Doping :: Growth hormone does not improve sports performance or increase muscle

New research on the effects and the detection of growth hormone doping at the Garvan Institute in Sydney takes the international sporting community one step closer to stamping out drug cheats.

Lead investigator and endocrinologist Professor Ken Ho said: ?We were surprised to find that human growth hormone has no effect on muscle mass or sports performance. However, when taken with testosterone, it does have an effect, but cheats who use both drugs are much more easily caught with the promising new tests we have been evaluating?.

This is the first large-scale scientific study to evaluate the effects of human growth hormone taken alone and in combination with testosterone – a combination often used by sports drug cheats. The results of these studies have also helped develop a reliable doping test.

Human growth hormone is reported to be widely-abused by athletes who believe it boosts physical prowess. But the research study, led by Garvan Institute scientists, has discovered that contrary to popular belief, growth hormone taken by itself does not increase muscle mass or athletic performance. And they believe the performance-enhancing benefits are all in the mind.

The researchers recruited close to 100 young, recreational athletes for the study. They used a high, but safe dose of growth hormone and measured a number of performance aspects such as strength, power, and endurance. In addition, they kept knowledge about who was taking what from both participants and study assessors.

?While human growth hormone does increase body mass, the effect is due largely to fluid retention, not to increased muscle mass and, when taken on its own, we can not find any sports performance benefit; if it had a dramatic affect, we would have found it?, says Professor Ho.

?However, when growth hormone was taken together with testosterone, there was an increase in muscle mass and one particular aspect of performance – sprint power,? But the combined drug regime enhances the sensitivity of our tests and means we can detect sports dopers for weeks after they stop taking the banned substances. This has major implications for random drug testing?, he added.

Co-investigator Dr Anne Nelson notes:? What is particularly interesting is that, when later questioned, half of the study participants wrongly thought that they were taking the active drugs, highlighting the power of wishful thinking. Hopefully, this evidence will deter the newly-emerging generation of athletes from taking hormones, which pose significant health risks, such as heart abnormalities and diabetes?.

?We hope that the new growth hormone doping test will soon be added to the worldwide repertoire of checks to remove athletes who don?t play fair from the competitive sporting arena, said Dr Nelson.

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