DES-IGF-1 – 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.
The appearance of doping substances in the high-level sports world becomes visible if you look at the statistics over time. Female shot-putters started using steroids in the 1960s and this is reflected in the distances they achieved. These started to increase, reaching a peak in the 1980s. The distances that the women shot-putters achieved then have never been reached since. This is because doping hunters started to use tests for commercially available anabolic steroids in the eighties. After a few positive tests women started throwing much less far, as the figure below shows.
A similar pattern can be seen for the 5000 metres. In the nineties, as EPO use spread like an oil slick throughout athletics, times plummeted. What’s interesting about these times is that the introduction of an EPO doping test didn’t change them. Hip-hip hooray for the proteases.
The EPO effect became visible in 2002, three years after EPO appeared on the American market. Athletes apparently need a few years to get used to a new doping substance, the Germans reasoned. 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.