Net closing on human growth hormone cheats

World Anti-Droping Agency warns that testing is set to resume after being stalled by a court case, and will include samples from athletes at the Sochi Games

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 February, 2014, 9:16pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 February, 2014, 9:56pm

The World Anti-Doping Agency expects a breakthrough within weeks to catch athletes who use human growth hormone.

Testing for HGH, including samples from Sochi Olympic athletes, should resume after being stalled by an appeal case ruling last year, Wada director-general David Howman said at a briefing on the eve of the Winter Games.

Howman said a backlog of samples has built up awaiting publication of peer-reviewed results from two research projects involving 20,000 samples. "We anticipate that in the next few weeks the publication will be accepted and therefore the test can be undertaken," Howman said.

Efforts to catch HGH users have been hampered by a Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling last March.

It's outrageous that somebody is producing substances like that and passing them on, with the risk that they end up with an athlete without it being peer-reviewed
Wada president Craig Reedie on a new muscle-building drug

Two-time Olympic cross-country skiing champion Andrus Veerpalu of Estonia managed to get his three-year doping ban overturned on a statistical technicality. A court panel requested additional proof of accurate HGH analysis after saying that Veerpalu probably had used HGH.

Still, it upheld the Estonian's appeal against the International Ski Federation sanction because statistical parameters for the test results could produce false positives.

The fresh research has largely confirmed the original statistics.

"Two independent teams reached a very similar conclusion in terms of what the decision limits should be, and they are very close to what was previously written and looked at in the Veerpalu case," Howman said.

Veerpalu, now 42, retired from racing after his January 2011 positive test but his court victory cleared him to stay in the sport as a coach or official. He is expected in Sochi as part of the coaching team for Kazakhstan cross-country skier Alexey Poltoranin.

Separately, Wada also said it was "totally outrageous" that a Russian scientist reportedly offered to sell a seemingly potent and undetectable new muscle-building drug to undercover journalists.

Howman said the substance, known as full-size MGF, has only previously been trialled on animals, and Wada president Craig Reedie said it would be "potentially very dangerous" if athletes took it.

German broadcaster WDR said a scientist at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow offered to sell the drug to reporters. A call to the academy's main switchboard went unanswered.

"It's outrageous that somebody is producing substances like that and passing them on, with the risk that they end up with an athlete without it being peer-reviewed," Reedie said.

Howman said pharmaceutical companies were developing many such substances in the growth factor family of drugs, mainly "for the wellness clinics, the fountains of youth if you like, for older people".

"Some of them are being developed for good health reasons," he said. "But these are not yet on the market."

Athletes are banned from taking such research substances. Asked whether Wada knows whether any athletes have got hold of full-size MGF, Howman said: "If we did we would never tell you."

"It doesn't come as a surprise to us that the undercover journalists should discover this," Howman said. "It is a bit shocking that it should happen from a Russian scientist and it is certainly shocking that the substance was only trialled on animals. So for it to be made available for human use ... is totally outrageous."

Meanwhile, the IOC will consider setting up an independent body that allows whistle-blowers to report information on doping, match-fixing and sexual abuse without fear of reprisals.

Swiss member Denis Oswald made the proposal during a debate on "protecting clean athletes", one of the key topics of the International Olympic Committee's three-day assembly on long-term plans.



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