New test set to join anti-doping arsenal
But some worry it could stall push by others for urine test
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A new test that provides a breakthrough in detecting human growth hormone in blood is expected to become available soon and make it more difficult for athletes to use HGH without getting caught.
It’s a test some experts consider so good, however, it could blunt the push for the urine-based test sought by some in baseball and football, possibly stalling promising research that has already cost many thousands of dollars.
The new test, called a biomarkers test, scans the blood for chemicals the body produces after HGH use, which are detectable for up to two weeks. The test, expected to be available in the coming weeks or months, is a complement to — or maybe an improvement over — the current test, called an isoform test, which scans blood for synthetic HGH.
The isoform test detects synthetic HGH in the blood for only about 48 hours after use, making it easier for users to avoid detection.
“Anytime we have more tools, it’s a good thing,” said Larry Bowers, the lead scientist for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. “We view the two tests as working together. One doesn’t replace the other, but it certainly gives us a wider window and a greater opportunity for catching people.”
Following these developments are scientists from a Virginia lab called Ceres Nanosciences, where a $65,000 grant from USADA has been used to fund research that could someday lead to a urine test for HGH — the only HGH test Major League Baseball players would have to submit to under the current “Joint Drug Agreement” between baseball and the union.
Buoyed by success from the early phases of their testing, which the Ceres scientists say has debunked long-held claims that HGH particles can’t be effectively captured in urine, Ceres is applying for a grant to take the experiments to the next step.
“To move forward after this, we desperately need money,” said Lance Liotta, lead scientist on the Ceres HGH project. “Funding is critical for us. If all the money goes toward the blood test that other people are working on, then they’re missing a fantastic opportunity in urine that they shouldn’t dismiss offhand.”