George Karl’s new autobiography (“Furious George”) apparently features some serious accusations. In the book, Karl claims that the NBA has a serious steroid problem. Dan Feldman published this excerpt on the NBC Sports website:
“we’ve still got a drug issue, though a different one than thirty years ago. And this one bothers me more than the dumbasses who got in trouble with recreational drugs.
I’m talking about performance-enhancing drugs—like steroids, human growth hormone, and so on. It’s obvious some of our players are doping. How are some guys getting older—yet thinner and fitter? How are they recovering from injuries so fast? Why the hell are they going to Germany in the off-season? I doubt it’s for the sauerkraut.
More likely it’s for the newest, hard-to-detect blood boosters and PEDs they have in Europe. Unfortunately, drug testing always seems to be a couple steps behind drug hiding. Lance Armstrong never failed a drug test. I think we want the best athletes to succeed, not the biggest, richest cheaters employing the best scientists.”
Karl’s mention of Germany was most likely a reference to Kobe Bryant, who famously traveled to Europe to receive platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy after his knee injury. It’s been widely speculated that his overseas doctors may have used some other, more illicit techniques to aid in his recovery.
Of course, this is not the first time we’ve heard accusations about PED use in the NBA. Derrick Rose once claimed that doping use was common in the sport, but people like ESPN’s Marc Stein and former commissioner David Stern have a different view. Both men have argued
that steroid use wouldn’t help basketball players because over-development could “affect their lateral quickness”.
The Stein/Stern argument is quite common in these discussions, but some in the the sports medicine community disagree with their assessment. Victor Conte of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative
(BALCO) told Sportsonearth.com
that Stern’s argument makes no sense. “Look at the biceps of Tour de France riders. They’re 9-10 inches [in circumference]. We know they use anabolic steroids, specifically testosterone,” Conte explained. “For the most part, these drugs — meaning the whole category of anabolic steroids — are recovery drugs. They are very powerful. Would they be a benefit to an NBA player? Absolutely.”
Whether it’s recovery, endurance, or muscle development, there are clearly good incentives for players to use PEDs to create shortcuts – at this point, the only question is: who’s doing it?