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Study lifts lid on human growth hormone in sp -

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New research has revealed that the human growth hormone drug - often taken by athletes to gain a
competitive edge, has no impact on strength or endurance and the drug's impact is restricted to
sprinting.

Transcript

TRACY BOWDEN, PRESENTER: Elite athletes prepared to cheat to gain a competitive edge have been
known to take a cocktail of banned substances, including human growth hormone, or HGH. Despite
plenty of anecdotal evidence, up until now there's been no scientific proof of its impact. Now a
study at Sydney's Garvan Institute has found for the first time that HGH significantly improves
athletic performance. But as I discovered, the research shows that the drug's impact is restricted
to sprinting, with no effect on strength or endurance.

Geoff Webster is working up a sweat in the name of science. He's among a group of recreational
athletes who volunteered to take part in a study at Sydney's Garvan Institute into the impact of
human growth hormone on athletic performance.

GEOFF WEBSTER, VOLUNTEER: I had to give myself injections once a day, self-inflicted, so to speak,
and then I had to come in here for an hour or week for a range of testing.

JEN EVANS, CLINICAL NURSE, GARVAN INSTITUTE: I think they had the same question that we had: will
it enhance their performance.

SCOTT ANDREWS, VOLUNTEER: The drugs are always ahead of the testing procedures and we need to give
a level playing field to all the athletes.

TRACY BOWDEN: Growth hormone is produced naturally in the body. Synthetic HGH can be prescribed to
children with growth disorders or adults with deficiencies in the hormone. But so far there's been
no proof that the substance gives athletes a competitive edge.

KEN HO, GARVAN INSTITUTE OF MEDICAL RESEARCH: Your sporting community believes that growth hormone
bulks muscles and in doing so improves performance. However, there has been no scientific evidence
to support that.

TRACY BOWDEN: Nonetheless, HGH has been a favourite amongst elite athletes for more than two
decades.

PETER LARKINS, SPORTS & EXERCISE PHYSICIAN: I'm talking about '88 Olympic Games, I'm talking about
'92 Olympic Games. And so I think that there's no question that it has been one of the most popular
drugs in the select group at the very top end.

TRACY BOWDEN: Sports and exercise physician Dr. Peter Larkins is a former Olympic athlete and past
national president of Sports Medicine Australia.

PETER LARKINS: It's certainly useful in almost any sport you could name, but arguably, the strength
sports are where we're gonna go, because again if we're talking about muscle size, so anything that
involves you moving the muscles or having some extra strength would be appealing.

TRACY BOWDEN: From swimmers to tennis players to kickboxers, a series of athletes have been found
in possession of HGH. In 2007, Hollywood actor and muscle man Sylvester Stallone was charged with
illegally importing HGH into Australia.

JOURNALIST (2007): What was in your luggage at Sydney Airport?

SYLVESTER STALLONE, ACTOR (207): A giant cheetah.

KEN HO: We observed a four per cent improvement in sprint capacity.

TRACY BOWDEN: Study leader Professor Ken Ho is being filmed for the website of the international
journal 'Annals of Internal Medicine' which has published his findings. The results have captured
global attention, especially the claim that HGH can turn losers into winners.

KEN HO: This could translate to a 0.4 second improvement over 10 seconds in the 100 metre dash.
Enough to turn a last-place getter in an Olympic final to a medal winner, a gold medal winner.

TRACY BOWDEN: But the research doesn't support the widespread view that the drug improves strength.

KEN HO: What we found was that growth hormone had no effect on endurance nor the ability to pull on
a weight or to jump.

RYAN LAOS, BODY BUILDER: I have seen the difference it can make.

TRACY BOWDEN: Ryan Laos was the first Australian to win the natural Mr World body building
competition. He says he has no interest in competing with the help of banned substances, but says
there are plenty of athletes who feel differently.

RYAN LAOS: Other people just want to win and they will do anything to win. They'll do anything to
increase their value as an athlete.

TRACY BOWDEN: This latest research suggests that it can be helpful for speed, but not necessarily
for power. Now do you think if people using it heard that it would make them think twice or do
they'd just go with what works for them?

RYAN LAOS: I think they would go with what works for them and what they've heard from their friends
and what they've read on the internet. Sometimes science can lag behind in what the general public
may know through trial and error.

TRACY BOWDEN: Earlier this year, British rugby league player Terry Newton was suspended for two
years after returning the first ever positive test for HGH. Now in Australia, both the NRL and the
AFL have introduced testing.

PETER LARKINS: I think it's extremely important that the professional leagues are shown to be doing
the correct thing. So if there's a drug that's out there that they know has a potential benefit,
even if they don't think there's anyone using it, it behoves them to actually do the test.

KEN HO: We used a dose of growth hormone at the low end of what is belief to be abused out there
and we treated our volunteers for only eight weeks. Therefore, it is conceivable and bigger doses
for a longer duration of time may uncover other benefits which were not evident from our study.

TRACY BOWDEN: Dr Larkins says it's vital to take into account the difference between the levels of
HGH used in this study and those used by cheating athletes.

PETER LARKINS: You've got to really look and see whether the tests that are done in a laboratory,
Tracy, reproduce what the athletes are doing in the real world. Sometimes the athletes will look at
the medical amount that's recommended on a drug and they'll use 10 or 20 times that amount.

TRACY BOWDEN: But Professor Ho is convinced that some athletes using HGH are wasting their time.

KEN HO: If they do read our report, those engaging in sprint events will know that they will have
an advantage, but those engaging in other types of sporting events should throw their syringes into
the bin.