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The Use and Abuse of Growth Hormone in Sports


GH is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency as a performance-enhancing anabolic agent. Doping with GH likely began in the early 1980s and became more prevalent with the advent of recombinant technology well before any scientific evidence of benefit. The expectation that GH improves physical function stems from its anabolic and lipolytic properties. Athletic performance depends on muscle strength and the energy required to power muscle function. In recreational athletes, GH selectively improves anaerobic sprint capacity but has not been proven to significantly enhance muscle strength, power, or maximum rate of oxygen consumption. GH is secreted as a family of isoform peptides in a pulsatile manner reflecting intermittent secretion and rapid clearance. Its anabolic actions are largely mediated by IGF-I, which stimulates whole-body protein synthesis, including skeletal muscle and collagen proteins. Two methods have been validated for detecting GH abuse in athletes. The first (the isoform method) is based on distinguishing pure recombinant 22-kDa GH from the heterogeneous isoforms secreted from the pituitary. The second (the marker method) is based on measuring blood levels of GH-responsive proteins, specifically IGF-I and the N-terminal propeptide of type III collagen (P-III-NP). Only a handful of athletes have been caught since the implementation of GH doping tests in 2004. The low rate likely reflects the limitation of in-competition testing using current methods. Improved detection rates may be achieved by more out-of-competition testing, introducing athletes' biological passports, and the development of novel methods. Governance, operational, technical, and political factors influence the effectiveness of an anti-doping program.

Type Journal
ISBN 1945-7189 (Electronic) 0163-769X (Linking)
Authors Holt, R. I. G.; Ho, K. K. Y.
Responsible Garvan Author Prof Ken Ho
Published Date 2019-08-01
Published Volume 40
Published Issue 4
Published Pages 1163-1185
Status Published in-print
DOI 10.1210/er.2018-00265
URL link to publisher's version