Press Release

New Discoveries by Scientific Working Group Could Advance Ability to Detect HGH Doping in Sport

WASHINGTON – Anti-doping experts continue to advance the science of future testing methods, building on the existing tests for growth hormone (GH) abuse in sport that have been successful in detecting dopers. Now, breaking research appearing in Clinical Chemistry, the journal of the American Association of Clinical Chemistry, shows that measuring IGF-1 as a biomarker of GH activity – through a chemistry technique known as liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) – could increase the detection of and prevent GH doping by greatly enhancing inter-laboratory precision.

Athletes purportedly abuse GH to obtain its muscle-building and fat breakdown activity.  Some actions of GH are the result of increased IGF-1 concentrations in the blood from the response of the liver to GH stimulation. Anecdotal evidence suggests that IGF-1 abuse may also be on the rise. Many sports stars and an estimated 5 percent of U.S. high school students are reported to have abused GH in an attempt to improve athletic performance and/or benefit from its perceived appearance-enhancing results. Side effects of this abuse include diabetes, aggravation of heart disease and abnormal organ growth, among others.

Two approaches have been developed for detecting GH in sport applications. The GH isoforms test, reported in Clinical Chemistry in 2009, has been successfully used to identify athletes abusing GH; however, it is limited by a short detection window. The biomarkers test, which measures serum concentrations of IGF-1 and another protein produced by the action of GH, has a detection window of weeks.

A team of researchers from five laboratories in three countries – who together form the IGF-1 LC-MS/MS Working Group – is led by Dr. Larry D. Bowers of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and funded by the Partnership for Clean Competition (PCC). The Working Group, established in 2011 as part of an initiative to develop new tests for GH biomarkers, has demonstrated that using LC-MS/MS instead of antibodies to measure IGF-1 concentrations increases measurement precision. For anti-doping purposes, the LC-MS/MS method has a second significant advantage over immunoassay – IGF-1 is identified in addition to being quantified. The PCC is hopeful that these results will contribute to the development and global adoption of the biomarkers GH test in anti-doping.

“Not only are these research results groundbreaking, but the selfless work and cooperation of the members of this Working Group, with the PCC’s support, demonstrates the power of collaborative research,” said Bowers, USADA Chief Science Officer and PCC Scientific Advisory Board Chair. “Bringing together top scientists and innovators in focused research to identify and resolve analytical problems is critical to advancing anti-doping science.”

Additionally, the PCC IGF-1 LC-MS/MS Working Group’s study demonstrates the benefits of the harmonization of – or ensuring uniformity among – clinical laboratory test results, an important healthcare issue about which AACC released a position statement in November 2013.

“In addition to being an important anti-doping testing advancement, new testing methodology arising from these findings could also aid in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders caused by the natural over- or under-production of GH,” said Andy Hoofnagle, M.D.,Ph.D, and an associate professor of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at the University of Washington and senior author on the paper. “The findings may also lead to clinical laboratories being able to better monitor the intra-individual biological variability, an approach increasingly used in both medicine and anti-doping science.”

About AACC

Dedicated to achieving better health through laboratory medicine, the American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC) brings together more than 50,000 clinical laboratory professionals, physicians, research scientists, and business leaders from around the world focused on clinical chemistry, molecular diagnostics, mass spectrometry, translational medicine, lab management, and other areas of breaking laboratory science. Since 1948, AACC has worked to advance the common interests of the field, providing programs that advance scientific collaboration, knowledge, expertise, and innovation. For more information, visit

About the Partnership for Clean Competition

The Partnership for Clean Competition is an innovative research collaborative founded in 2008 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit public charity by the United States Olympic Committee, United States Anti-Doping Agency, Major League Baseball and the National Football League. Every day, the PCC acts to protect the integrity of sport and public health by engaging and supporting the world’s top scientists and innovators in high-quality anti-doping research and development. The PCC also facilitates adoption of these methods into the World Anti-Doping Agency-accredited laboratories. The PCC aspires to help generate the world’s most influential, effective and coveted methods and resources for detecting and deterring the use of performance enhancing substances by all athletes in all sports at all levels. Through this work, the PCC demonstrates the value of science, collaboration and innovation related to doping control in sport and ensure the benefits of sport participation. For more information, visit

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