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Demographic factors influencing the GH system: Implications for the detection of GH doping in sport


Application of methods for detecting GH doping depend on being able to discriminate between abnormal levels due to doping and normal physiological levels of circulating proteins that change in response to exogenous administration. Constituents of the IGF and collagen systems have been shown to be promising markers of GH abuse. Their ultimate utility, however, depends on identification of the factors that regulate their concentrations in blood. Among these are demographic factors that are known to influence these markers in the general population. In a large cross-sectional study of the GH-responsive markers in over 1000 elite athletes from 12 countries representing 4 major ethnic groups and 10 sport types, we have shown that there is a significant negative correlation between age and all the IGF and collagen markers we studied, with a rapid decrease in early adolescence. Age was the major contribution to the variability, equivalent to >80% of the attributable variation in IGF-I and the collagen markers. The IGF axis markers were all significantly higher in women, and the collagen markers significantly higher in men, however, the contribution of gender was smaller than that of age, except for IGFBP-3 and ALS. BMI had a minor contribution to variability of the GH-responsive markers. After adjustment for the confounding influences of age, gender and BMI, the effect of ethnicity in elite athletes was trivial except for IGFBP-3 and ALS, which were both lower in Africans and higher in Caucasians. Compared to age and gender, the contribution of sport type was also modest. Our findings on the influence of age, gender, BMI and sport type have also been confirmed in a study of mostly Caucasian elite athletes in the post-competition setting. In conclusion, age and gender are the major determinants of variability for IGF-I and the collagen markers, whereas ethnicity and sport type have a minor influence. Therefore, a test based on IGF-I and the collagen markers must take age into account for men and women, and ethnicity and sport type are unlikely to be confounders for these markers.

Type Journal
ISBN 1532-2238 (Electronic)
Authors Nelson, A. E.; Ho, K. K.;
Published Date 2009-08-01
Published Volume 19
Published Issue 4
Published Pages 327-32
Status Published in-print
URL link to publisher's version
OpenAccess link to author's accepted manuscript version