Physiological and pharmacological basis for the ergogenic effects of growth hormone in elite sports

Asian J Androl. 2008 May;10(3):373-83. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-7262.2008.00403.x.


Growth Hormone (GH) is an important and powerful metabolic hormone that is secreted in a pulsatile pattern from cells in the anterior pituitary, influenced by several normal and pathophysiological conditions. Human GH was first isolated in the 1950s and human derived cadaveric GH was initially used to treat patients with GH deficiency. However, synthetic recombinant GH has been widely available since the mid-1980s and the advent of this recombinant GH boosted the abuse of GH as a doping agent. Doping with GH is a well-known problem among elite athletes and among people training at gyms, but is forbidden for both medical and ethical reasons. It is mainly the anabolic and, to some extent, the lipolytic effects of GH that is valued by its users. Even though GH's rumour as an effective ergogenic drug among athletes, the effectiveness of GH as a single doping agent has been questioned during the last few years. There is a lack of scientific evidence that GH in supraphysiological doses has additional effects on muscle exercise performance other than those obtained from optimised training and diet itself. However, there might be synergistic effects if GH is combined with, for example, anabolic steroids, and GH seems to have positive effect on collagen synthesis. Regardless of whether or not GH doping is effective, there is a need for a reliable test method to detect GH doping. Several issues have made the development of a method for detecting GH doping complicated but a method has been presented and used in the Olympics in Athens and Turin. A problem with the method used, is the short time span (24-36 hours) from the last GH administration during which the test effectively can reveal doping. Therefore, out-of-competition testing will be crucial.However, work with different approaches to develop an alternative, reliable test is ongoing.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Composition
  • Bone and Bones / drug effects
  • Doping in Sports*
  • Growth Hormone / adverse effects
  • Growth Hormone / pharmacology*
  • Growth Hormone / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Lipolysis
  • Muscle, Skeletal / drug effects
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology


  • Growth Hormone