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Sports Doping's Effect May Be in the Mind
Date:6/17/2008

itted to taking the drug.

Since 2004 a blood test has been in place to screen out those athletes engaged in surreptitious use. At the endocrine meeting, a separate team of researchers from Ohio University and the Aarhus Kommunehospital in Denmark presented evidence -- derived from a mouse study -- that points the way toward a new group of more easily identified biomarkers for HGH, which, theoretically, could lead to improved HGH screening down the road.

But Ho pointed out that "there is actually no firm scientific proof that growth hormone actually does enhance athletic performance, despite a widespread belief in its ability to do so". In fact, a review of the literature on the subject, published in March in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found no evidence that HGH could boost athletic prowess.

Ho and his team wanted to explore whether the physical boost athletes attribute to HGH might be more psychological in nature.

To do so, they focused on 64 healthy recreational athletes, men and women between the ages of 20 and 40, who had been exercising at least two hours per week over the six months prior to the study.

After testing the participants for their athletic ability, the men and women were randomized into two groups. One group got growth hormone for eight weeks, and the second received a dummy substance, or placebo. Neither the researchers nor the athletes knew which group participants were in.

At the end of the two-month trial, all the participants were asked to guess whether they had been taking HGH or a placebo, and whether their sporting performance had changed during the study period. Athletic ability was then re-tested on a range of performance parameters.

Ho and his team found that about half of the participants who received a placebo incorrectly assumed they had been given HGH. Gender played a significant role in such perceptions: the male placebo athletes were much m
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