Playing with fire by MOHD. ZEYAUL HAQUE (JUNE 15, 2007)

Recently a news report appeared in many newspapers that said Hollywood film star Sylvester Stallone was caught in Australia carrying banned drugs. When Australian Customs officials raided his hotel room Stallone’s staff threw several ampoules of human growth hormone (HGH) out of the window. The Customs people later took away the drugs.

Like in most other countries it is an offence to import these drugs without a licence. Most people in India cannot figure out why at all anyone should be carrying around vials of human growth hormone. The sad fact is that most of the top sports persons all over the world are using these substances to increase muscle mass, power, speed and stamina.

Stallone is 61 and looking bigger and stronger in his latest Rocky movie than in the first Rocky movie. That is, bigger and stronger at 61 than at 41. The secret behind this eternal youth is a perfect combination of nutrition (food and supplements), exercise and rest. And, of course, a number of banned drugs, including HGH.

As stated earlier, Stallone is not alone in this mad pursuit of ever-lasting youth and a body that compares favourably with the Greco-Roman mythological heroes and gods -- Zeus, Apollo, Achilles, Hercules.

Earlier generations of athletes were using anabolic steroids like Dianabol, Durabolin,  Decadurabolin and Decadron. Today’s athletes, body builders, weightlifters and film stars like Stallone are taking human growth hormone. This is the hormone that makes children grow over the years into adults.

HGH is a natural substance occurring in the body. However, we are asking for trouble if we force a 61-year-old body to keep growing like a 16-year-old. Grow it will, but at a tremendous cost to the physical well-being of the person involved in the long run.

At least people like Stallone have doctors monitoring their physiological and biochemical parameters, but ordinary athletes in India and other developing countries have no such protection. Even those being monitored are having serious side effects that could destroy their lives.

A lot of people in India (especially body builders, weightlifters, strength athletes and people in contact sports) are still using anabolic steroids and trying to "mask" these substances by taking other chemicals so that the presence of steroids can’t be detected in urine samples.

Steroids too have devastating side effects. But people take them to boost protein synthesis, and thus increase muscle mass. Still others have gone a step ahead and are taking insulin (no, they are not diabetic) to boost food absorption and physical growth. Others are playing with substances which are unknown even to doctors.

Our advice: Please don’t destroy yourself for illusory goals. Eat well, exercise. Take food supplements. But stay away from drugs in your own long-term interest.


Mohd. Zeyaul Haque

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