For the last year, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), an independent foundation that promotes, coordinates, and monitors the fight against drugs in international sporting competitions, has not been testing for Human Growth Hormone (HGH), even though it is one of the most used, most controversial substances in modern sports. It is thought to be used on a wide-scale by athletes hoping to gain an advantage over their competition, and while the jury is still out as the safety and efficacy of this substance, it is nonetheless regarded as a banned substance. Athletes found with HGH in their systems in sufficient quantities were subject to ejections, suspensions, and lifetime bans from their sport, and HGH positivity had been considered a pretty extreme offense. So why had the testing been suddenly stopped for the last year?
This reason for the teasing suspension is due to a case that came up in 2013 between retired cross-country skier Andrus Veerpalu and the International Ski Federation. In this case, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) overturned a ban that had previously been given to Veerpalu for use of HGH. While the CAS insisted that they were still 100% positive that the tests that thay had been administering were accurate and effective at determining HGH abuse, they were no longer convinced that the limits of HGH allowed in the bloodstream were statistically relevant (meaning they were unsure as to whether the limits they had set determined HGH abuse absolutely). This led to the complete revision of these limits, which have now been officially published.
So does this mean that’s it’s been a free-for-all with HGH over the last year? Well, not exactly. WADA did encourage athlete samples to be taken, and collected for future analysis. And now that new guidelines are set, they are reminding anti-doping agencies around the world to proceed with testing of samples that were stored during the last year. It is conceivable that now that testing is resuming, athletes may find themselves in trouble retroactively, and this could bring forth a whole new wave of controversy.
In addition, testing methods are still under question. A new test to determine HGH abuse is reportedly underway, and when finished, will be a huge step forward in determining actual HGH abuse and misuse. This new ‘biomarker’ test is said to be capable of analyzing biometric markers that are activated when synthetic HGH is used, and it can also detect this artificial abuse up to two weeks later (as opposed to the 72 hours that the current test can detect).
When this new test hits the sports world, it may finally be a step in the right direction for HGH clarity and standardization. But until then, there is still a lot of controversy and negativity in regards to the fairness of testing as well as the issues surrounding the use of HGH itself. There’s still a long way to go before all of this is resolved, but for now at least, testing has resumed with new limits, and athletes can again be sure that they will be monitored for HGH use in international sports.