Chris Colabello, Blue Jays Baseman, Suspended For 80 Games

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The performance-enhancing substance that a Toronto Blue Jays player tested positive for is known to boost recovery time in athletes, not bulk up their size.

First baseman Chris Colabello, suspended for 80 games on Friday, is the second baseball player in as many weeks to test positive for dehydrochlormethyltestosterone, an anabolic steroid sold under the name Turinabol.

"It would help in recovery, that's its main form in this type of sport," said Dr. Stuart Phillips, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster University.

While body builders use the drug to gain a little bit of muscle, Phillips said its benefit for a baseball player would be the ability to recover faster to withstand the rigours of a 162-game season.

Phillips has been at McMaster for 19 years and specializes in the interaction between weightlifting and nutrition. He also runs a lab at the Hamilton university that's equipped with a detection and analysis system he describes as "much the same as the system used by the doping lab that would have tested Colabello's sample."

chris colabello
Chris Colabello of the Toronto Blue Jays, on April 10, 2016 at Rogers Centre in Toronto. (Photo: Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Phillips said he could see why baseball players like Colabello — and Philadelphia Phillies left-hander Daniel Stumpf who was suspended 80 games after testing positive for the same drug last week — might find Turinabol appealing.

"Appreciate that a baseball player who flies around the United States and Canada, plays 162 games day in and day out, swings a bat at very high speed I would estimate around 3,000 times in a season ... that creates a tremendous amount of wear and tear on muscles, joints and ligaments," Phillips said. "This substance, if it were to enhance anything, it would help with recovery from all that type of exertion.

"The bottom line is, if he had an enhancement, he recovers a little quicker and essentially comes back a little lighter on his feet the next day."

The drug first came to light in the 1960s when an East German pharmaceutical company produced and gave East German Olympic athletes Turinabol during the 1970s and 1980s.

According to a 2005 article printed in the Guardian, 800 East German athletes who were given Turinabol developed serious ailments, including infertility among women, breast cancer, heart problems and testicular cancer.

"The bottom line is, if he had an enhancement, he recovers a little quicker and essentially comes back a little lighter on his feet the next day."

"Essentially the whole idea was to generate a class of substances that didn't have to be injected and could have some anabolic effects," Phillips said of the drug's creation. "It's gone in and out of favour in clinical areas and athletic circles and it's been on the shelf for a long time. The main point is it's not made. In fairness, you have to search for it now."

Colabello said in a statement issued by the MLB Players' Association on Friday that he wasn't sure how dehydrochlormethyl testosterone ended up in his system.

Phillips did say the drug could be taken accidentally.

"That's a hard one to say because it is orally ingested," he said. "If there's an out, if that's the right word, from taking this stuff it is that it could have been in something like that (protein powder or supplements). ''But I would imagine that the doses of which it was found (would be) unable to be masked."

Colabello and Stumpf are not the only athletes to test positive for the drug recently.

In 2014 the International Ice Hockey Federation banned Latvia's Ralfs Freibergs for two years following an anti-doping rule violation for Turinabol committed during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games. An IIHF statement from Feb. 2014 said Freibergs's positive test followed Latvia's quarter-final loss to the eventual Olympic champion Canadians.

Track athlete Elena Nikulina, who specializes in the women's 400 metres, received a four-year ban from the Russian Olympic Committee last January after testing positive for Turinabol.

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