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Mark Cuban asks: Should NBA allow injured players to use HGH if it speeds recovery?

Nov 25, 2013, 11:04 AM EDT

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Mark Cuban is a guy who wants data. He expects studies and information to help provide answers. It’s how he runs all his businesses, including the Dallas Mavericks.

But when it comes to potentially using human growth hormone (HGH) — a controversial substance banned by the NBA — to help injured players recover more quickly, there isn’t any data.

In the wake of a weekend where All-Stars Derrick Rose, Andre Iguodala and Marc Gasol went out with injuries — Rose’s likely keeping him out the rest of the season — the topic of if this could help came up again.

Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban brought up the idea of looking at this at last owners’ meeting. Cuban told Sam Amick of the USA Today he’d like to see more information on the topic.

“The issue isn’t whether I think it should be used,” Cuban told USA TODAY Sports via e-mail. “The issue is that it has not been approved for such use. And one of the reasons it hasn’t been approved is that there have not been studies done to prove the benefits of prescribing HGH for athletic rehabilitation or any injury rehabilitation that I’m aware of. The product has such a huge (public) stigma that no one wants to be associated with it….

“I believe that professional sports leagues should work together and fund studies to determine the efficacy of HGH for rehabbing an injury,” Cuban told USA TODAY Sports. “Working together could lead us from the path of demonizing HGH and even testosterone towards a complete understanding. It could allow us to make a data based decision rather than the emotional decision we are currently making. And if it can help athletes recover more quickly, maybe we can extend careers and have healthier happier players and fans.”

HGH is very controversial, and in Major League Baseball it remains at the heart of lengthy player bans and the PED controversy that has tainted that sport. The NBA has not had high profile PED cases, but it doesn’t test for HGH right now (that is something the league and players’ union have yet to come to an agreement on, it requires blood tests). To think that NBA players would not use HGH designer PEDs when tens of millions of dollars in contracts are on the line is naïve.

However, should the NBA consider allowing it in specific circumstances is another question. The FDA only allows the use of HGH for a few specific treatments, primarily children whose growth is stunted.

There are difficult ethical questions here, something Amick gets into.

The NBA also is sensitive to the ethical part of the discussion, as the idea that some players would return from injury sooner than others because they were willing to take a drug that may have adverse side effects raises serious concerns about maintaining a level playing field. The possible side effects, according to the FDA, include an increased risk of cancer, nerve pain and elevated cholesterol and glucose levels. If anything, the NBA is moving closer to cracking down on HGH use of any kind.

It’s hard to see a scenario where the NBA switches course and starts to allow HGH use in any specific circumstance. Still, Cuban at least wants the discussion on the table — and he wants some information on whether it would even work for injury recovery.

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