Effective human growth hormone test to be used at Beijing Olympics
Athletes’ risk of being caught for the use of the banned performance-enhancing substance human growth hormone (hGH) is becoming greater and greater.
An effective doping test to nail the hGH cheats looks to be in place for the Beijing Olympics.
The World Anti-Doping Agency WADA announced the introduction of the new hGH test last week.
"By the Olympic Games there will be a capacity to detect hGH", WADA president John Fahey said in a media seminar organised in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Medical director Timo Seppälä of the Finnish Antidoping Agency FINADA considers it a certainty that the new test will be in use in the August Games.
"It would be pathetic if we had the test but it was not used in Beijing. Whether anyone will get caught for cheating with growth hormone is a different matter. Everybody is aware of the limitations of the test", Seppälä told Helsingin Sanomat.
With his comment Seppälä was referring to the fact that from the anti-doping people’s point of view hGH can only be detected from an athlete’s blood for an annoyingly short period of time after the athlete has quit taking the drug.
According to Seppälä, tests can reveal the use of hGH only if samples are taken within 12 hours of use. WADA claims that this window is "more than 48 hours".
"This may lead to problems. In the Olympics the only alternative may be to test people in the middle of the night", Seppälä estimates.
As with doping testing in general, also the tracking for growth hormone cheats is done most effectively through surprise out-of-competition (OOC) testing during the training season, WADA claims.
In the development of the test WADA has emphasised its judicial validity.
According to Fahey there is "no reason to believe that all of that won't be in place, and that there will be not a capacity to test at the Beijing Olympics".
Wada has warned that the taken blood samples may be frozen and kept for up to eight years. This means that there is a chance an athlete may be caught for a doping violation even afterwards.
The hGH test has been under development since 2000. Its first version was used already in the Athens Olympics in 2004.
Along the way there have been minor setbacks, and thus far not one athlete has been caught using hGH.
"I believe in the next two to three years the first hGH cheat will get caught. There will hardly be any mass disclosures, but a few cases here and there anyway", Seppälä reckons.
WADA has equipped its doping laboratories in different parts of the world for commencing the growth hormone testing.
In Finland the test facilities will be in place in April-May, believes Seppälä.
Technical director Antti Leinonen of United Laboratories Ltd, a medical testing laboratory accredited by WADA, agrees with Seppälä's time-frame.
"We will commence the tests as soon as it is technically possibly. I believe the test will be in wider use during the course of the spring", Leinonen said.
Growth hormone (Wikipedia)