MARCH 29 - THE World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has at last placed an order for “thousands” of human growth hormone testing kits, signalling an escalation in the fight against a drug widely thought to be one of the most abused in sport, insidethegames can exclusively reveal.
The timing of the move ensures that the test will be available at the Beijing Olympics, which get under way in little more than four months’ time.
More importantly, it may leave just enough time to initiate a regime of frequent, no-notice, out-of-competition tests in the weeks leading up to the Games.
This is critical for there to be a realistic chance of catching growth hormone abusers: while the tests can only detect growth hormone administered a short period before an athlete’s blood is taken, the perceived muscle-building properties of the drug are long-lasting.
Users therefore have no need to risk administering the drug while the Games are in progress in order to benefit from the effects of taking it.
David Howman, WADA's director general, confirmed to insidethegames this week that validation of the kits had been completed.
WADA had contracted with a European company to produce “thousands” of the kits.
They would be made available to all accredited laboratories “in coming weeks”.
Laboratory staff in Beijing would be trained how to use them in “a very short time”.
Howman indicated that laboratories might be able to conduct the first tests in around 10 weeks, that is to say in early June.
He described the move to order the kits as “another step forward”.
The placing of the order ends a saga that began at the 2004 Athens summer Games, when testing for growth hormone was conducted.
According to Howman, arrangements were made after those Games for an unnamed United States company to start manufacturing testing kits.
In 2005, however, this company was taken over and the new owners decided to pull out of the deal.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) says that 146 growth hormone tests were conducted at the Turin winter Games in 2006.
But it took until last year for WADA to enter into a new contract to manufacture the kits, this time with a German company.
The IOC says that 450 growth hormone tests are expected to be conducted in Beijing.