Charlie Sheen is back in the news, conveniently in time to correspond to his television comeback attempt from the CBS fiasco, with an interview with Sports Illustrated. In his own words, Sheen claims to have used steroids before his performance in the 1989 cult classic, Major League. “Let’s just say that I was enhancing my performance a little bit,” admits Sheen. “It was the only time I ever did steroids,” he’s quoted as saying. Then he goes on to say his fastball rose from 79 to 85 mph for the movie. Ready for us to call bull$#@!?
Of course Charlie Sheen is full of *&$#. Dude has made a career out of stupid comments and an even stupider tour around the country based on a hashtag.
Let’s go back to a 2006 Washington Post report on steroids and their effect on pitcher’s arms.
Whether the source is injectable steroids or over-the-counter products, there is no dispute that steroids help athletes build strength and muscle. Several sports medicine experts, however, said it’s unknown whether such drugs can make pitchers markedly better because of the complexity of the arm and shoulder and the strange science involved in throwing a baseball.
“It’s an absolutely fascinating question,” said Don Catlin, the director of the Los Angeles laboratory that carries out the testing for minor league baseball. “The knee-jerk response is they will help you throw faster. We all know if you throw 93 [miles per hour] today and 98 tomorrow, that will make a big difference in your career. But the information we have doesn’t really support that.”
Medical experts say that the muscle growth promoted by steroids does not include a corresponding growth in the tendons, ligaments and other connective tissue that effectively hold the arm together when it is catapulted violently during a pitch. A side effect of steroids, in fact, is a weakening of that connective tissue, which can lead to a variety of injuries when artificially strengthened muscles apply too much force.
We’ve read numerous articles this afternoon and none of them support the theory of steroids giving pitches 6 mph on a fastball. As one of the most trusted pitching aficionados in baseball, Tom House, once told the Seattle P-I, “The prevailing thought is you take steroids to get big, hit the ball farther and be a gorilla. It’s almost the opposite for pitchers — they want muscles that repair quickly and recover.”
And the ultimate piece of proof that there is a 99% chance Sheen is lying – this report from the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports.
Pitchers were deemed to be PED users if they were named as such in the Mitchell Report or suspended by MLB for a positive PED test. Human growth hormone (HGH) usage was tracked separately. We modeled fastball velocity by PED and HGH usage, age, a Starter/Reliever indicator, and several control variables. Using PEDs significantly increased average fastball velocity by 1.074 MPH overall. When PED impact was allowed to vary by pitcher type (Starter/Reliever) and age, its benefits were most substantial later in a player’s career. For example, at age 35, the effect of PEDs was 1.437 MPH for relievers and 0.988 MPH for starters.