The Cream and the Clear
December 3, 2004 9:31 AM   Subscribe

What exactly do the "cream" and the "clear" do? A cornerstone of both Giambi and Bonds testimony was that the "steroid" just didn't work, is it possible there is some truth to that?
posted by djacobs to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total)
I do not have links the actual studies at the moment, as I am somewhat rushed. During the 1950s there were studies of the effects of anabolic steroids on humans, which basically came to the conclusion you can do nothing and gain muscle mass by using steroids. Now, I'm talking about traditional anabolic steroids. In athletic terminology, steroids really encompass a plethora of performance enhancement drugs. Some are shown to have little or variable benefit, like insulin and HGH. In fact I've read that insulin does very, very little and HGH is highly debatable. This was from the point of view of the non-professional athlete, I do not know how regulating insulin levels and HGH at the high-dollar levels would help -- I believe the only reason they're used is to avoid detection.

On Preview: Okay "the cream" and "the clear" are steroids put on the skin and under the tongue, respectively. I believe Giambi did not know what they were exactly. I did not know anabolic asteroidal cream existed, and why it would be preferred over injection. From my understanding "the clear" is possibly a female fertility drug that stimulates the pituitary gland in some fashion. People with pituitary gland tumors and other abnormalities experience rapid bone and muscle growth (there's a man in Russian, I believe, somewhere over 8 ft. tall now).
posted by geoff. at 9:43 AM on December 3, 2004

As I understand it, Bonds claims that he wanted help with knee pain and fatigue problems, and that his trainer gave him these "cream" and "clear" substances. He went on to say that they didn't help him with his pain or fatigue.

If what Bonds claims is true, and these were illicit substances, his trainer is a total fuck.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:48 AM on December 3, 2004

What benefit would his trainer gain from doping Bonds without his knowledge?
posted by geoff. at 10:10 AM on December 3, 2004


the cynical answer is, "a ton of money to take the blame, thus preseving the purity of the athlete's image."

Steroids are a fact of life in pro sports. I wish they'd just stop pretending it's not rampant and admit it's part of the regular training regmine.
posted by C.Batt at 10:18 AM on December 3, 2004

None. But a trainer who makes his athlete happy and gives results keeps his job.

On the other hand, what star athlete puts something on his body or under his tongue and doesn't ask what is in it?

One who wants to claim he didn't know he was taking something illegal.

In baseball it is time to say records are set per era. The game and the athletes have changed in too many ways.

Either that or use win shares.

On preview: also what c.batt said.
posted by ?! at 10:23 AM on December 3, 2004

As to the "I didn't know what it was" stories, I think their spuriousness is revealed in the lack of action Bonds, Giambi, and Sheffield have taken against BALCO.

If you are a big-time ballplayer, and you are found to have taken steroids, you are ruined. As discussed in the Blue, the Yankees want to void Giambi's contract. His endorsement money will tank. His memorabilia sales down the road will be devalued.

Also, certain steroids could wreck your body. There's still lots of speculation that some of Giambi's health issues this year were the result of steroids (or the discontinuation of them).

Now imagine you are a superstar athlete, and you discover that the stuff you've been given by your trainer is illegal and potentially dangerous. What would you do? You'd sue the pants off of them. You'd holler as loud as you could about how you were deceived and you'd make some kind of "I was an unknowing victim, I'm not going to stand for this" statement/apology to the fans and to the game.

Instead, you have these guys acting very sheepish and tight-lipped and feigning ignorance. They can't say too much because then the whole truth will come out and they'll be ruined.

This doesn't tell you what the clear or the cream is, but it seemed like an appropriate add-on to mr_roboto and geoff.. Sorry for the detour.
posted by AgentRocket at 11:58 AM on December 3, 2004

Response by poster: Sorry for the detour.

That's OK. The discussion is interesting, but what I really want to know is this: What exactly is the chemical make-up of these drugs? Are they illegal? What's the real extent of the impact on their performance?
posted by djacobs at 12:27 PM on December 3, 2004

They're steroid hormones. Made from cholesterol. Something that looks like testosterone, or close enough to it to bind to proteins in your cells and cause other proteins to be made at higher rates than normal.

Yes, they're illegal, controlled substances (prescription-required), but I don't know exactly what the BALCO ones are.

