The Summer Olympics: Are Drugs Winning the games?

There will be new tests to catch the cheaters in Sydney. Will the Games be clean? Not a chance

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--BLOOD DOPING In 1972 Dr. Bjorn Ekblom of Stockholm's Institute of Gymnastics and Sports drew a quart of blood from each of four athletes, removed the red cells and put them in cold storage. He reinfused the cells a month later and found that his subjects' increased oxygen-carrying capacity allowed them to run as much as 25% longer on a treadmill before reaching exhaustion. Blood doping was born. In 1984 U.S. Olympic cycling team coach Eddie Borysewicz set up a back-alley clinic in a Los Angeles motel room. Four of the seven athletes who doped won medals. America hadn't medaled in cycling since 1912. Doping worked.

It isn't easy to nail blood dopers rich with their own blood, and doping, though illegal, will not be tested for in Sydney.

--HUMAN GROWTH HORMONE This and the related Insulin Growth Factor 1 will figure on the podium. Human growth hormone is a naturally occurring amino acid. It controls the release of IGF-1, which helps maintain growth rates from birth to adulthood. Genetically engineered hGH, available since 1985, was developed for people with growth-hormone deficiency, such as children with dwarfism.

Athletes use the drug for the same reasons they use steroids, and the combo of hGH (bigger muscles) and testosterone (stronger muscles) is especially appealing. The drug form of hGH sneers at those who would seek it out: after injection, it has a half-life of only 17 to 45 minutes, so it flushes from the system in short order while its effects linger. Although it is a banned substance, it will not be tested for in Sydney.

IGF-1 works by reducing protein breakdown and stimulating cell production. Studies in mice have shown that IGF-1 increased muscle strength up to 27%, and even at a cost of $3,000 a month, what athlete doesn't want to be Mighty Mouse? There's no test yet to detect IGF-1.

--BLOOD SUBSTITUTES They are the new wave. Blood substitutes, or artificial hemoglobins, were designed to obviate the need for transfusions in surgery and help patients in hemorrhagic shock. Hemopure, the brand name of one substitute, contains no red cells but consists of ultrapurified, modified bovine hemoglobin suspended in a salt solution. Now in clinical trials in the U.S. it was fast-tracked for approval in South Africa and found its way to the black market. Canadian track coach Dan Pfaff recently told the Toronto Sun that he believes many athletes formerly on EPO have switched to undetectable Hemopure.

A longtime observer of Olympic sport says, "Athletes are going to Hemopure, and they're crazy. This new stuff--artificial bloods, tissue enhancers to increase oxygen profusion in the tissue--some of it can short out your system drastically. You OD on some of this stuff, you're dead."

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