The Science And Reasoning Behind The Use Of PEDS

Photo: Sergei Belski / USA TODAY

Photo: Sergei Belski / USA TODAY

By Tasha Florentz-Clift LVN

This week’s Anaheim Ducks news is not anything us fans were expecting. The trade deadline is fast approaching, and we were expecting news of a blockbuster trade in which the Ducks would acquire a top 6 winger. Instead, we got word of Ducks’ center Shawn Horcoff’s 20 game suspension for using PEDS (performance enhancing drugs).

Here is Horcoff’s statement released by the NHLPA:

“While recovering from an injury I suffered this past fall, I tried a treatment that I believed would help speed up the healing process. Although I was unaware that this treatment was not permitted under NHL rules, that is no excuse whatsoever. I should have done my research, and I should have checked with the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program’s doctors. I accept full responsibility for my actions, and I am sorry. Throughout my entire career, I have felt genuinely blessed and honored to play the great game of hockey, and I regret the impact that this may have on my team and our fans. I look forward to the day I return to the ice for the playoff push.”

Here is the science behind why athletes use PEDS to help recover from injuries.

As we age, our bodies’ ability to recover from these injuries is greatly impacted. PEDS greatly increase the speed at which a body heals itself. Recovery time is crucial to professional athletes. Many, if not all, have the “put me back in coach” mentality. They will do or try anything that will help them back out there playing for their team. Athletes love what they do. They want to be there for their teammates and they want to help out any way they can. Sitting on the sidelines or in the press box can make these athletes go stir crazy. I am not condoning the use of PEDS. I do not know which PEDS were used. I am providing an explanation of why athletes may take this route, whether it be knowingly or unknowingly, as reported in the case of Horcoff.

Here are a couple types of commonly known PEDS that can assist patients/players with a quicker recovery, Anabolic Steroids(AAS), Erythropoietin(EPO) and Human Growth Hormone(HGH). All of the drugs listed are illegal for use in the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS, and most other professional sports. Not all of the professional sports actually test for them, though. The NFL has banned HGH, but has yet to start testing its players for use.

Anabolic Steroids

When people think about anabolic steroids, they mainly think about Mr. Universe contestants or extreme body builders. Anabolic steroids are a form of the hormone testosterone. The proper term for these are anabolic-androgenic steroids or AAS. They can be legally prescribed by doctors to treat patients with conditions resulting from steroid hormone deficiency, such as delayed puberty, as well as diseases or injuries that result in loss of lean muscle mass, such as cancer, AIDS, and hip fractures. These steroids help increase bone mass, stimulate red blood cell (RBC) production, stimulate greater overall blood flow, and also have some anti-inflammatory properties. Blood cells and oxygen rich red blood cells create collagen, which serves as a type of scaffolding for the injury or wound, and aids other tissues in beginning the repair process. Having more RBCs in your body will greatly speed the recovery process. AAS can be taken by various methods; orally, by injection, or even applied as a cream or gel.


You may have heard of “blood doping.” Lance Armstrong and other cyclists made this term, and EPO, front page news. Erythropoietin or EPO is a hormone secreted by the kidneys that increases the rate at which the body produces red blood cells. The hormone is secreted in response to falling levels of oxygen in the body’s tissues. Like AAS, EPO increases the presence of RBC in the body to help speed recovery. Doctors can legally prescribe this hormone for treatment in cancer patients, patients with kidney disease, patients with different types of anemia, and for many other diseases or conditions.

Human Growth Hormone(HGH)

HGH is produced by the pituitary gland, and spurs growth in children and adolescents. It also helps to regulate body composition, cell regeneration, cell reproduction, body fluids, muscle and bone growth, sugar and fat metabolism, and possibly heart function. Since HGH production decreases with age some people believe this is an anti-aging miracle drug. Barry Bonds was one of many professional athletes to make this PED a household name. Doctors can legally prescribe this as treatment for pituitary gland tumors, muscle wasting disease, children born small for gestational age, chronic kidney insufficiency, and many more conditions or diseases.

Using HGH will speed your recovery time, but there is a cost. Along with the positives effects of HGH there are also possible negative side effects such as nausea and vomiting, swelling of hands and feet, adverse cardiovascular complications, cancer, hepatitis, and many others. The list goes on and on!


I hope this article sheds some light on PEDs and their uses. While I am not condoning the use of these drugs, you can see why players would be tempted to use them. NHL athletes are some of the best trained athletes in professional sports. Because of this, PED use is few and far between. I believe that Horcoff was telling the truth when he described how he came to unknowingly take medication or supplements that had contained un-permitted drugs. It is extremely difficult to understand the list of ingredients in foods we eat on a  daily basis. It must be even more difficult to understand the ingredients in a supplement a doctor prescribes for you. Horcoff learned to be more attentive and vigilant the hard way. Please help support Horcoff and his family through this extremely difficult time. And if you have any questions about what your doctor has prescribed for you, please ask your doctor or a pharmacist for clarification.


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