Major League Baseball, a sport blighted by drugs cheat scandals in the last decade, has announced it is going to introduce testing for Human Growth Hormone in the minor leagues.
The minors have always been the method of introduction used by baseball’s governing body with regard to drug testing. In 2001, the MLB introduced random urine testing in the minor leagues before rolling it out across the majors the following year.
HGH has long been a major issue for anti-doping agencies in sport as until recently it was ‘undetectable’ by modern science. However, a new test has been developed, and Terry Newton, a hooker for Super League’s Wakefield, has become the first sportsman in the world to be caught using the new methods .
Newton will face a two-year ban, and it is hoped that the HGH test can be rolled out across all major sports worldwide in a bid to stop drugs cheats using the potentially dangerous substance.
HGH was originally developed as a drug to aid dwarfism but was latched on to by drugs cheats as a way of ‘beefing up’ rapidly whilst avoiding detection by conventional drugs tests. However, it is widely accepted that the use of HGH for non-medicinal purposes is highly dangerous , with side effects including pancreatitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and an increased risk of colon cancer.
The new test was greeted with widespread skepticism when it was first introduced, with doubts expressed over its accuracy. But with Newton’s conviction and the MLB’s moves to introduce it, faith in the test is clearly growing in the sporting arena.
Some players unions are against widespread testing, though, with claims that the HGH test is still not effective enough.
The Baseball Players’ Association head Michael Weiner said, “We have previously said that if a scientifically validated blood test for HGH is available, we would consider its utilization.
“But a single uncontested positive does not scientifically validate a test," he has said. "There remains debate in the testing community about the scientific validity of this test.”
Whilst positive moves are still being made against the illegal use of HGH in sport, it remains to be seen whether this test will become the standard.
Even if it does, with high-tech drugs cheats always one step ahead of the testers, it is only a matter of time before a new ‘undetectable’ plagues the sporting world.
This article was written by Jon Naylor for Half Volley , the half sport, half science website.