Are peptides necessarily bad? Well it depends. Clearly ASADA and WADA have identified their ‘manufacture’ and use as an analogue of steroid hormones, which is fair enough. Science moves on, just as time moves on. Performance-enhancing drugs have stayed a step ahead of the authorities until, well, they haven’t. It all becomes a matter of time.
Interestingly, given the current focus on the illegal use of certain peptides, actually increasing the level of a peptide called hypocretin may well help alleviate mood and alertness, as well as depression. I have no idea whatsoever how ASADA or WADA would treat this, hopefully sympathetically given its role here as a neurotransmitter rather than hormonal growth stimulant. But it does highlight that peptides are not necessarily evil. They are a protein, after all.
Why does this matter?
One of the more pressing and serious issues at a human level is that our stars appear more susceptible than ever before to the pressures involved in performing at an ultra-high level on a consistent basis. It is no surprise that some have resorted to (or have been fed without their knowledge) performance enhancers. Sure there is a lot of money these days to soothe the transition into public figurehead and role model, but money clearly isn’t buying happiness in some high profile cases, of which the NRL is all too aware. And the consequences can be fatal.
The problem expands once alcohol enters the equation. Alcohol is a well known social lubricant that is enjoyed by many, including the Dr. Up to a point. It is also linked to mood problems that can result in depression, which is turning out to be a trap for some of our young stars.
The influx of money that has them being paid like latter day investment bankers is clearly buying some short term joy, but the seedy underside has been quite brutally exposed, especially in players not used to being public figures. In many of these cases, the causality is from alcohol to depression, not the other way around, and is an area where player managers, in particular, need to step up the care and management of their talent. Some do, some don’t, and it’s time to ditch the latter.
While depression can clearly occur without alcohol involved, heavy drinking episodes mixed with the burden of expectations and other personal stress events produce a quite lethal cocktail of depressive symptoms. Unfortunately, this appears to be what has happened to some of our household NRL names, high profile or otherwise, and is a timely reminder to Sharks players under enormous stress – stay off it for now! The good news is that abstinence can lift depression (from this source) within weeks, and without drugs.
As if on cue, it seems Ben Barba will be back within a few weeks. Who knows if that’s true or not, but would be consistent with a depression exacerbated by alcohol.
As a post-script of sorts, I applaud the work of NRL stars visiting schools to try to address bullying. Associating brawny footballers with some level of compassion (not on the field, to be sure!) is an initiative the NRL should cultivate (and publicise better) long term. Decreasing bullying will decrease the emergence of anxiety and depression in many bullied kids in later years.
Want to know more about a potentially lethal disease? Check these out, and have a good day: