Why You Might Be Hearing About A Thing Called Turinabol Turinabol is an oral steroid commonly given to East Germany's young athletes competing in the 1970s and '80s. As ESPN's T.J. Quinn explains, drug is making a come back in Major League Baseball.
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Why You Might Be Hearing About A Thing Called Turinabol

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Why You Might Be Hearing About A Thing Called Turinabol

Why You Might Be Hearing About A Thing Called Turinabol

Why You Might Be Hearing About A Thing Called Turinabol

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/477257963/477257964" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Turinabol is an oral steroid commonly given to East Germany's young athletes competing in the 1970s and '80s, many of whom suffered devastating health consequences later. As ESPN's T.J. Quinn explains, drug is making a come back in Major League Baseball.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now it's time for Words You'll Hear. That's where we try to understand stories we’ll be hearing more about by parsing some of the words associated with them. Today, our word is Turinabol. That’s an oral steroid. You might remember hearing about it after the end of the Cold War, after it became known that it was commonly given to East Germany's young athletes who were competing in the 1970s and the 1980s. Many of them suffered devastating health consequences later.

It turns out it's making a comeback in major league baseball. Three players have been suspended in recent weeks for taking the drug. We wondered what's behind this and if there’s more to come, so we’ve called ESPN's T.J. Quinn, and he's with us from New York. T.J., thanks so much for joining us.

T.J. QUINN: My pleasure.

MARTIN: Could you start by telling us a little bit more about Turinabol? How does it work? Why would you take it?

QUINN: You take it because it does everything you want an anabolic steroid to do - you get bigger and stronger and faster. It became popular in part because it didn't have some of the awful side effects that other drugs did when they were - everybody was experimenting on themselves and their athletes in the '70s.

MARTIN: You raised two questions that I wanted to ask you about. One is - first of all, I remember the stories when the extent of the East German doping system became known. And the stories about the kinds of health consequences that appeared later are still very disturbing. I mean, you're talking about kidney failure, chronic joint pain, sterility, impotence, not to mention for women particularly, changes in their physical appearance which are irreversible. So in East Germany, it is understood generally that these kids were forced to take them. Why would anybody still take this, and why would you take it knowing that it's easily detected?

QUINN: There seems to be this everlasting strain of thought that somehow, it’ll be different for me. And usually, when you've got someone who’s taking a drug like that someone is suggesting that they take it. There's usually somebody in their ear explaining to them why they won't get caught right up until the time that they are.

MARTIN: The suspended athletes say that they did not know that this is what they were taking. Is it possible that this is a substance that could appear in a legal product without your knowing about it?

QUINN: It's hard to say. I mean, they make a very strong case, but then so have a lot of athletes who turned out to have cheated. You've got three major league baseball players and one UFC fighter, and they've all gotten together and said that they are going to compare everything that they’ve done for the last few months of their lives to try to explain why they've tested positive for this drug. There is one product on the market that is known to have traces of it and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency put it on their high risk list, but all these athletes say they didn't take that drug.

MARTIN: What do you make of this, if you don’t mind my asking? I mean, you’ve been following this closely. You cover this. You’re an investigative reporter. What do you make of this?

QUINN: No, it's funny. You first hear the denials and you think, right, it's - you know, everybody's got the same denial. I don't know how it got in my body. There are a few things that make this case a little different. One is why this drug when there are so many other, better drugs you could take? One thing that really stood out was the fact that two of those players tested positive during spring training, and that's the one time they know they're going to be tested.

Baseball looks at that and says well, that's because they took the drug long before spring training thinking it would clear their systems and didn't realize that improved testing was going to catch them. The players say to them, that's proof that they didn't mean to do it because who would be stupid enough to take something and then test positive in spring training?

MARTIN: T.J. Quinn is an investigative reporter at ESPN, and he was with us from New York. T.J., thank you so much for speaking with us.

QUINN: Any time.

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