By Mike Steffanos
This is going to be somewhat of a quickie tonight as I've had a pretty rough day.
Perhaps you have been following the drama surrounding Phillies reliever J.C. Romero's 50-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance. There have been several articles written from Romero's point of view, including this one from Peter Gammons, where Romero presents a case for what he believes to be his innocence.
I can't pretend not to take some amusement from this misfortune for our division rival. After all, troglodytes from Philadelphia have been leaving stupid comments on this blog from time to time all winter. Still, anyone with any sense of fairness at all understands that this case isn't specific to any team.
Romero's guilt or innocence will continue to be debated from a standpoint of whether he made a reasonable attempt to find out if the supplement he took was legal or not. Putting that aside for a moment, does anyone else but me wonder why he took a chance at all.
Even in Romero's own story there was some confusion and second opinions sought out in regards to the 6-oxo Extreme supplement. By his own admission he never called the drug hot line set to guide players when there is a question about something. I don't care how many nutritionalists he talked to. With the money that ballplayers make it seems silly to take any chances.
The product has mysteriously disappeared from GNC's web site, but other companies sell the same product. Here is a product description from Nutraplanet's web site:
Introducing 6-OXO extreme - maximum testosterone production FOR HARDCORE USERS ONLY
We decided to come up with 6-OXO extreme for a couple of very good reasons. We felt that many of our customers desired an even more potent testosterone boost than 6-OXO provided, and we had the technology to deliver the product. So we made it. We did not just throw this formula together however. We undertook the due testing to prove to ourselves that this product had the ability to stimulate testosterone levels beyond even the range of upper normal - indeed it stimulates levels well into the supraphysiological range.
Wasn't producing more testosterone the basics of how steroids worked? Will Carroll has some interesting info on this supplement on the Baseball Prospectus site, including a no-longer working link to the product that was on GNC's web site and another link to a more technical article on the supplement.
When someone says "supplement" to me I think of multi-vitamins or the stuff like protein powder I used to take when I was a kid trying to put on weight for football.
When I was 13 I had a growth spurt where I went from just over 5 feet tall to over 6 in a year. It took quite a while for my body to catch up to that, despite the fact that I was literally eating three times the food that normal people ate. I was lifting weights and eating milk shakes with raw eggs and the previously mentioned protein powders. I'd get up to 175 pounds by the start of triple sessions in late summer and then lose 15 of those pounds back in the August heat. (By the way, gaining weight is no longer a problem.)
Steroids existed in those days, but only the real hardcore body builders and power lifters knew about them. The rest of us thought of supplements as nutritional products that might just help us pack on another pound or so of muscle.
Nowadays athletes seem to be looking for more than that from their supplements. In the case of Romero, he seemed to be looking for something legal that did at least to some extent what steroids do. I'm sure there are plenty of other players like him in all of the other organizations. You can only hope that Romero's 50-game suspension might give them something to think about, but the innocent days of supplements as we once knew them are clearly over.