Eric Gagne says 80% of Dodger teammates used PEDs, but the type of PEDs matters to me

Former Dodger closer Eric Gagne released a biography in French recently, called “Game Over: The Story Of Eric Gagne“, and within that book he estimates that 80% of his Dodger teammates used PEDs, though the story is more than a bit light on specifics.

Gagne, who set a major league record while converting 84 consecutive save chances, admits that he used human growth hormone over five cycles in a three-year period toward the end of his career.

“It was sufficient to ruin my health, tarnish my reputation and throw a shadow over the extraordinary performances of my career,” Gagne says in the French-language book, titled “Game Over: The Story of Eric Gagne.”

In the book, Gagne does not provide any names of players he says used PEDs. Baseball began stricter testing in the spring of 2006. Players are subject to HGH testing during spring training and in the offseason, but not during the season.

“I was intimately aware of the clubhouse in which I lived. I would say that 80 percent of the Dodgers players were consuming them,” Gagne says in the book.

Just reading Gagne’s words from the book excerpts, it appears as though he’s talking solely about HGH. And while I would like to trust the way that sports journalists have written the story and assume that Gagne referred to all PEDs at some point, when it comes to PED-related coverage, they generally tend to lump everything together into one gigantic PED ball like they’re all the same thing.

Case in point, in the article titles, MLB.com just says “PED”, Los Angeles Times says “performance-enhancing drugs”, HardballTalk says “steroids”, and on Twitter, ESPN Los Angeles says “HGH”. Just an example of what I mean by my confusion as to what exactly the book excerpts were alluding to.

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Now why does this matter to me? Certainly not because it would help or hurt my case to moralize over it (I have never particularly cared if athletes use), like others have been using the allegations to do. Rather, I primarily want to know the specifics so that I can make intelligence judgments on the Dodger teams in question and performance judgments in regards to HGH.

I care because if it was just HGH use, as it seems Gagne’s saying, then that makes the Dodger players who allegedly used complete idiots for risking their health for minimal benefits beyond the placebo effect.

Human growth hormone doesn’t work when it comes to enhancing athletic performance, according to an extensive review of studies by a team of 11 Stanford University researchers, Stanford announced Monday afternoon.

The use of human growth hormone (HGH) by professional athletes to enhance performance has been the subject of a national investigation and Congressional hearings for baseball players.

But the Stanford researchers say HGH doesn’t improve athletic performance and may in fact reduce an athlete’s stamina.

“Growth hormone is reported to be extensively used for illicit enhancement of athletic performance, both for its anabolic and endurance effects,” the authors wrote.

“However, our review of the published literature suggests that while growth hormone may alter body composition it has minimal effect on key athletic performance outcomes and may, in fact, be associated with worsened exercise capacity.”

The study concluded that HGH, popular with body builders, does alter body mass but “it did not result in gains in biceps and quadriceps strength.”

There’s lots more documentation here and here, but they all basically come to the same conclusion: that growth hormone does increase muscle size (hence the “growth” part), but it does so by making everything else bigger, and the athletes don’t get a strength benefit to go along with that size.

In other words, HGH might be useful for bodybuilding, but athletics? Not so much.

Therefore, if Gagne’s simply saying that 80% of his teammates were using HGH like him, nobody should care about this story because HGH doesn’t work. It’s the PED equivalent of calling Eugenio Velez a “hitter”. Hell, maybe the whole problem to begin with was that those Dodger teams were using HGH by the gallons while everybody else was using designer steroids. Wouldn’t that just be a perfectly fitting revelation for this franchise and that era?

Heck, even if he’s just talking about general PEDs, the team must have been doing it wrong. Gagne’s Dodger career lasted from 1999 to 2006. In that time span, one of the marquee franchises in baseball averaged
84.75 wins and 77.25 losses. They made the playoffs twice, winning the NL West once and the NL Wild Card once. That’s it.

So much for enhancing performance.

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