Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, best known as A-Rod, was using a testosterone treatment during the 2007 season under a therapeutic use exemption from Major League Baseball, according to a new book titled Blood Sport: Alex Rodriguez, Biogenesis and the Quest to End Baseball’s Steroid Era.
Testosterone supplements are a prescription medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to boost testosterone levels in men who have low levels of the hormone in their blood, a condition known as hypogondalism. The condition can result in symptoms such as low libido, weight gain, and fatigue.
In recent years, aggressive marketing campaigns targeting men have resulted in skyrocketing prescriptions for testosterone treatments. Testosterone is considered an anabolic steroid, and can improve performance in athletes; however, it is considered a form of doping and is outlawed in most sports. Some athletes, such as Rodriguez, request a therapeutic use exemption and it is granted if there is proof that an athlete’s testosterone levels are tested and prove to be lower than what is considered normal for their age.
Testosterone therapy may offer short-term benefits to both the professional athlete and the average man, however there are long-term risks that should be considered. The FDA is currently reviewing safety risks associated with the drugs after studies showed that the treatment can increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes and death. Earlier this month, the FDA warned that using testosterone treatments could cause life threatening blood clots.
Another concern is that studies suggest testosterone therapy may suppress the natural production of testosterone, creating dependence. Stopping therapy abruptly or abusing the hormones could result in lower testosterone readings.
An excerpt of the Rodriguez book reads: “The exemption was revealed in a transcript of Rodriguez’s fall 2013 grievance hearing. During that proceeding, MLB entered into evidence several exemptions applied for by Rodriguez during his Yankees tenure. In his testimony, MLB chief operating officer Rob Manfred called testosterone ‘the mother of all anabolics’ and said that exemptions for the substance are ‘very rare,’ partly because ‘some people who have been involved in this field feel that with a young male, healthy young male, the most likely cause of low testosterone requiring this type of therapy would be prior steroid abuse.’”
As for Rodriguez, 2007 was a pivotal year for his career. He won his third AL MVP award that season and later signed a 10-year deal worth $252.87 million. He is currently suspended from the MLB for the entirety of the 2014 regular season and post-season for violating the Performance Enhancing Drugs Policy with the league. He was found to be in possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance enhancing substances, including testosterone.