They cause the wonderful side effects of tiny testicles, hair loss, and male breast development; the first one due to suppression of pituitary hormones, the other two from the steroids themselves, presumably.
posted by gramcracker at 12:40 PM on December 3, 2004

From my understanding "the clear" is possibly a female fertility drug that stimulates the pituitary gland in some fashion. People with pituitary gland tumors and other abnormalities experience rapid bone and muscle growth
That doesn't make sense, as estrogen does not get turned into androgen, but the reverse role does take case. And, it is indeed these two hormones which active, among other things, the pituitary gland to allow for growth. However, in males, we respond to androgen (of which one form is testosterone, which is the ultimate goal we're going for in steroids normally) and very very very slightly respond to estrogen, as in about 0.1%. So, I dunno but hope that helps some somehow.
posted by jmd82 at 12:40 PM on December 3, 2004

"The clear" is, I believe, THG. That's not chemistry-detailed but gives you a rough overview. There was a lot of talk about THG in the last few years as it was a "designer steroid" and undectable by all tests (up until like twelve months ago).

"The cream", according to reports, is a testosterone-based compound that is primarily used to allow the person to work out longer and without pain. It's also supposed to help healing, as (you know, according to reports) Gary Sheffield was given it by Bonds for the surgical scars on his knees for workout purposes.
posted by xmutex at 12:40 PM on December 3, 2004

On the other hand, what star athlete puts something on his body or under his tongue and doesn't ask what is in it?

I hate to come off like I'm defending Bonds here, because my gut instinct tells me he's more likely than not indefensible.... But in all fairness, didn't he claim that he was told that it was flaxseed oil? That, at least, seems more credible than claiming that he had no clue as to the contents.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:45 PM on December 3, 2004

One of the interesting things I was taught about steroids - all steroids - in med school is that, owing to their peculiar chemical structure (they are, indeed, modified cholesterols), they are 100% soluble in both lipid and water. Because your cells are lipid membranes enclosing watery solutions, this means that steroids get a free ride through your entire body.

Our pharm prof showed a picture of a woman who had been placed on steroid eye drops for some inflammatory eye condition and suffered Cushing's syndrome (the syndrome of systemic corticosteroid excess) as a result. She was permanently disfigured by this.

In general there are 5 sorts of steroids. Adrenocorticoids and mineralocorticoids are made in the adrenal glands and have effects on metabolism and the kidney, respectively. They're not relevant to athletic cheating.

The other ones are androgens (testosterone), estrogens (estrogen and estrone), and progestins (progesterone). These are the sex steroids. Unfortunately it is not completely clear cut. The different steroid receptors are very similar looking. So, depending on differential receptor affinities, any compound in one of these classes has a certain amount of androgen, estrogen, or progestin receptor affinity and therefore activity. Synthetics share this property. The anabolic steroids are those which have androgen receptor affinity and produce male secondary sex characteristics like increased muscle mass.

This information ought to provide some insight on the meaningfulness of differential administration routes, which is that it is completely irrelevant.

A famous cyclist, now retired - won the TdF more than once - found himself beset by muscle atrophy and weakness; his muscle biopsy slide eventually made it to the hospital where I work, and I reviewed it. The distinctive changes of type II fiber dropout - steroid myopathy - were evident. There are, of course, metabolic (inborn) myopathies that look this way, but in general people with these illnesses do not walk, much less win the Tour de France, which may be one of the most musclarly-taxing things you can do.

Steroid use is widespread among professional athletes. I agree with the above posters - it's time to legalize it and bring it under medical supervision. Doing it this way is like backroom coathanger abortions.
posted by ikkyu2 at 2:41 PM on December 3, 2004

From here

"The regime Conte drew up for White included taking the designer steroid tetrahydrogestrinone (THG), known as "the clear", a faint yellow liquid applied through a syringe without a needle under her tongue; endurance-boosting erythropoietin (EPO) through what White called "very, very painful" injections in the stomach; and a testosterone/ epitestosterone cream called "the cream" which was spread on the insides of her arms and elbows."
posted by Rumple at 8:05 PM on December 3, 2004

Re: do steroids work? It's one person's experience, but there was an article about a cyclist who used a "performance drug" regimen for 8 months under a doctor's supervision (also on All Things Considered)
posted by milkrate at 11:26 PM on December 3, 2004

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