New human growth hormone test may be used at Olympics

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The Independent Online

Anti-doping officials have dropped a hint that competitors at next month's Olympics will be tested for human growth hormone (hGH) for the first time.



Anti-doping officials have dropped a hint that competitors at next month's Olympics will be tested for human growth hormone (hGH) for the first time.

Officials at the World Anti-doping Agency have refused to confirm whether athletes will be screened for hGH - which works in the same way as steroids - believing that it is better to keep the drugs cheats guessing.

However, in their annual report published this week Wada confirmed that a test to detect excess hGH has been finalised, while research on some blood doping tests is "well under way".

The report states: "The research funded by the agency to date has already yielded significant results. Research groups have developed methods to detect human growth hormone when used to enhance athletic performance. These groups worked throughout 2003 to finalise a test that will detect hGH external to what is naturally produced by the body.

"In addition, significant progress was made in research on blood doping, including that of haemoglobin-based oxygen carriers and blood transfusion, whereby an athlete receives compatible blood from a donor just prior to competition. Work is well under way to finalise detection methods for these types of blood doping, with implementation foreseen in the near future."

The report adds weight to the belief by Professor Peter Sonksen, the British scientist who led the development of the test, that the time is right for Wada to introduce it for Athens.

Sonksen said: "I believe that we are ready to introduce a test for growth hormones now. Wada want to be sure that it would stand up to a court case and I am sure that it would."

The report also highlights Wada's struggle in obtaining the funding that has been promised by governments - last year they missed out on a quarter of their expected funding and had to shelve several research projects.

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