May 04, 2010
Growth Hormone Boosts Sprinting Speed

Growth hormone if you have the need for speed.

Injections of human growth hormone can improve sprint capacity enough to turn the last-place finisher in the Olympic 100-meter dash into a gold-medal winner, according to a study released Monday.

So says the LA Times. But no. The study participants were not fit enough to equal the last place finish in the Olympics.

The eight-week study, one of the most rigorous examinations of growth hormone and athletic performance to date, involved 96 healthy, recreationally trained athletes with an average age of 27.

The incorrect assumption of the reporter is that growth hormone will boost the performance of everyone equally. But the biological differences that separate top Olympic performers from each other might be very different in character than the biological differences that separate them from everyone else.

A study that measured performance boost from growth hormone in subjects with a wider starting range of abilities would tell us more about whether growth hormone level is a performance-limiting factor over the full range of human ability. Maybe it is. Maybe its not. If the last place and first place Olympics 100-meter dash runners took growth hormone would the gap between them narrow or widen or stay the same? It would be interesting to know.

What I'm really curious to know: Do genetic differences determine a substantial amount of the relative rankings of top athletics in major competitions like the Olympics? If so, then in the future surreptitious acquisition of genetic samples of top Olympic athletes could provide a big advantage in betting on competitions. Also, an athlete that wins with less than the best genetic profile will raise red flags with athletic competition officials to look for signs of doping.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 May 04 12:20 AM  Biotech Athletics

Dyspeptic Curmudgeon said at May 11, 2010 6:28 AM:

"Do genetic differences determine a substantial amount of the relative rankings of top athletics in major competitions like the Olympics?"

Wow! It's a damn good thing you didn't write this in an email to your classmates at that hive of intellectual diversity and knowledge-seeking called Harvard Law School. You would end up starring in your own struggle session, crying out your penance for your deviance from the right-thinking path. Oh wait! That's what happens to people who inhabit a teleological world, where since the end is 'right' then everything must fit that framework. Facts be damned.

Of course genetic differences make a difference. Duh! We just don't know exactly where those genetic differences lie in the genome, or exactly how they are expressed, but it's damn sure that for example Kenyans and Ethiopeans have a genetic predisposition which leads them to excel in long distance running. But of course, it would be too much to expect that an intellectual, the dean of Harvard Law School, would actually deign to recognize mere facts such as these. Exactly how much difference? Very hard to tell, except to note that events like the Olympic Marathon (and the other major marathons) represent a filtering mechanism for determining the finest. And statistically improbable groupings of particular ethnic backgrounds in those results means a lot.

And why should it be any different with intelligence than with oxygen uptake and lactic acid tolerance? It isn't. Of course, that gives those of a certain mind-set a massive headache from the cognitive dissonance involved!

And yes, genetic differences do determine a substantial amount of the relative distribution of top mathematicians and scientists in major universities like Harvard. If you wish to know the truth of this proposition, ask Larry Summer! (And you will get to watch him scuttle away like you had active Ebola!)

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