Interesting article from the Guardian.
IOC 'four years late' catching cheats
Duncan Mackay - Athletics Correspondent
Sunday August 8, 2004
Olympics chiefs could have introduced a test for the most widely abused drug
in sport four years ago, but instead allowed athletes to continue using it
without fear of detection, according to a leading British scientist.
Professor Peter Sonksen, who did much of the work on trying to find ways to
catch athletes using human growth hormone - known as 'the drug of champions'
and particularly popular among sprinters - says the International Olympic
Committee shied away from taking a hard-line stance 'for political reasons'.
Human growth hormone (HGH) can trigger huge increases in muscle growth and
has been around for about 20 years. While it has been widely used by
athletes in several sports, officials have struggled to come up with a test
Dick Pound, chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency, is confident that a
new method of detecting the substance will be available when the Olympics
open in Athens in five days, following extensive and expensive worldwide
research, including at Southampton University.
But Professor Sonksen, who carried out four years of research into the drug
at St Thomas' Hospital, London before the Sydney Olympics, says, 'There is
nothing new in the  science, just the dotting of a few i's and
crossing a few t's.'
Sonksen headed a research project called GH2000, and claims that his team's
findings delivered six months before the 2000 Games were as advanced as any
subsequent work on growth hormone.
'It [the 2004 project] has made our work on GH2000 rock solid with more peer
review,' he said. 'But there's no new science in it from what GH2000
delivered six months before the Sydney Olympics. I can say this now that I
am no longer on the IOC anti-doping commission, but I feel very badly let
down by the IOC.
'They gave us a $1million grant to finish off the work four years ago and
then they took it away. It was all for political reasons, because of a
disagreement between Prince Alexandre de Merode, the [then] head of the
IOC's anti-doping commission, and Juan Antonio Samaranch [then IOC
'Prince de Merode did a lot of good things during his time in office, but he
also let himself down badly on a number of occasions. It was the Prince who
got the funding for the research work in the first place, but if it wasn't
for him taking back that grant, we could have had a growth hormone test in
place four years ago.'
HGH, which was originally developed to assist children with retarded growth,
is believed to be especially popular with sprinters.
Tim Montgomery, the world 100metres record holder, testified under oath in
San Francisco last October that he had used the drug, as did Ben Johnson
during a government inquiry in Canada 15 years ago.
It has also been alleged by her former husband that the triple Olympic
champion Marion Jones injected the drug before and during the Sydney
Olympics. She has denied the claims of CJ Hunter, the 1999 world shot put
There have been several cases in the United States of former sports stars
developing heart and liver complaints, and some cancers, leading to their
deaths in their 40s and 50s. HGH is believed to also make the heart and
other organs continue to grow, sometimes to unhealthy sizes.
It is this that has left a shadow over the death, at just 38, of Florence
Griffith Joyner. The American ***e of the 1988 Olympics died 10 years
later after an apparent heart seizure in her sleep.
Flo-Jo had transformed her body in her mid-20s and was later accused of
using HGH. Her post-mortem showed some signs of excessive growth of her
organs, including her heart. Her death may have been a direct result of drug
Sonksen has also criticised UK Sport for forcing the head of its ethics
department out of the organisation. Michele Verroken officially left the
organisation last month after being effectively sacked because she had
called for an independent anti-doping agency in Britain.
'Anti-doping in sport has been a huge mess for a long time. It is a very
complicated and difficult area, but Michele has devoted her life to working
on it. The way she was treated was disgraceful. UK Sport is a very political
body and it seems to me that science and ethics comes a long way down its
'The United States Anti-Doping Agency was set up four years ago and is a
tightly organised, well run body, but, most importantly, it is separate from
the sports bodies and from those bodies that sponsor or fund the sports and
that is the sort of thing we need in this country.
'An independent anti-doping agency was what Michele was arguing for and I am
right behind her on that. But I suspect that was one of the reasons why they
got rid of her. As a civil servant, she possibly spoke her mind too freely.
'But then, having politicians running sport is just bad news.'