Banned Substances and Youth Baseball

By USA Baseball Medical/Safety Advisory Committee

A list of “banned substances” (e.g., anabolic steroids, growth hormone, amphetamines) and “banned practices” (e.g., blood doping, diuretics) in sport is maintained by the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC), of which USA Baseball is a member, both to protect the health of the athlete and the ethics of sport. It is important that the concept of banned substances be understood and respected at all levels of sport.

Essentially, “banned substances” are illegal, over-the-counter or prescription drugs known to be used for performance-enhancing efforts beyond good coaching and training programs. It is commonly believed that their use is solely determined by the player. However, the athlete may be taking the substance only because their coach, trainer, or physician (or even parent) who is caught up in the “win at all costs” philosophy tells the player (to the effect) “It’s good for you.”

Banned substances are not substitutes for good talent, coaching, and training. However, research and experience suggest that the use of banned substances may increase strength-related performance to some degree, but only if the player has the talent and has already, through legitimate training, arrived at his/her own top-level physical performance capacity. On the flip side, the use of any chemical with substantial power can cause unwanted effects as well, not merely at the occasion of use but in later life.

For both ethical and health reasons, therefore, those who offer athletic programs can call for drug testing as a deterrent either at the time of competition or on a random basis anytime during the season. Any player found to have used a banned substance will be subject to the penalties of disqualification from competition and being exposed as a “user”. However, the best deterrent is self-determination.

The pursuit of athletic achievement should be accompanied by the fun of feeling plainly proud when achievement is realized without any fear of being caught or courting unnecessary serious health problems later. If a player has, however, any true medical need for prescription medicine to accompany good coaching and training during the pursuit of fun through baseball, USA Baseball encourages the athlete or parent to first call USOC’s drug control hotline (1-800-233-0393) and learn whether that drug is a banned substance or not. Unfortunately, there are enough coaches, trainers, and physicians out there who for their own motivations will provide such “help”, but it is completely the responsibility of the athlete or parent to learn for themselves whether the given drug is or is not in fact on the “banned substance list”. If listed but there remains a legitimate prescription need for the player, his/her physician should call that hotline and learn what alternatives their physicians recommend and document the medical necessity for the drug.