Mike Piazza Used Steroids Based on Back Acne According to Sportswriter

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Murray Chass continues to assert that “back acne” is conclusive proof of anabolic steroid use in Mike Piazza – and Barry Bonds. Chass noticed acne on Piazza’s back several years ago and has been convinced that Piazza was a steroid user ever since.  While acne on the shoulders and back is often a side effects experienced by steroid users, most people who experience this problem do not use steroids; many steroid users, depending on the selection of steroids and individual susceptibility, don’t experience this side effect. Consequently, acne is a very poor method of determining whether an individual uses anabolic steroids due to the high number of false positive and false negatives.

In an excellent piece published in the New York Baseball Digest, Howard Megdal interviewed several dermatologists about using acne as a guide to steroid use. Not surprisingly, the consensus was that acne was not a reliable method of detecting steroid use. The connection is “extraordinarily tenuous” (“Three Out of Three Doctors Agree,” January 26 ).

Dr. Jennifer Goldwasser of Central Westchester Dermatology said that she treats patients with back acne nearly every day.

“It’s a very common thing in my practice,” Goldwasser said in a telephone interview. She added that among those with back acne, “a very small percentage” are steroid users.

Dr. Eric Schweiger, a Manhattan dermatologist, seconded Goldwasser’s experience.

“I see a broad cross section of the population,” Schweiger said in a telephone interview. “Lots of adult females, adult males, adolescents, many of whom have back acne.” When asked how many of the adolescents he saw were on steroids, Schweiger laughed and said, “Not many.”

But would Piazza, a man in his 20s and 30s during his playing career, be as susceptible to back acne as a teenager? According to these dermatologists, he is a prime candidate for the symptoms Chass described without steroid use.

“One of the major causes of [back acne] is if someone sweats a lot, wears heavy equipment, wears, as Piazza did, heavy uniforms,” Dr. Ira Davis, a Staten Island dermatologist, said in a telephone interview.

Dr. Schweiger pointed out that between 10 and 20 percent of men in Piazza’s age group suffer from the problem, and athletes are more likely that the general population to have the back acne issue. “More activity leads to the clogging of their pores,” Dr. Schweiger pointed out.

Chass Murray likes to point out that the federal government will be using physical changes as evidence of steroid use in the Barry Bonds perjury trial. Rather than support the nature of his proof of steroid use, he highlights the weakness of a case that relies heavily on physical changes as evidence of steroid use. Profiling steroid users based on acne, muscularity and other physical characteristics is problematic for several reasons and should always be scrutinized.

Muscular back
Photo Credit: Muscletime.com

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