Yet another star falls for banned substances. The 60-year-old macho Sylvester Stallone admitted to possessing the growth hormone Jintropin when he was stopped at Sydney airport in February last.
Stallone was then in Australia to promote his film Rocky Balboa, but he was not in the Sydney court when the confession came to light a couple of days ago.
He will be sentenced next week, when he faces a maximum fine of A$22,000 ($18,330, 9,200) in court, much lower than if it had been a federal case.
In federal cases, the maximum penalty for importing a banned substance of this type is A$110,000 ($91,600) and five years in prison. Prosecution documents said Stallone had marked "no" on a customs declaration form that asked if he was bringing restricted substances into the country.
But an X-ray of bags belonging to his entourage uncovered the bottles of Jintropin, which is made by Chinese firm GeneScience pharmaceuticals.
"You have not been validly prescribed the goods by a medical practitioner for any medical condition suffered by you and for which the goods are recognised medical treatment," Stallone was told in a customs document submitted to the court.
The vital ingredient in Jintropin is somatropin, which is advertised as reducing body fat, boosting muscle mass, improving sexual prowess and regenerating major organs.
Human growth hormone (HGH) is made naturally in the pituitary gland of humans, deep inside the brain just behind the eyes.
It is a microscopic protein substance that is secreted in short pulses during the first hours of sleep and after exercise.
It is made throughout a person's lifetime, but is more plentiful during youth.
It stimulates growth in children and plays an important role in adult metabolism.
Before the advent of genetic engineering, the only source of HGH was from dead bodies. The pituitary glands
were removed from corpses, processed and the hormones injected into people who were growth hormone deficient.
In 1959, stunted children were given HGH to help them grow. Without treatment, some boys would only grow to a height of around 130cm by the age of 18. With HGH they could reach a height close to the normal of just over 180cm. It was hailed at the time as a great medical breakthrough.
HGH has found a wide range of other uses now that it can be synthesised in unlimited quantities in the laboratory. It is used, for example, to reverse muscle wasting in AIDS patients. But this has led many athletes to consider using the hormone as a performance-enhancer, increasing their muscle size and strength. Because of the importance of the HGH to the body's biochemistry, HGH has also been promoted as an anti-ageing treatment. Many of the claims made for HGH have a doubtful scientific basis.
Studies have shown that elevated levels of HGH can lead to swelling of the soft tissues in the body; abnormal growth of the hands, feet and face; high blood pressure; an increased tendency to sweat and excessive hair growth.
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