Monday, January 11, 2010

A Baseball Rant Based in Biochemisty

Every now and then, something in the news actually correlates to material from one of my classes. Mark McGwire admitted today to using steroids during his record-breaking 1998 season. I, for one, am completely surprised. I know I am certainly as muscular or more muscular than McGwire was in '98, and that just happens. It's a burden, being Adonis. I can easily do several pushups. Anyway, I honestly was surprised at the outrage raised by Big Mac's announcement. Not because I couldn't believe that McGwire was on something but rather because, during his playing days, he openly admitted to taking Andro. When we manufacture testosterone or estrogen (or other steroid hormones), our bodies start with cholesterol (see handy diagram, courtesy of Wikipedia). Andro is two bouts with enzymes from becoming DHT, and Andro was legal when McGwire took it. Granted, Andro isn't converted entirely to DHT and also leads to estrogen formation (whoops).

Today McGwire admitted today to taking a different substance that was illegal while he used it, most likely dihydrotestosterone (DHT). If you're looking to add muscle mass that's probably a good way to go, what with DHT being an anabolic steroid and all. Also, Major League Baseball deemed it illegal. But Andro? Not until after McGwire retired. McGwire was probably getting the same result and MLB didn't care. For a league and public that make a huge fuss over use of illegal substances*, they sure don't seem to care much about the details. This is akin to trying to eradicate bakers by making flour illegal but allowing bakers to purchase wheat and grind it themselves. I'm not a biochemist. I had a one-hour lecture in which maybe five minutes were dedicated to this process. That's why it's difficult to believe that the people advising Major League Baseball on these issues didn't know the same information. Absurd.

*Which is to say nothing of the rampant use of amphetamines in the previous generation of ballplayers. Hank Aaron used them.