There was a major breakthrough in the fight against doping today when UK Anti-Doping chiefs announced the first sanction of an athlete using human growth hormone (HgH). Rugby player Terry Newton was given a two year ban after his out of competition blood sample collected in November 2009 was found to contain the banned substance. Newton, who plays for Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, has stated he will not contest the findings.
Anti-doping organizations have been keen to implement a valid test for human growth hormone for many years now but have been unsuccessful until now. Many will remember that HgH, along with several other banned products, were found during the Festina doping scandal of 1998, when team official Willy Voets’ car was stopped prior to that years Tour de France.
Human growth hormone, noted for its ability to enable athletes to recuperate more quickly, stimulates cell reproduction resulting in muscle and bone growth. However, there are many side effects associated with prolonged use of HgH, the most common being Acromegaly. This is a medical condition that begins with the overgrowth of facial bone and connecting tissue, leading to a changed appearance that includes protruding jaw and eyebrow bones. This condition also leads to an abnormal growth of the hands and feet with an increased growth of hair all over the body. Other side effects are liver and thyroid damage.
UK Anti-Doping Chief Executive, Andy Parkinson said “This is a landmark in the fight against doping. It is the world-first analytical positive for HgH, a substance that has previously gone undetected because it leaves the system fairly quickly after administration.” It is believed that UK Anti-Doping officials worked closely with King’s College London Drug Control Centre and the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) to highlight this positive test. Parkinson continued “This shows how science has closed an important gap and further enhances our ability to deter the cheating athlete to ensure the integrity of sport and promote healthy competition. Athletes using hGH should take Newton’s experience as a stern warning – if you use hGH you will not get away with it.”
This will now surely open the door for retrospective testing of older samples taken from athletes. Riders who had previously used HgH undetected could well find themselves brought to book when they thought they could get away with it. The advance of science is slowly catching up with the cheats, although with still a long way to go, we applaud the efforts by UKAD and WADA on what is very very encouraging news today.