. Contents:
Tests 1999 
President' message
FINA Extraordinary
Congress on FINA 
Constitution and FINA
Doping Rules 


World Swimming Championships in Hong Kong April 1999
Report and Results 

GH 2000 Project Co-ordinator: Professor PH Sonksen

GH 2000 sampling team. Project Manager: Claire Pentecost

Endocrine Doctors: Dr Marie Louise Healy
                                 Dr James Gibney
                                 Dr Helen Simpson
Phlebotamists: Shayne Parfrey
                         Kathleen Sexton

Statistical Analysis: Eryl Bassett

1. Background

As part of their campaign against the use of performance enhancing drugs in swimming FINA invited GH-2000 to send a team out to Hong Kong to the World Short course Swimming Championships in April 1999. GH-2000 offered to provide confidential post-event blood testing to detect the use of GH on swimmers on a voluntary basis. The information gathered was not to be used as evidence of a doping offence but to be used by FINA to see if there was any evidence to suggest that levels of markers of GH in blood different in any way from those of other international athletes, and in particular to assess whether there was any indication of doping amongst any of the swimmers. 

2. Hong Kong

On arrival in Hong Kong the GH-2000 team were invited to a FINA Committee member meeting and a press conference. They were then invited to the team doctors meeting where we explained the rationale of the visit and answered questions regarding actual procedures and protocols. 

GH-2000 were allocated a large room next to the official doping control centre. This had all the appropriate facilities, including a fridge, running water, hand washing facilities, power points, work surfaces and a comfortable waiting area for the swimmers. The local organising committee for doping control were extremely helpful in helping with practical issues.

In order to disseminate information about the project information was circulated to all team doctors and notices were put up around the swimmers’ areas. There was very positive support from the majority of team managers and coaches. A large percentage of the swimmers were brought to the sampling areas by the team doctors or coaches. GH-2000 staff also approached individual athletes after their last event. 

Sampling was performed after an athlete’s last event. Written informed consent and demographic details were obtained from all volunteers. At this point individual swimmers were allocated a unique identification number. Qualified experienced phlebotomists and medical staff took blood. 

Sampling took place on all days of the Championships at both the morning and evening sessions. 

3. Sampling procedures:

10 millilitres blood were taken from each volunteer. The blood was allowed to clot and spun down. The serum was then separated and aliquoted in preparation for laboratory analysis. The serum samples were then frozen on dry ice and remained frozen until analysis. All samples were labelled corresponding to the number on the demographic details.

Blood samples and demographic details were taken from 131 athletes (62 male, 69 female) from 27 nations.

4. Results

The samples were flown back to the UK and then sent to Sweden and Australia for analysis in specialised laboratories for measurement of 8 Growth Hormone related markers. 

The results were then sent for detailed statistical analysis to our colleagues at the University of Kent who already have a substantial amount of data available from a large cross section of comparable international athletes, collected as part of the GH-2000 cross-sectional study (XS). This study has given GH-2000 scientists a clear indication of the distribution of the 8 blood markers amongst international athletes, as well as substantial information about the relationships between different markers, and the influence of factors such as age. The gender breakdown of the athletes sampled in the two studies is shown below; here, and later, the cross-sectional data are denoted by XS and the Hong Kong championship data by HK.

M 62 477 539
F 69 207 276
All 131 684 815

All analyses were conducted for males and females separately. There were 8 blood markers used
in the study. 

Results from a Double-blind trial also conducted as part of the GH-2000 project indicate that, in general, high values for each of these markers can be regarded as an indication of doping. Internal analysis of the XS data collected for the GH-2000 project suggest that all the (volunteer) international athletes were ‘clean’, in that there were no results which would be regarded statistically as ‘outliers’. In the present context, therefore, the aim of the comparative analysis of the HK and XS data is to determine whether any of the HK marker values (individually or in combination) could be viewed as unusually high.

5. Distribution of individual markers

For each of the 8 individual blood markers, and for males and females separately, the distribution of the HK data was compared with that of the XS data. In almost all cases, the range of XS values included that of the HK values. In particular, there were no HK values substantially exceeding the upper XS values, which would be an indication of doping. 

6. Dependence of markers on age

Plots of values of individual blood markers against age were undertaken for the Cross-Sectional study. These showed clearly that some of them are highly dependent on an athlete’s age. Swimmers are generally much younger than athletes participating in some other sports; the average age for the HK data was nearly 5 years less than that for the XS data. A fair assessment of the markers needs to take age into account. We undertake this assessment in section 8 below.

7. Combinations of markers

In the main GH-2000 report, it was found that discrimination between (volunteer) subjects given growth hormone and those given a placebo was enhanced if combinations of markers were used rather than just individual markers. In particular, a combination denoted by EM1 was found to be particularly efficient for males, and a combination EF3 for females. In most respects, these combinations can be analysed just as if they were individual markers, and boxplots and histograms for them can be constructed. We have done this for the HK and XS data, and the results again show that, in general, the range of EM1 and EF3 values for the XS data includes that for the HK data. This suggests again that there is no evidence of doping amongst any of the swimmers who volunteered blood samples.

In section 6 we indicated that the distributions of some of the blood markers vary with an athlete’s age. The same holds true for EM1 and EF3. To correct for this, we again need to take an athlete’s age into account when assessing the evidence provided by the levels of these combinations about the possibility of doping.

8. Age-adjusted comparisons

It has proved quite straightforward to adjust the EM1 and EF3 values to remove the dependence of these combinations on age. The age-adjusted versions have been named EM1b and EF3b. These versions of the combinations have been standardised statistically in such a way that, for the international athletes tested in the XS trial within the GH-2000 project, they both have mean 0 and standard deviation 1. In addition, it turns out that the distributions are closely approximated by normal distributions, and it is clear from the double-blind GH-2000 trial (see section 4) that high (i.e. large, positive) values are to be regarded as indicative of GH doping.

Boxplots and histograms for EM1b (males) and EF3b (females) for the XS trial and the HK data are shown in Figure 1 and Figure 2 respectively. Basic descriptive information is also given in Table 1 below. It is very clear that none of the volunteers from the HK championships has a suspiciously high value of EM1b or EF3b. Indeed, almost all the values lie very well within the usual range for standardised normally distributed values. For males, the minimum value was -1.808 and the maximum was 1.792; for females the minimum was -2.889 and the maximum was 1.857.

9. Conclusion

We conclude that there is no evidence to suggest that any of the volunteers tested at the World Swimming Championships had been taking artificial growth hormone.

Table 1: Summary information for the Cross-Sectional study (XS) and the

World Swimming Championships (HK)

Source of Sample Mean Standard Minimum Maximum

data size Deviation value value

MALES (Variable EM1b)

Hong Kong data 61 -0.188 0.856 -1.808 1.792

GH Cross-sectional 471 0.000 1.000 -4.904 2.667

FEMALES (Variable EF3b)

Hong Kong data 69 -0.178 0.951 -2.889 1.857

GH Cross-sectional 206 0.000 1.000 -2.471 2.670

Figure 1

Comparison between XS and HK

Dotplots and boxplots for males


Figure 2

Comparison between XS and HK

Dotplots and boxplots for females



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