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It doesn’t end with Manny

Manny Ramirez was suspended yesterday by Major League Baseball, apparently for steroid use.

There probably won’t be this type of uproar about a baseball player testing positive until Albert Pujols, Ken Griffey Jr. or Greg Maddux does.

But I don’t think it will be long until we’re startled by steroid use again.

Let me make this clear: I’m not saying LeBron James is on steroids.

But I’d be shocked if there weren’t a few NBA players who were.

James came into the NBA at 18, looking how he did on the left. Now, he’s 24 and the beast on the right. It’s reasonable he added all that strength naturally. I use James as the model not because there is any evidence he has taken steroids, but because he’s the model basketball player.

Look what he’s doing with his strength. He owns the league. Owns it. He does things on the court no player has ever done before. He should put an end to any thought that strength doesn’t help in basketball.

Here’s a quote from a 2005 Marc Stein column on steroids in basketball:

Adds Dallas Mavericks team physician Dr. Tarek Souryal: “Steroids is really a factor in power sports. Football. Baseball if you’re a power hitter. You’re not going to see it in hockey, in soccer, in basketball. When you’re playing every other night for 82 games, endurance is really what you’re after, and steroids actually hurt that.”

Tell me James doesn’t have power. And baseball players play every day, so playing every other day seems like it would even out the increased physical demands of basketball.

I can’t imagine no player has seen what LeBron is doing and thought he could reach (or get closer to) that level with steroids.

We should know better

Matt Watson of AOL FanHouse noted in a March article that the same early signs for steroids that appeared in baseball are popping up in the NBA.

(Stephen) Jackson has reportedly gained “10 pounds of muscle” (weighing a career-high 235 pounds) while posting the best numbers of his career and maintaining the stamina to lead the league in minutes per game — all the while being just weeks shy of his 31st birthday. Here are some excerpts from Hu’s article:

“I don’t know how he put on that much weight,” said Kelenna Azubuike, the Warriors’ resident bodybuilding champ. “But I guess it’s all muscle.”
[...] “This is the most I’ve lifted and the most I’ve been in the weight room my whole career, and it’s starting to pay off,” said Jackson, who usually plays at 222 or 223 pounds.
“I was thinking that I didn’t need it, but as I see now, it’s the most I’ve ever weighed in my life and I still have my speed, so it’s definitely helped my game a lot.”
[...] Warriors coach Don Nelson believes that Jackson’s increased strength has also helped his stamina. Jackson has played an NBA-high 40.3 minutes a night while being asked to do everything on offense and usually defend the best opposing player – regardless of size or position.
[...] “He’s like a monster now, there’s no calming him down,” Azubuike joked. “You can’t really tell him anything now. He’s got the muscle, that’s what he says.”

Until I read this article, I never would have suspected Jackson as a possible steroid user. Now that I’ve read it, I don’t have any proof he’s juicing but I certainly have more questions. (Other writers seem to agree.) Sudden weight gain? Check. Age-defying improvement? Check. Increased stamina? Check. Anecdotal evidence of a hot temper? Check and check.

Not unprecedented

From the Stein article:

There actually have been three steroid-related suspensions meted out by Stern’s office since 1998, when the NBA introduced steroid testing. Yet all three of the suspended players – Don MacLean, Matt Geiger and Soumaila Samake – insisted at the time that they had merely taken supplements that included banned substances while recovering from injuries.

And Darius Miles may have also tested positive for steroids, according to Jason Quick of The Oregonian. He’s the exact type of player who would be susceptible to steroid use — injured, lanky, athletic and facing a premature end to his career.

Just a matter of time

Here’s the kicker. I think it would work.

There was a time it was thought pitchers wouldn’t benefit from steroids. They’ve tested positive as often, if not more than, hitters.

There was a time it was thought just power hitters would benefit from steroids. Speed guys have tested positive, too.

There was a time it was thought steroids would make a player’s body deteriorate rapidly and almost immediately. Players have used steroids to help recovery from injury.

