Sunday, July 23, 2006

Are Athletes Using Experimental Drugs To Help Them Recover Faster From Major Surgery?

I've written a piece that's posted on that discusses the possibility that athletes are using experimental drugs in order to recover quicker from major surgery.

Here is a piece I posted on my old website way back in the fall of 2004.

The October 2004 edition of Muscle and Fitness features another puff piece detailing the “revolutionary” training regimen of a professional athlete. Read why Terrill Owens’ routine is nonsense.

Despite what “Team TO” says at the end of this article, they have not helped to create “an otherworldly brand of athlete.” This “team” as been able to attach itself to Owens - a genetic freak - and they have been allowed to affect him with their own brand of nonsense. They will no doubt enrich themselves as a result.

Here’s the case.

Terrill Owens is an All-Pro Football player thanks to his genetics, or what some people call “God-given ability.” There isn’t a workout program or trainer that can make him “more All-Pro,” more dominating or more ANYTHING.

He was 6’ 1” 175 pounds as a freshman in high school. He got a full football scholarship to the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, was All-Southern Conference three years and walked-on and played three years on the UTC basketball team.

He ran a 4.6 second, 40-yard dash during his first year at college.

He is 6’ 3”, 226 pounds with 6% body fat.

“T.O.” was picked by the San Francisco 49’ers in the third round - the 89th overall pick - in the 1996 NFL draft. He has been one of the best receivers in the NFL for the better part of a decade.

Plain and simple, this is the resume of a genetically gifted, elite athlete. Owens certainly is not a product of his recent training regimen.

But here we have Muscle and Fitness telling us that Owens’ has embarked on a training regimen to make him even better. We’re told that this “Star Wars” training program, that seems simple to the uninitiated, is going to make Owens even better. But to the initiated, this program is ridiculous.

And while it’s nice that T.O. is going to bat for his trainer, there’s nothing in this program that has anything to do with Owens being, or staying, a dominant receiver. If anything, this article – once again – just serves to reinforce my position that elite athletes are born and not made.

The cornerstone for this program seems to be “taxing pelvic contractions” that “represents the latest advance in core training.” Don’t believe that pelvic contractions are going to help a guy on the football field. To paraphrase Oscar Madison, “Taxing pelvic contractions, without brute strength will leave a lot of cleat marks on the back of your head.”

When we read the following the fraud alarm really goes off,

“Owens typically lifts four days a week, employing exercises and rep ranges clearly influenced by his trainer’s background in bodybuilding (my emphasis).”

Most absurd is that TO’s trainer comes from a body building background. Just in case any of you are newcomers, I’ll repeat my mantra that body builders do not belong anywhere near real athletes, especially when program design is involved. Nothing can be further from real athletes and real athletics than body builders and their “sport.”

Let’s skip all the other garbage in this article and go right to the sidebar where we get the details of the program, under the heading “The Making of TO.”

Monday: Abs, Back Triceps
Decline sit-up
Hanging leg raise
Hammer-Strength pull down
One-arm dumbbell row
Low-back extension
Cable press down
Seated dip machine
Hammer-Strength chest press

Tuesday: Abs, Chest, Biceps
Decline oblique crunch
Lying alternating leg raise
Flat-bench dumbbell press
Incline dumbbell press
Standing straight-bar curl
Hammer curl
Seated dumbbell curl

Thursday: Abs, Quads, Shoulders
Decline sit-up
Hanging leg raise
Leg press
Hack squat machine
Leg extension
Seated shoulder press
Seated lateral raise
Angled lat pull down

Friday: Abs, Hamstrings, Calves
Decline oblique crunch
Lying alternating leg raise
Standing leg curl
Dumbbell stiff-legged dead lift
Lying leg curl
Standing calf raise
Seated calf raise

That’s it. No compound movements, no ground based movements, no explosive movements. No squats. No lunges. Mostly machine-based exercises. Three different kinds of biceps curls. This is a joke.

As a matter of fact, this isn’t just a joke it is a scam. I’ll go one step further and say that if this is in fact the actual workout, Owens runs the risk of injury by following this program. The leg press, hack squat machine (!), leg extension and leg curls are demonstrably counter-productive and should be avoided by athletes and no-athletes alike.

More red flags of nonsense are raised when the discussion turns to the “team” of people that takes care of Owens and helps him to deal with the stresses of playing in the NFL.

