Former White Sox pitcher Jim Parque has a very lengthy mea culpa in the Chicago Sun-Times today, apologizing to his teammates, family, the entire sporting world, several deities, and his barber, because he took HGH for a month in 2003.
At 24 years old and coming off the best season off his young career, Parque tore the labrum in his throwing shoulder and never recovered. After two years of fruitless therapy and desperate to get his fastball back, he ordered some human growth hormone (yes, he's in the Mitchell Report), took a couple of injections, and then gave up. He retired in 2003, pitching only 70 innings in his final three seasons.
Apparently, the torment of those dark days have been eating away at him ever since. He painstakingly tries to explain himself. He had kids to feed! He was so young! He's just a man! You know what? We get it, Jim. You were desperate to rebuild your career and, yes, almost anyone of us would have done the same. No one is mad at you, buddy.
But let's say for a moment that Parque hadn't freaked out and stopped taking the drug. What if he had continued using HGH and it made him a serviceable pitcher for five more years or so? He makes a couple million dollars, his family is more financially stable, the White Sox get a fourth starter, and no one is the wiser. I know the "steroids = cheating" crowd won't appreciate this, but ... so what if he did?
Here's Jim own words about it:
HGH was not banned by Major League Baseball when I ordered it. It was controversial and unethical, but it was not banned.
I had done just enough research to know that what I was about to do had huge risks. Because I did not obtain the drugsfrom a lab, they could be tainted or entirely different than what I ordered. I was uncomfortable, but I injected the substance about six times. It immediately made me sleep deeper. My skin became baby-soft, and I could feel my workouts improving. It never gave me more strength or bulked me up, but it provided quicker recoveries. I began to throw harder because my shoulder felt no pain. I was able to withstand more throwing, creating a work environment that I had not experienced in two years.
So basically ... he took a drug and it made him feel better. He suffered an injury and this helped him get over it. What is wrong with that? How is that any worse than a player who takes aspirin for a headache or vicodin for a sore back or a shot of anesthetic to numb a foot injury or having a surgeon temporarily alter your peroneus brevis tendon so that you can become an American hero? Aren't those things just as "performance enhancing" (maybe more so) as Parque's baby soft skin? All convincing explanations accepted below, but you'll have to work pretty hard to invent one.
It's true that we don't know a lot about HGH and its effects on the body, but every drug that's ever been manufactured started out that way. There's little evidence that it actually makes you bigger or stronger and it doesn't add any drop to your curveball. Maybe if athletes were allowed to use it, supervised correctly, we might learn what it can really do. And maybe more pitchers like Parque wouldn't have to retire at age 27.