University of Wisconsin professor Norm Fost has gained something of a reputation as an iconoclast when it comes to the issue of anabolic steroids in sports. While many so-called experts talk about the alleged serious and deadly side effects of steroids, Dr. Fost provides a strong counterpoint by suggesting the overstated steroid side effects are not supported by the scientific literature.
Unfortunately, Fost’s message that steroids-aren’t-as-harmful-as-you-think is quoted by the press only once for every 500 time a steroids-are-evil message is quoted. And even when Fost is quoted, editors tend to dismiss his point of view. Such is the case with the headline from a recent talk radio appearance by Fost.
“UW-Madison doctor: steroids aren’t harmful at all” reads the headline on Milwaukee’s Newsradio 620 WTMJ website. The headline is misleading in that Fost never said that steroids weren’t harmful. Obviously, steroids have side effects that have been documented in the medical literature for 50 years. What Fost actually said was quite different.
“The so-called risks of steroids are wildly exaggerated, and often just made up,” said Fost.
Norm Fost did his best to dispel the claim that steroids caused the rare form of brain cancer that led to the death of National Football League player Lyle Alzado.
“Nowhere in any of the luminous press that still floats around, about Lyle Alzado. Nowhere is there a single sentence based on a single scientific fact or a single physician who thinks that there’s any evidence at all that his brain tumor had anything to do with steroids,” said Dr. Fost.
Alzado had blamed his long-term abuse of anabolic steroids for the primary brain lymphoma that ultimately led to his death. Alzado’s assertion was the only evidence supporting such a link between steroids and brain cancer.
Many people questioned why Alzado was so quick and so public in his condemnation of steroids as the culprit in his illness. There was considerable speculation that AIDS had suppressed his immune system and allowed the primary brain lymphoma to ravage his body.
A UCLA pathologist concluded that Alzado had T-cell lymphoma, a condition that has been associated with AIDS patients. Alzado was afraid that the public would conclude that he died from AIDS due to the type of cancer he had according to Dr. Thomas DeLoughery, his doctor at Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU).
“We went overboard in AIDS testing with Lyle because we knew these questions would arise,” according to the OHSU blood-cancer specialist. “At the press conference I was asked all these questions.”
Pathologists at OHSU disputed the finding that Alzado had T-cell lymphoma and reported that he had B-cell lymphoma (which was not associated with HIV or AIDS).
DeLoughery explained that it was true that Alzado’s T-cells were inflamed but that the malignant cells were actually B-cells.
Both Alzado’s California and Oregon doctors have disputed the rumor that Alzado had AIDS. He repeatedly tested negative for HTLV-3 (the AIDS virus) and HTLV-1 (an AIDS-related virus) according to his doctors.
However, not a single one of Alzado’s doctors, or any legitimate medical expert, have supported Alzado’s claim of a steroids-brain lymphoma link.
WTMJ News Team. (February 3, 2012). UW-Madison doctor: steroids aren’t harmful at all. Retrieved from http://www.620wtmj.com/news/local/138694084.html
Hudson, M. (June 21, 1992). Doctors: Alzado Died Of Cancer, Not Aids. Retrieved from http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19920621&slug=1498238