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Drug abuse in rife in sport and the sports culture.
Many gyms including those which are part of the well-known high street chains have sharps bins in the toilets or provide sharps bins to the cleaners. Elsewhere, sharps and other injection paraphernalia are shared between users keen to take muscle bulking and performance enhancing drugs, and bizarrely tanning drugs also as these, to enhance appearance, apparently go hand in hand with muscle profiling.
This largely unseen and unrecognised section of the drug scene is perhaps now more dangerous than the ‘traditional’ IV drug abuser. Disease levels are increasing, with Hepatitis B and C being most common. Perhaps more of a problem is that this is a new, largely unrecognised and hidden problem, and with a lack of awareness on the part of the majority it is more likely that exposure to an improperly discarded needle will catch the unwary.
A current headline case in the US is particularly interesting since it revolves in large part around the alleged use of drugs in sport and, remarkably, on the evidence of discarded sharps and injection paraphernalia. Roger “The Rocket” Clemens is an alleged drug user and a former baseball pitcher who played 23 seasons in US Major League Baseball.
In the book Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big, it is alleged that Clemens had expert knowledge about steroids and suggested that he probably used steroids, based on the improvement in his performance after leaving the Red Sox. While not addressing the allegations directly, Clemens was dismissive of Canseco, stating “I could [sic] care less” and “I’ve talked to some friends of his and I’ve teased them that when you’re under house arrest and have ankle bracelets on, you have a lot of time to write a book.” Clemens did admit to using the prescription pain relievers.
More recently, a federal grand jury indicted Clemens, on August 19, 2010, on charges of making false statements to Congress about his use of performance-enhancing drugs. The indictment charges Clemens with one count of obstruction of Congress, three counts of making false statements and two counts of perjury in connection with his February 2008 testimony.
His trial began on July 13, 2011, but on the second day of testimony the judge in the case declared a mistrial over misconduct after prosecutors showed the jury prejudicial evidence they had been told not to show. Clemens is now embroiled in the second trial where McNamee, a former trainer, claims he repeatedly injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone between 1998 and 2001. In testimony to Congress in 2008 Clemens denied using the drugs, which prosecutors argue was a lie.
Clemens lawyer worked carefully through the physical evidence of Clemens’ alleged drug use that McNamee provided. After a steroid shot at Clemens’ apartment in August 2001, McNamee said he put a needle, syringe, cotton balls and other waste in a beer can to hold onto as insurance. But he admitted that he also put evidence of other players’ steroid use into the same can when he returned home that night.
So now, the lawyers argue about who the used injection waste belonged to, and on whom it it been used. Interesting questions, that should surely be answered in part by genetic fingerprinting and other scientific techniques. Perhaps our question would be, when disposing of illicit sharps, why is it always a beer can?
Though beer cans and the like can be useful as impromptu sharps containers when absolutely no better container is available, the risk of spillage or wall puncture creates a risk of injury. Where there is absolutely no better alternative, a spoonful of effervescent Plaster-of-Paris result in a lightweight encapsulated block that is safe to handle (Blenkharn JI. Safe disposal of sharps. Lancet 1998; 351: 760)