What is “gonadotropin”?
Gonadotropin, also known as hCG, has been in the news lately as the suspected source of major league baseball star Manny Ramirez’ steroid troubles. The Los Angeles Dodger’s big gun was sidelined for 50 games after testing positive for a “performance enhancing drug”, which authorities refused to outright identify as a “steroid”. Ramirez, who is not planning to appeal, claimed that the substance he tested positive for was administered by a doctor for treatment for a “personal medical issue”, and that neither Ramirez nor the doctor knew the drug was on the league’s “banned substance” list.
Gonadotropin is a glycoprotein hormone produced by an embryo soon after conception. The role of gonadotropin is to enhance the production of progesterone – a “steroid hormone” – during a woman’s pregnancy. Gonadotropin has other medical uses, mainly as replacement therapy for people whose natural production of testosterone or estrogen is reduced either by disease or injury.
The implication is that Ramirez was receiving Gonadotropin to replenish testosterone levels. Unfortunately for Ramirez, one of the main reasons that otherwise healthy individuals need to replenish such a level is abuse of steroids. This could lead to an even bigger story, as Manny Ramirez has not yet been “outed” as a potential steroid case, though many in Major League Baseball have, including stars like Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, and Roger Clemens.
Added to baseball’s banned substance list a year ago, hCG is a hormone that is almost exclusively produced by the placenta or an embryo. Interestingly enough, hCG is the hormone that will signal that a woman is pregnant in home-pregnancy tests. Steroid users are attracted to hCG as a natural “restart” to the body’s normal production of testosterone following a cycle of steroids. Why is this necessary?
When you take steroids, the drug tends to “turn off” the human body’s internal mechanisms that produce testosterone. In essence, the testicles are “turned off”. They shrink in size leading to a severe decrease in the production of testosterone. The only way to get around this reduction in testosterone is to take a steroid-hormone to reverse the negative effects that steroids have on the testicles.
According to the website “anabolicsteroidsguide.com”, steroid users might take hCG injections for a period of two or three weeks during steroid use. A direct quote from that websit e– “Since occasional injections of hCG during steroid intake can avoid a testicular atrophy, many athletes use hCG for two to three weeks in the middle of their steroid treatment.”
Chemically, hCG is no mystery. Doctors often observe that during a combined steroid/hCG treatments, the athlete can see the best results in terms of gains in strength and muscle mass. The medical community has acknowledged that by taking hCG the athlete’s testosterone level increases rapidly while a large concentration of anabolic substances present in the blood is further induced by the steroids the athlete is taking.
It is unclear at this point whether or not Ramirez was taking steroids, though he has not yet tested positive for such a substance.
However, detecting steroids during an hCG treatment appears difficult. A paper published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine in 1991 depicted a case study where an athlete undergoing testosterone and hCG (illegally) before a competition tested negative for testosterone, but positive for hCG. In other words, hCG appears to have a masking effect on certain banned substances. The case against Ramirez is stacking up even while he sits idle until July 3rd.
There don’t appear to be any medical reasons for Ramirez to be taking hCG. It was thought in the 1950s that hCG could be used as a weight loss aid, although tests proved this theory false.
Rumors were floating around the mainstream press this past week that Ramirez was undergoing treatment for “erectile dusfunction” – a condition that is not treatable with hCG, and is in fact easier treated with more conventional ED drugs like Viagra. No ED drug is on the MLB’s “banned substances” list.