We’re in a time it’s thought steroids weren’t used in the NBA. How long until that becomes past tense, too?

7 Comments

  • May 8, 20099:17 am
    by brgulker

    Reply

    Well, thanks for starting this day off with a bang… I’m depressed now. If basketball is tainted by steroids, then I may just have to quit being a fan.

  • May 8, 200911:16 pm
    by Dan Feldman

    Reply

    Are you a baseball fan, too? I thought this Jason Whitlock article about how steroids are different by sport was interesting.

    http://www.kansascity.com/sports/columnists/jason_whitlock/story/1184928.html

    The sport doesn’t make a difference to me. I’m a big baseball fan, but I don’t see it as on a pedestal above other sports.

  • May 8, 200911:32 pm
    by thewordkeeper

    Reply

    With the right weight training, nutrition and supplements it is very possible to gain a good deal of muscle in a few months time. The 3 guys, in the url’s below, were 3 of the 1997 champions of the “Body for Life” program; started by founder Bill Phillips. I include the 1997 photos because this is when i first became familiar with the program.

    http://bodyforlife.com/challenge/champions/1997/bio.asp?comp=anthony_ellis

    http://bodyforlife.com/challenge/champions/1997/bio.asp?comp=jeff_seidman

    http://bodyforlife.com/challenge/champions/1997/bio.asp?comp=brad_wadlow

  • May 9, 20097:35 pm
    by Rawshark

    Reply

    Speaking as a Pistons fan who hates Lebron, the use of his photo, despite your transparent explanation, is very misleading. It was obvious from watching him play at age 18 that he had the physical frame to pack on muscle. It’s the same thing college football coaches look for when scouting high school players. Which is likely why every major football program was scouting Lebron as a WR/TE. As for Lebron putting an end “to any thought that strength doesn’t help in basketball”- that’s a nice straw-man. What rational person actually believes this? Every era of basketball had its share of freakishly strong players, and every championship team, including our beloved Pistons had it’s share of players whose main asset was brute strength.

    The thing with steroid use (and HGH use) is that there are telltale physical signs that are apparent on sight- such as increased vascularity, gynecomastia, even changes in skull shape. None of these are apparent in Lebron James or Stephen Jackson. Even with baseball pitchers, the physical progression of players like Roger Clemens and Kevin Brown made steroid use obvious to any objective observer. The reason it wasn’t detected was because MLB clubs chose to look the other way.

    None of this is to say that there isn’t any steroid use in basketball, it’s just that the argument in your post is poorly constructed. The Darius Miles example is particularly annoying and dishonest. Clicking through the article, the only indication that he was a steroid user was that he received a ten game suspension, which is what is doled out for use of performance enhancing drugs or a fourth violation of the marijuana policy. Gee, I wonder which one is the reason Darius Miles was suspended.

    I really do like your blog, which is why I’m posting this. You can definitely do better than posts like this.

  • May 9, 200910:48 pm
    by Jason

    Reply

    You ought to have left Lebron out of it. Two photos six years apart, the first when the guy was 18? That’s nothing out of the ordinary. I know he just trashed your team in the playoffs….

    Now get photos of Stephen Jackson one season apart and we can start talking.

  • May 12, 20091:07 pm
    by Dan Feldman

    Reply

    Rawshark,

    Another quote from that Stein article (from an anonymous NBA trainer): “In the basketball culture, players want to be long and athletic. They want to be lean, and they would be fearful that added bulk would affect their lateral quickness.” So, yes, I think there is a thought strength won’t help.

    I think there is (was?) a concern adding bulk would hurt NBA players. LeBron is proving that’s not true. Maybe he’s doing it naturally. But why wouldn’t others try to get the same results through steroids?

    And as far as Miles, it’s mysterious because the NBA never announced a third marijuana violation. He was trying to come back from an injury and save his career, so it’s certainly possible it was steroids.

  • May 12, 20091:08 pm
    by Dan Feldman

    Reply

    Jason,

    I use the LeBron as the model player and the model for adding strength. No player has ever played with his strength and quickness before.

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