Neither do we.
This might well be Cubes’ most provocative offering yet—and not necessarily in a bad way.
According to ESPN Dallas’ Tim MacMahon, the Dallas Mavericks owner and noted philanthropist is set to fund a two-year study designed to gauge the costs, benefits and long-term effects of human growth hormone (HGH) on athletes recovering from injury.
Here’s Cuban speaking on the subject:
It'll be a two-year study that applies HGH to injuries preoperative to postoperative injury recovery. So if you're able to retain more muscle going into an operation because you're working out and HGH helps your muscle. And you're able to regain it faster, then we cut the recovery time. And it'll be geared around one type of injury that has hundreds of thousands of examples a year. So we'll be able to do a placebo environment without hurting anybody, right? ... So hopefully it will accelerate recovery.
Somewhere in New York City, David Stern—veins popping off his forehead like giant Twizzlers—just squeezed a highball glass so hard it created a black hole.
All yuks aside, Cuban’s venture raises some interesting, potentially game-changing questions, not the least of which is this: If the use of HGH is already as prevalent as some believe it might be, doesn’t making it readily available—i.e. leveling the playing field—benefit both the athlete and the on-court product itself?
Consequently, what is really more controversial, permitting the use of a substance whose long-term side effects are debatable at best, or instituting a massive bureaucratic program to test athletes at every conceivable turn, thereby compromising their privacy?
Think the NBA’s emphasis on grace and speed over pure power makes it immune to such scourges? Grantland’s Bill Simmons would like to have a few thousand words with you:
We look the other way as the NBA keeps its own little Santa Claus streak going: Of all the running-and-jumping sports that feature world-class athletes competing at the highest level, only the NBA hasn’t had a single star get nailed for performance enhancers…you know, because there’s no way hundreds of overcompetitive stars with massive egos would ever cheat to gain an edge with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake.
Keep in mind both Rashard Lewis (in 2009) and Hedo Turkoglu (just last season) have been busted for PEDs within the past few years, in a league which has yet to institute the degree of oversight that, say, the NFL has.
Then there was the mysterious case of Derrick Rose, who, after purportedly telling ESPN The Magazine (via Kelly Dwyer of Yahoo Sports) that the NBA had a "huge" steroid problem, backtracked on his remarks per CSN Chicago (via Jason Kirk of SB Nation) in a way that suggested, well, someone may have been in his ear.
How will Mark Cuban's HGH study change the NBA?
It’s an interesting dilemma, and one with no clear-cut answers. At the very least, the duration of the forthcoming study will allow ample time for a genuine conversation within the NBA about what it values more: unfettered privacy or a fair playing field.
If sports science is really as sharp and unfailingly progressive as we think it is, is it really inconceivable to think there will come a day—thanks in part to this study, perhaps—when HGH, or a safer analog thereof, might not help reduce the injury-recovery time not only of our professional athletes, but everyone else, regardless of collar or color, as well?
Say what you will about Mark Cuban as basketball impresario or political philosopher. As a steward of the game, it’s hard to argue his heart’s not in the right place—even when he’s screaming it onto the floor.