When Toronto-based doctor Anthony Galea was arrested in October 2009 after his assistant was busted the previous month for trying to bring substances into the U.S. which included Human Growth Hormone (HGH), the big story was that Tiger Woods was one of Galea’s high-profile athlete clients. Now, Sports Illustrated reports that Chris Bosh saw Galea last year to help him recover from a left-hamstring injury that caused him to miss training camp.
Galea specializes in platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy — where a patient’s blood is extracted and then spun in a centrifuge to create a concentrated dose of tissue-healing platelets which are then injected into the patient’s injured area. Based on Galea’s list of high-profile clients which includes Woods, Bosh, Olympic swimmer Dara Torres and former NFL running back Jamal Lewis, it’s clear that he had a stellar reputation among the sports elite. What his famous patients may or may not have known is that Galea included HGH in some of his PRP injections, as alleged by court documents. If it’s proven in court that Bosh was one of the beneficiaries of this genetic cocktail, he’ll likely face a 10-game suspension under the terms of the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Looking at Chris Bosh’s slender frame, he probably doesn’t strike you as the most likely NBA player to use performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). Of course, Rashard Lewis probably didn’t register on your radar as a likely PED user before he received a 10-game suspension for testing positive for a testosterone-producing steroid. If you didn’t make the joke yourself, you probably heard it from someone else: “If Rashard Lewis used steroids, he should ask for his money back.”
When many of us think of PED users, we remember Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa when they reinvigorated Major League Baseball in 1998. That Sports Illustrated cover declaring them as Sportsmen of the Year is iconic for a very different reason now than it was 12 years ago. It’s symbolic of our willful ignorance of what was going on right under our noses that we simply didn’t want to acknowledge. As McGwire said in his now hilariously ironic guest appearance on The Simpsons: “Do you want to know the terrifying truth, or do you want to see me sock a few dingers?”
It doesn’t seem to make sense that NBA players would use PEDs like steroids or HGH. They can’t help you improve your jumpshot or your crossover dribble. Similarly, there are people who will point out that PEDs can’t help you hit a baseball — and yet they’re banned from Major League Baseball just as they are banned from the NBA.
At one point last season, my father was watching a Raptors-Magic game with me and when he first saw Dwight Howard’s impressively muscular frame, he said, “That guy’s definitely on steroids.” I came to Dwight’s defense and insisted that he’s always had a big frame and it’s quite possible that he achieved his awesome physique naturally. In spite of the cynicism that many sports fans and commentators now have on this issue, I continue to believe that athletes should be given the benefit of the doubt until concrete evidence proves otherwise.
I’m not nearly as judgmental as a lot of people are about PEDs in sports. If I could have taken drugs that would have made me tall and athletic enough to play in the NBA, I assure you I would have looked into it. “You want to inject me with a combination of cheetah and giraffe blood? Sure thing. My assistant will write you a check while I pull down my pants.”
With this mindset, it strikes me as naive that so few people seem to think PEDs are an issue in the NBA. Hell, if Rashard Lewis was on the juice (knowingly or unknowingly), doesn’t that mean most NBA players should be suspect? It sucks that it’s come to this, but I know that some of you have thought what my dad thought when he saw Dwight Howard. And that’s not fair to Dwight, but these are the times we live in.
If Chris Bosh does end up receiving the mandatory 10-game suspension for using HGH, it will create a brief ripple of scandal which will eventually be overlooked since he’s now merely the third-best player on his team. But if a superstar like LeBron James ever gets exposed in a similar scandal, that will elicit an entirely different reaction. Regardless, the Galea story leads me to believe that it’s probably only a matter of time before one of the biggest NBA stars is cast into disrepute from using PEDs.
All of this speculative talk leads us to this inevitable question: Do you want to know the terrifying truth, or do you want to see Dwight Howard dunk on a 12-foot basket again?