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The use of hgh use by athletes is not new – In fact, it’s used can be traced back to at least the 1970s. Terry Newton a British rugby player was the first professional athlete to test positive for illegal use of human growth hormone, in November 2009. Since then there has been a great demand placed on some sports such as the National Football League to initiate testing for HGH use.
There has been a great deal of focus on the MMA sports and the use of human growth hormone. In fact, in the USA, Congressman Issa has been crusading for the NFL to test for human growth hormone use, because it is a well-known fact that the NFL leads the way in numerous issues that influence combat sports: brain injury, health care, testing for performance-enhancing drugs, etc. Whatever happens in the NFL is inescapably going to filter down into a renewed interest in human growth hormone testing for MMA.
What is HGH?
HGH is a hormone that is secreted by the pituitary gland, a tiny gland found in the brain. The synthetic growth hormone has been available as a medical treatment for growth hormone deficiency for many years. This is a condition where children are extremely underdeveloped, leading to a physical decline when they become adults. HGH will increase strength and size. It will also promote tissue healing.
Human growth hormone is a natural drug for athletes, particularly combat athletes. It is suspected that synthetic HGH has been used by some athletes for more than 30 years, and yet there had been no reliable HGH test for its use in sport.
Is the Current HGH Testing Reliable?
The current HGH testing protocol has two problems. While the World Anti-Doping Agency is urging the NFL and state athletic commissions to implement this HGH testing protocol these problems have not been addressed.
The first problem is a blood sample is required because the HGH is a hundred times greater in the blood than in urine. The challenge, not to mention how invasive it is, of collecting and handling blood samples is a daunting undertaking.
Even more of a problem is that HGH has an extremely short half-life in the body, which is around 2.5 hours. A day after injecting HGH, serum levels are 0.1 percent of the injected dose, and a week after the HGH injection, the drug is completely out of the body.
Experts say that the WADA test is more of an IQ test than an effective HGH test, because it will only catch those who are not smart enough to figure out how to avoid detection.
When Newton admitted to HGH use, he stated: “I have made a grave error of judgment in taking a banned substance and hope that, if nothing else, my stupidity will be a warning to any other professional in any sport of the consequences of doing so.” Surely, some athletes reacted to the first phrase, reconsidering their own use of HGH, but just as surely, others heard only the last phrase and recommitted themselves to not being “stupid” and needlessly getting caught.
WADA’s strategy to the limitations of the HGH test is to implement espionage type techniques seeking out secret information about the HGH usage by the athlete using anonymous tips from disgruntled ex wives and ex-girlfriends, confessions from doctors implicated in other drug related charges, and poorly compensated training partners’ reports. You can see why athletes are not happy with this method and a system where any confidante becomes a potential informant building a degree of mistrust. It’s ironic that the registration rules could be stricter than what sex offender’s face.
The Cost of WADA
Another legitimate concern is the cost. A fighters training camp costs around $80,000. There was a great deal of frustration by athletes and fans when the most anticipated boxing match of the last ten years didn’t occur because there were fighters viewed WADA testing protocols differently. Floyd Mayweather Jr. felt the invasive nature and cost were acceptable and beneficial whereas Manny Pacquiao did not.
It does not seem fair that possibly thousands, of fighters could be required to take the test yet only one in a thousand cheaters will be caught.
Should HGH be Banned?
There is also a great deal of interest on whether HGH should even be banned. Do not confuse the human growth hormone with the use of a drug. HGH is found in the body. It is produced by the pituitary gland and human growth hormone injections are simply returning the body’s HGH levels to healthy levels.
HGH supplements can be beneficial to everyone who wants to use them. Those with significantly low HGH levels should talk to their doctor.