Moving one step closer to catching the GH cheats: The GH-2004 experience.
ABSTRACT Growth hormone is abused by athletes for its anabolic and lipolytic properties. The detection of GH abuse is challenging because it is an endogenous hormone whose concentration varies widely in any one day. The GH-2000 project proposed a test based on the measurement of IGF-I and type III pro-collagen (P-III-P). When the results of the GH-2000 project were presented to an expert workshop, the method was supported but it was felt that several issues needed to be resolved before the method could be adopted. The first was a potential effect of ethnicity as most subjects in the GH-2000 were white Europeans and the second was a possible effect of injury as P-III-P is a marker of soft tissue turnover. The GH-2004 project was conceived to address these concerns. The GH-2004 project has shown that while there are minor differences in IGF-I and P-III-P between ethnicities, these are small and do not affect the performance of the test. Injury leads to a small rise in P-III-P but again this is not of sufficient magnitude to affect the performance of the test. The GH-2004 project has provided further support for the marker approach as a means of detecting GH abuse in athletes. As WADA have not developed their own immunoassays, however, further work is needed to validate newer commercial assays measuring IGF-I and P-III-P to establish reliable conversion factors to the original GH-2000 units to allow the published formulae to be used.