Dec 4, 2019

The drug that makes ballplayers "immortal"

Kendall Baker, author of Sports

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

In his latest piece for The Athletic, former baseball big leaguer Lars Anderson talked about his experience using Adderall as a performance-enhancing drug (PED) while playing in Japan and how much it improved his on-field performance.

The big picture: Amphetamines were once super common in baseball. "Greenies" (real medical name Dexedrine), which were rumored to have been brought back by players who served in WWII, were passed around casually for decades.

  • It wasn't until 2006 that MLB began testing for amphetamines, which meant the days of pre-game coffees spiked with greenies were over.
  • Players responded by "going legit" with Adderall prescriptions, and by 2013, 9.9% of them had one.

What Anderson is saying:

  • "I had boundless amounts of easily-controlled energy," writes Anderson (subscription). "But the most striking difference was my inner state: All I wanted to do — all I cared about in the moment — was baseball."
  • "I was utterly in the moment. And what a relief it was. There was a clear mission: Win this next pitch. And then the next one. And the next one. There was no tomorrow, only the everlasting now."

Why it matters: The process for MLB players to acquire Adderall prescriptions is thorough, but since it's so easy to get pills (from, say, a friend) and relatively easy hard to test for (stays in urine for four days and blood for just 46 hours), its use could be more rampant than anyone realizes.

  • At the same time, there are athletes — like those in the general population — who have ADHD and genuinely need Adderall to function, especially in a sport like baseball, which requires such intense focus.
  • So, while many believe Adderall is a PED and that taking it is cheating, there are enough players using it as a legitimate form of medication that the conversation surrounding the drug remains more nuanced than, say, steroids.

The final word: "We all agree that athletes with poor eyesight should be allowed to wear glasses or contacts; we also generally agree that competitors should not be allowed to inject anabolic steroids that turn them into the Hulk," writes Anderson.

  • "But the fact remains that there is a world that exists between those two poles that is far more nuanced and not easily navigable, and we — even those of us who tried it — are still working out where Adderall fits."

Go deeper: World Anti-Doping Agency recommends Olympic ban for Russia

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