Effects of Growth Hormone Doping on Athletic Performance. Ann Intern Med. 2010;152:I-44. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-152-9-201005040-00003
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 2010;152(9):I-44.
Growth hormone is naturally produced by the body and is important for growth and metabolism. Injectable growth hormone is available for use by people who have growth hormone deficiency. Many healthy athletes without growth hormone deficiency use the drug because they believe that it bulks up their muscles and improves their physical performance (growth hormone “doping”). However, no scientific research has shown that growth hormone improves physical performance.
To see whether growth hormone affects athletic performance.
103 healthy recreational athletes aged 18 to 40 years who engaged in regular athletic training for at least 1 year.
The researchers first measured physical fitness and the ability to pull a weight, jump, and sprint on a bicycle. They then assigned half of the group at random to receive either growth hormone or salt water injections for 8 weeks. At the same time, they assigned half of the men at random to also receive testosterone or salt water injections. They measured physical performance at the end of the 8-week period and again at 14 weeks after the athletes had stopped receiving the drug or salt water injections.
Growth hormone increased the athletes' ability to sprint on a bicycle but had no effects on fitness or their ability to pull a weight or jump. The effect on sprint capacity was nearly doubled in men who also received testosterone injections. Performance returned to normal 6 weeks after participants stopped receiving growth hormone and testosterone injections. Athletes who received growth hormone did not increase muscle mass but retained body fluid and had swelling and joint pain more often than those who received salt water injections.
The investigators used lower doses of growth hormone than athletes are reported to use, and for a shorter time. Therefore, the drug's effects on performance might be greater than in this study, and its side effects may be more serious. How the drug's effects on performance might translate into competitive advantage for athletes is unclear.
Growth hormone injections seem to increase athletic sprinting when given alone or in combination with testosterone. The drug also causes a person to retain body fluid and have swelling and pain. This is the first demonstration of improvement in a particular aspect of physical performance with growth hormone, but if and how the findings translate into a competitive advantage for athletes is unclear.
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