IGF-1 use widespread among sprinters

The fastest athletes on the planet have discovered IGF-1. In just a few years’ time, the anabolic peptide hormone that still eludes the doping hunters has become as popular with sprinters as EPO was with cyclists in the 1990s. German sports scientists Simon Ernst and Perikles Simon write about the phenomenon in an article soon to be published in Drug Testing and Analysis.

The Mexican doping dealer Angel Guillermo Heredia supplied illegal substances to top athletes for years. After he was arrested by American agents he started spilling the beans. [thinksteroids.com April 12, 2008] The sprinter Maurice Green was said to have been a customer who bought IGF-1, IGF-2, EPO and ATP from Heredia. [spiegel.de 11.08.2008]

It was Heredia’s assertions that prompted Simon Ernst and Perikles Simon, both of whom work at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, to delve into the world of sports statistics. If IGF-1 works and is used by top athletes, then you’d expect to see this reflected in sprinters’ times, the researchers surmised.

IGF-1 was approved as a medicine in 2005. So you’d expect that the effect of IGF-1 would become visible in the sports world around 2007-2008. And indeed: the times recorded by Maurice Greene and his colleagues for the 100 metres went down significantly from 2008 onwards. The graph on the left below shows the effects for the men and on the right for the women.

The effect is less dramatic for the women than for the men. The researchers interpret this as meaning that IGF-1 works better in men than in women.

“It is highly plausible that IGF-1 is being abused for performance-enhancing means in professional track and field sprinting”, the Germans conclude. “Its misuse is now most probably widely spread within the world elite of short distance runners. Due to the illustrated effects, we assume that IGF-1 has larger effects for men than women. Nevertheless, doping with IGF-1 is or might be expanding into other sports disciplines.”

The Germans’ publication is certainly interesting. We, the ignorant journalists behind Ergo-Log, find the theory that doping is the cause of the change in effects measured plausible. But we’re not so sure about the idea that this only applies to IGF-1.

Drug Test Anal. 2012 Aug 29. doi: 10.1002/dta.1406. [Epub ahead of print].

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