Owens employs a chiropractor that is also a biomechanics export. Chiropractors should never play a prominent role in the program design and implementation of an athlete at any level. Chiropractors can certainly offer relief in some cases, but if you need a biomechanics expert, get an MD.

More sketchiness is evident when we’re told that Owens employs Hank Sloan, ND (?) who prescribes Owens’ hyperbaric therapy (click here if you want to read about it and administers “natural, non-steroidal injections to help re-grow tendons and ligaments in injured areas.”

Um, there are no known, legal substances that can re-grow tendons and ligaments. The stuff doesn’t exist. However, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t people out there trying to sell what’s known as prolotherapy as a valid form of “treatment.” Click here for some background

This is plain and simple just garbage, the whole kit and caboodle.

I’ll say it again in case it sinks in: Terrill Owens is a star because of his genetics and because he apparently practices clean living, but this training routine has nothing to do with his success or his talent.

Let me know if you disagree.

Here was a person who disagreed, none other than Dr. Hank Sloan himself, a member of Owens’ team of “experts.” This is the exact email that I received.

I just came across your editorial piece and read this rediculous piece of bias nonsence. I am the Doctor ( trained in Europe and yes sports medicine) that works with T.O. for 2.5 years now. I currently work with 12 NFL teams and Biotech companies and we are healing tissues, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, etc, without surgery. And yes they are mostly natural ingredients. Why do you take an attitude of opposition about things you have no idea about. I will attatch some research to this email just to prove the results of IFG-! injections repairing tissue. We are on the same team. My goal is to help everyone overcome their injuries. You have no idea about TO and his injuries and what our team has dome for him. Have you read his MRI's and x-rays. How did he come back so fast last year after completely braking his clacicle and having surgery? And as far as his core training is concerned, that part of his training is specifically for a groin injury, which you have no idea about. No matter how much genetic potential you have, NFL players will get hurt and our job is rehab. I am an honest, dependable scientist and physician who has helped thousands of people in pain. We are proponants for training and you take the attitude that for some reason we are against you. Next time, give me a call and we can discuss there things before you put information out there for others to see. Your comments on "Um, there are no known, legal substances that can re-grow tendons and ligaments". Are you a doctor or just printing thoughts with out doing one shread of research. So I guess you think TO is stupid for having his team around. Dont you think a player of his caliber will have the best. And by the way, who are you?

Below is you lack of knowledge abou things you have no idea.
"Um, there are no known, legal substances that can re-grow tendons and ligaments. The stuff doesn't exist. However, this doesn't mean that there aren't people out there trying to sell what's known as prolotherapy as a valid form of "treatment." Click here for some background.
This is plain and simple just garbage, the whole kit and caboodle.
We'll say it again in case it sinks in: Terrill Owens is a star because of his genetics and because he apparently practices clean living, but this training routine has nothing to do with his success or his talent. "
Attached to this rambling email were abstracts of certain studies – all of which were done on animals or in laboratory settings - that this Dr. Sloan thought constituted proof that IGF-1 was suitable for use in humans, and that there were in fact substances that could be used to re-grow tendons and ligaments.

Here is the response I sent to Dr. Sloan.

Dr. Sloan:
Thanks for taking the time and effort to respond to my item.

I read through all of the abstracts you forwarded. None of them suggest that any of these growth factors are effective in a living, breathing human. Sure, they demonstrate some efficacy in vitro, in murine species, equines, and in other culture media, but none of the studies you forwarded suggest any activity in the human body. Also of importance, most of the abstracts that included in vivo experimentation were done in Japan, Switzerland, and China.

Sure the guys at Cornell demonstrated an effect when human-horse IFG-1 was injected into young horses, but they killed them to determine whether it actually worked.

The bottom line is these abstracts suggest this stuff might work in rats, horses, and in some lab dishes. However, none of these abstracts studied the effect in a human. Where are the studies that suggest this works in humans? Even if these growth factors are effective at repairing human tissues, how will the effect be measured?

Certainly scientists are not going to kill people to determine whether ligaments, tendons, and/or cartilage was repaired. Furthermore, how do you account for the studies that may have been done that may suggest that this stuff does not work?

