According to a story on cyclingnews.com there is now a doping control test for human growth hormone.
Before the cynics complain that the dopers stay one step ahead this is actually up there with the test for EPO or testosterone because it’s a test for something that’s apparently been widespread in use.
It’s human growth hormone. Taken by an athlete it can allow them to put on more muscle mass, taken in large quantities it doesn’t just make your muscles bigger, it leads to bone tissue growth. Many sportsmen have been abusing this, knowing they couldn’t be tested. But you can spot tell-tale signs. Just as teenagers see their face shape change during puberty, losing the rounded child face for the angular proportions of an adult, those abusing HGH see similar changes during their career. So a user sees the shape of their face changing. The most obvious signs are a squarer jawline and a ridge of bone tissue under the eyebrows. Now some of us might have square jaws or that bone ridge already, the key is watching the bone tissue changing during the career of a sportsman. Putting on muscle obviously isn’t a clue to abuse, it could just be diet and exercise.
I’d love to name the obvious examples but can’t afford the lawyers, except to say some evidence suggests some of the England rugby XV and Premiership football players have been dabbling. Plus you can look at some riders, one prominent Festina rider apparently had to change shoes during his career because his feet had grown by two sizes!
Now you might laugh but imagine if a rider has a small growth of cancerous cells inside him, perhaps his immune system can tackle the growth but if you’re on HGH you’re effectively supplying the tumourous cells with superfuel. HGH abuse can significantly increase the incidence of cancer.
So a test for this produce is going to help the fight against doping. Remember that these rules exist first to protect health, second to make the sport fair: cycling introduced doping controls after Tom Simpson died, not after a particular rider gained an advantage. Those taking HGH probably aren’t aware of the dangers and so a test is bound to scare some away from using it. Good news. Now we just need tests for the other growth hormones but today’s news is a landmark on the road to cleaning up sport.