cause acne, enlarged breasts and shrunken testicles in men. They cause women to grow facial hair and can lead to infertility in both sexes.
Yet some players still use them. Why? Because they can help build muscle and endurance more quickly, mostly by speeding recovery from strenuous workouts, experts say.
“It’s not just a question of improving muscular strength and recovery,” said Jay Hoffman, chairman of the department of Health & Exercise Science at The College of New Jersey and a former National Football League player who says he used steroids.
“Hypothetically, there’s a good chance that taking anabolic steroids will have a chance to make you faster and quicker,” Hoffman said in a telephone interview.
In September, physicist Roger Tobin of Tufts University in Boston said steroids could help baseball players hit 50 percent more home runs by boosting their muscle mass by just 10 percent.
He said 10 percent more muscle mass would help a player swing about 5 percent faster, increasing the ball’s speed by 4 percent as it leaves the bat.
“A 4 percent increase in ball speed, which can reasonably be expected from steroid use, can increase home run production by anywhere from 50 percent to 100 percent,” Tobin said.
Photographs show former San Francisco Giant Barry Bonds bloating from a trim 185 pounds (84 kg) in 1991 to a husky 228 (103 kg) in 2001, when he hit 73 home runs.
Bonds, 43, has pleaded not guilty to charges he lied about his use of anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing substances before a grand jury that was investigating the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative.
Reporting by Maggie Fox and Dan Trotta, editing by Patricia Zengerle