Potential benefits of recombinant human growth hormone (rhGH) to athletes

Growth Horm IGF Res. 2009 Aug;19(4):300-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ghir.2009.04.008. Epub 2009 Jun 17.


Athletes have enjoyed almost a thirty year amnesty of rhGH abuse, which they consider has contributed to the winning of medals and the breaking of world records. Such a reprieve is almost at an end, since WADA have identified a method to detect rhGH abuse. Or have they? The anecdotal word "on the street" is that rhGH is still undetectable and athletes believe that the benefits, at the dosages they administer, far outweigh the risks! Scientists are aware that in a hormone deficiency condition, replacement can halt and in certain situations reverse some of the adverse effects. Growth hormone deficiency can lead to a loss of skeletal muscle mass and an increase in abdomino-visceral obesity, which is reversed on replacement with rhGH. Since the availability of GH, athletes have been trying to extrapolate these effects from the deficiency state to the healthy corpus and increase their sporting prowess. Past confessions from athletes, such as Ben Johnson, Kelly White, Tim Montgomery, Marion Jones and currently Dwain Chambers have demonstrated that they are prepared to tread the very fine lines that separate the "men from the boys". Rewards are so great, that anonymous surveys have identified that athletes will risk ill health, if they believe they can cheat, win and not get caught. The question that still needs to be answered is, "does growth hormone enhance performance"? Recent research suggests that it could. There is also a suspicion that in "cycled" low supraphysiological doses, it is no where near as harmful as WADA claim it to be.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anabolic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Anthropometry
  • Athletes*
  • Doping in Sports*
  • Energy Metabolism / drug effects
  • Human Growth Hormone / deficiency
  • Human Growth Hormone / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physical Fitness
  • Recombinant Proteins / therapeutic use*
  • Sports


  • Anabolic Agents
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Human Growth Hormone