The hot button issue in drug testing in sports right now isn’t whether athletes use illegal performance enhancers (they do) or whether they should be drug tested (they should). What has most professional sports leagues, governing bodies, and testing facilities stumped is largely because of Human Growth Hormone. What’s the problem? Many athletes have discovered that if they take HGH to enhance their performance, it won’t show up in a common drug test requiring a urine sample, because HGH requires blood testing in order to accurately determine whether an athlete has elevated levels. In fact, the use of HGH has introduced a whole host of issues that previously popular sports drugs, such as steroids and testosterone, were not subject to.
The major issues that Major League Baseball, the NFL, the NBA, and other professional sports organizations have with implementing HGH testing programs are that the testing would require a blood sample, an established baseline would be necessary, and the window for being able to detect HGH in the body is incredibly small. Now, into the controversial mix comes another wrench: some scientists believe that certain types of people are genetically able to take drugs and performance enhancers and not get caught during a drug test!
How is this possible? It’s all thanks to what scientists refer to as an “impunity gene.” People of certain genetic heritages are more likely to be able to take certain drugs and not have it show up on a drug test, which could have huge implications for the issue of doping in sports . . . namely, that many athletes could be doping, and getting tested, and getting away with it. For example, a runner with genetic impunity (statistically a person of African-American, Asian, or Mixed heritage) could be a career steroid user, who gets drug tested regularly, but can continue running because the drug doesn’t show up in his system when he is tested. Contrast this with a runner of a different genetic heritage (likely Caucasian or Hispanic) who takes a steroid one time, fails a drug test, and ultimately loses his career. It sounds Hollywood, but according to some scientists, this scenario plays out more often than many people think.
Where does HGH testing fit into this scenario? Since HGH testing requires a blood test in order to catch elevated levels, many athletes who previously passed a urine test with flying colors would find they are suddenly facing a positive drug test. Proponents of cleaning up professional sports may finally be able to catch doping athletes who were previously getting away with cheating, and it could all be thanks to Human Growth Hormone!