IGF-I abuse in sport: current knowledge and future prospects for detection

Growth Horm IGF Res. 2009 Aug;19(4):408-11. doi: 10.1016/j.ghir.2009.04.017. Epub 2009 May 24.


As the tests for detecting growth hormone (GH) abuse develop further, it is likely that athletes will turn to doping with insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I). IGF-I mediates many of the anabolic actions of growth hormone. It stimulates muscle protein synthesis, promotes glycogen storage and enhances lipolysis, all of which make IGF-I attractive as a potential performance-enhancing agent. Pharmaceutical companies have developed commercial preparations of recombinant human IGF-I (rhIGF-I) for use in disorders of growth. The increased availability of rhIGF-I increases the opportunity for athletes to acquire supplies of the drug on the black market. The long-term effects of IGF-I administration are currently unknown but it is likely that these will be similar to the adverse effects of chronic GH abuse. The detection of IGF-I abuse is a challenge for anti-doping organisations. Research has commenced into the development of a test for IGF-I abuse based on the measurement of markers of GH action. Simultaneously, the effects of rhIGF-I on physical fitness, body composition and substrate utilisation in healthy volunteers are being investigated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletes*
  • Body Composition
  • Carbohydrates / chemistry
  • Doping in Sports*
  • Glycogen / metabolism
  • Human Growth Hormone / analysis
  • Human Growth Hormone / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / deficiency*
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / therapeutic use*
  • Recombinant Proteins / therapeutic use*
  • Sports*
  • Substance Abuse Detection / methods*
  • Substance Abuse Detection / trends*


  • Carbohydrates
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Human Growth Hormone
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I
  • Glycogen