Deakin Communicating Science 2016

EES 200/101

‘One in ten athletes are cheating’

The last blogpost finished by looking briefly at the effect of hGH on our bodies and im going to continue from there and then look at how we are able to test for it in athletes. When going on to the WADA website there is a FAQ section which is specifically dedicated to looking at hGH. One of the questions is ‘what are the side effects of hGH abuse?’(5). I found this interesting because the response listed many quite serious health issues, from ‘diabetes’ to ‘cardiac deficiency’.

When you think of these risks it seems unimaginable that anyone, an athlete or otherwise would put their health at jeopardy like this just to be the best. It could be argued that we put too much pressure on these individuals but they are the ones who choose to break the rules. It is made very clear that ‘athletes under the law are responsible for any substance found in their body’(1).

Over 20 years ago the use of hGH was done free of punishment but now it can be detected which is changing the shape of elite sport. Before the 2012 London Olympics the WADA chief executive claimed that ‘one in ten athletes are cheating’ (2). Up until 2004 it was close to impossible to detect hGH. This is to do with the hormones short half-life in blood sampblood testles and low concentration in urine. There are two forms of tests that can be done to look for the presence of human growth hormone in individuals. The first type of test is the ‘isoform approach’ and the second type of test is the ‘markers approach’.

The isoform approach:

The amount of hGH released to circulate around the body varies naturally and can be influenced by other factors besides doping, this makes it impossible to simply test the concentration of hGH and come to an accurate conclusion of whether or not doping has occurred (2). When doping occurs with recombinant hGH the constant ratios of different forms of hGH in the blood will change. If there is a big enough change in what the ratios should be then further testing will be carried out.

  • This technique has been scientifically tested and reviewed and is seen to be reliable.

The markers approach:

hGH affects how other proteins in the body are expressed. There are markers of hGH in soft tissue collagen and the liver. If we measure these two markers in the blood sample taken from the athlete and we can see manipulations, this can show evidence of doping (1).

  • This technique is much more recent and hasn’t been as tested as the isoform approach however it does appear to give valid results so far.

So after seeing all the evidence I think its fair to say that doping in sport really is unacceptable, not only does it risk athletes health it doesn’t allow for a fair competition and with more accurate testing being developed let hope the face of sport gets changed for the better.

references: (2016). Prohibited substances and methods | Australian Sports Anti-doping Authority – ASADA. [online] Available at:

Magnay, J. (2011). London 2012 Olympics: one in 10 athletes are drugs cheats, says anti-doping chief executive. [online] Available at: (2016). Performance-enhancing drugs and teen athletes – Mayo Clinic. [online] Available at:

Things your doctor wont tell you. (2015). [image] Available at:

World Anti-Doping Agency. (2014). Human growth hormone (hGH) Testing. [online] Available at:


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This entry was posted on May 9, 2016 by in Uncategorized.

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