Summers here in Oklahoma City make me long for two things: relief from the heat and the start of a new football season. This is the consensus in much of the country. Not everyone is subject to the same summer heat that I have grown up to know in West Texas and Oklahoma, but many American households anticipate the start of the college and NFL football seasons. This is something I have always known and I couldn’t imagine things being any different.
This is how Rugby is in Australia. It's their pastime and the passion for this sport has been passed down from generation to generation. In America, we are accustomed to doping scandals, and have seen them in most of our major professional sports. I have come to accept that doping will be involved when there is a cult type following and multi-million dollar contracts at stake. My attitude of acceptance is certainly not unique in America, but it is far from de rigueur
in other countries.
Admittedly, I have not seen much on doping in other countries as of late. Really, the biggest scandal that I recall outside of the US involved Canadian Ben Johnson in 1988 when he tested positive for stanozolol following the Summer Olympics in Seoul, Korea. I am not sure why doping has been such a big focus in the US while not so much in other countries. It may be because their media has not put a microscope on the issue like ours has (for whatever reason), or law enforcement and government officials abroad have decided to focus on problems such as poverty, unemployment, and violent crimes.
But now there is a reason for doping to take center stage in Australia: the death of National Rugby League (NRL) player Jon Mannah. Mannah died of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in early 2013, and the use of several peptides
is rumored to have accelerated his death. The Cronulla Sharks prop was first diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2009 when visiting the doctor for a back injury. The disease went into remission after several rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. An ASADA (Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority) investigation showed that sports scientist Stephen Dank had given Jon Mannah, among other Cronulla Shark players, injections of the peptides CJC-1295 and GHRP-6 in early 2011. These are the same peptides that have allegedly been used in Major League Baseball, by none other than Alex Rodriguez.
According to ASADA's report:
"Based on the chronology it appears Mannah was administered with substances including CJC-1295 and GHRP-6 during the period from March to May in 2011.
"A brief review of available published medical literature suggests an identified causal link between the use of substances such as CJC-1295 and GHRP-6 and the acceleration of the condition of disease Hodgkin's lymphoma."
Both of these peptides are growth hormone releasing analogs and are used to increase muscle mass and strength. It is reported that the injections eventually stopped and were replaced by creams and lozenges. It is not clear what these creams and lozenges contained. Jon Mannah relapsed in late 2011 (suspiciously close to when he began taking peptides) and died in January of 2013.
The death of Jon Mannah has raised the question of whether these peptides, given to him and teammates by Stephen Dank, allowed the Hodgkin’s Lymphoma to progress at an accelerated rate. Peptides in this family (i.e. those that elevate levels of growth hormone and IGF-1) are thought to accelerate cell growth indescriminately, therefore it is assumed that while they increase the growth of muscle tissue, they can also increase the growth of Cancer cells. It was rumored that bodybuilder Dennis Newman's own bout with Leukemia was brought on (or at least exacerbated) by the use of Human Growth Hormone.
Dank has claimed that everything given to Mannah was safe and experts in this field had put the drug protocol together. There are mixed views on whether or not Mannah’s death was caused by these peptides, or if he was just one of the very few unfortunate individuals to develop Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Cancer expert Professor Robert Baxter was quoted by the Australian Associated Press as saying “there is no evidence that it’s a genuine risk,
” referring to peptide use and the acceleration of Mannah’s cancer. On the other hand, the Australian Associated Press quoted sports medicine practitioner Peter Larkins as saying, “the peptide hormones talked about in sport are designed to improve cell metabolism and growth products in the body, that’s why they are used to cheat in sports. Then it simply says to me that you’d be very, very unwise to consider using that in a patient that already has the process of uncontrolled cell growth
Epidemiological studies, which report an association between serum IGF-I levels (typically secreted in response to elevated GH levels) and cancer risk, have not established causality. Chicago epidemiologist Jay Olshansky has warned that "increased cancer risk" was a concern with long-term use of growth hormone. And these peptides increase growth hormone.
It will probably never be known if taking these peptides in early 2011 contributed to Jon Manna’s relapse and death. The Lymphoma may have come back on it’s own, or it may have stayed in remission without the use of these peptides. Right now, experts seem divided on whether these drugs can cause or exacerbate Cancer, or they can't. Still, elevated levels of growth hormone have been highly correlated with various cancers...and these drugs elevate growth hormone.
However, early detection of Cancer is highly correlated with survival rate, so it stands to reason that if these drugs can accelerate Cancerous cell growth, many athletes who have yet-undetected cancer are currently using these drugs and potentially accelerating the disease's progression to where it may be incompatible with the same survival rate they'd have had without the use of peptides.