Although promising, I find it hard to believe that someone would inject growth factors into a living, breathing human such as Mr Owens at this stage of research. Talk about a high risk experiment. Typically, and as you surely are aware of, phase I/II human trials are conducted to determine the safety and efficacy of a therapy, but in most cases All-Pro athletes don't volunteer for such research. Subjects are most often people looking to earn a quick buck, and research firms maintain databases of thousands of such individuals.

So what does your cocktail include? In the M&F article it states "natural," but in your email you state "mostly natural," which is it? Are you injecting Mr Owens with IGF-1 and/or HGH?

Additionally, are you saying that what you injected into Mr. Owens helped his clavicle heal quicker, and therefore is promoting faster bone growth as well?

You also mention you work with biotech firms as well as other NFL teams, but the you have not provided specifics of this in either your email or in the M&F item.

Regarding Mr Owens' training routine, if you really had any knowledge on this subject you would keep a body builder who uses a body building routine far away from a real, professional athlete. Body builders know so little about performance-based training it boggles the mind that anyone would permit Mr Owens to waste his time with such nonsense.

Core training is a nice little catch-all phrase, and it may help to rehab an injury but it is hardly revolutionary and certainly isn't the key to Mr Owens success. The same holds true for the ludicrous assertion that the workout under the heading of "The Making of T.O." is responsible in any way, shape or form for Mr Owens success, and is a tribute to the kind of ignorance of performance training that is the hallmark of body builders.

Finally, the "how dare you, who are you" tone that permeates your email is hardly the stuff one would expect coming from a man of letters, such as yourself. Your thin skin is curious.

All the best,
Sal Marinello, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA)
USA Weightlifting Certified Coach
Head Strength Coach, Chatham High School (NJ)
President, Millburn-Short Hills Athletic Club


Dear Sal,
You would find that I would be much more responsive if you were not so confrontive. Please ease up a little. I sent you a few research studies that you are basing my entire therapy on. Being trained by different doctors around the world, my view of injury and rehab. is much broader than the typical Orthopedic training. We use many different injection techniques and substances. IGF-1 is extremely beneficial and works very well for healing ligament, tendon and cartilage. I just recently healed a 60% tear in the ulnar collateral ligament in a Pro Baseball Player using a combination of GH, IGF-1, and prolotherpy. We have the team MRI, pre and post, to prove it. Also, I have healed a couple of anterior meniscus tears without surgery. There are others as well. I am a clinician and I am also helping with human trial studies at this time. There is NO unwanted side effects of anything I use. SO, we either get great results or mediocre results. But we get results. A great practitioner not only knows what is wrong, but what to use to fix the problem. IGF-1 is not extremely experimental, its not even dangerous, used properly. I'm very cautious and use almost all natural agents, seeing that I am trying to heal tissue, not band aid injury. IFG-1 is used sparingly and in very specific protocols.
There are other companies and other research, too much to mention. I'm not sure why you have taken such interest in this topic. You know I cant mention any treatment regarding TO, and I probably shouldn't have to explain myself in any fashion. The proof is in the pudding, I always say to my patients. What matters is if people get better. I'm sure you take a similar philosophy. I take my life's work very seriously and I don't have time to defend myself in emails from people around the world who are curious about the next great future step in medicine. Please don't take that offensively. Exciting advances are coming soon.
Sincerely, Dr.M. Hank Sloan


Ms. Kraemer:
A man who claims to be NFL player Terrill Owens' doctor has written me and said that he is using IGF-1 as a therapy to regrow/heal injured tendons and ligaments. I have included a copy of his latest email.

I publish a fitness-based website that deals with, among other things, frauds and illegal activities perpetrated on the public in the name of health and fitness. One of my items was critical of the claims of this doctor, Hank Sloan, that he had a regimen of injections that could regrow tendons and ligaments.

During my research I have been in contact with clinicians, scientists, doctors and researchers and they all say the IGF-1 has not been approved for use in humans, and that the research that is being done is in the area of endocrine related disorders.

Being that your company holds the patent on IGF-1 I wanted to make you aware of this Dr Sloan and his claims, and to find out if what he is doing is proper.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Dear Mr. Marinello:
Thank you for your inquiry. We are reviewing the communication you forwarded. As you noted, rhIGF-1 is an experimental therapy. We are developing it for use in short stature and associated metabolic disorders. We are not studying it for use in other indications at this time.
Kimberly Kraemer,
Senior Director, Corporate Communications & Investor Relations
Tercica, Inc.

Needless to say I never heard from Dr. Sloan again.