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The Ervin Santana suspension: what is Stanozolol?

We've spoken a bit about Ervin Santana's suspension and the resulting fallout, but let's reverse course for just one minute and talk about what it is that he took.

Scott Cohen-USA TODAY Sports

Drugs have strange names. They're the kind of names that you hear or you read and you just mentally gloss over. Androstanediol. Boldione. Clostebol. Methandriol. Oxabolone. I've probably already lost 80% of the readers who started reading this, and that's only five of the 58-strong list of performance enhancing drugs banned by Major League Baseball. We haven't even touched on banned stimulants.

Drugs of abuse are a bit more interesting but let's not get off topic. Let's focus on Ervin Santana and the drug he ingested.

When Santana's suspension was announced on Friday, my reaction included about 14 different feelings that had nothing to do with the drug he's being punished for having taken: Stanozolol. See, you're glossing over already.

On the off chance you're still reading I was struck with a simple thought that doesn't naturally occur to me when somebody gets suspended: what did that drug do that was worth the risk? It's funny how when something matters to you it's much easier to be curious.

Stanozolol is commonly known as Winstrol (if it's ingested orally as a pill) or Winstrol Depot (if you're injecting it). It's derived from testosterone and is most commonly used by bodybuilders who are starting their cutting phase. Essentially, if we're talking about the reason that athletes use it and not the legitimate reasons one might use it, Stanozolol allows its user to shed water weight and other non-lean mass while building lean muscle. It sounds like a drug a baseball player might take for a shortcut to losing weight, but it's also known to be used to aid in resistance to injury by improving muscle growth.

Winstrol was brought to market in 1962, so it's been around for a long time. Rafael Palmeiro, Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens were all tied to the drug at one point or another. Ben Johnson was stripped of a gold medal in the 1988 Summer Olympics for testing positive. Pitchers David Rollins and Arodys Vizcaino have both been suspended this year for testing positive for Stanozolol. Rugby players, soccer players, horses, ultimate fighters, and martial artists have all tested positive for the drug and have been punished or stripped of awards as a result.  There's been more than enough of a history in baseball and beyond that it's hard to think anyone would be able to take the drug and not know exactly what they were doing.

The side effects vary, from something as inconsequential as acne to join pain to toxicity of the liver. It's an interesting thing about cheating: the perceived advantages mean more to the cheater than the risk of getting caught or the risk of what one might be doing to his or her body in the long-term.

There's not much more to go over. At least now, if you wanted to know why Santana may have chosen to take this drug over any other, you have a general idea.