Each Olympics, there is a race between athletes seeking an artificial advantage and the antidoping experts trying to catch them. At the Winter Olympics in Sochi, a new chemical may be in the mix. Mario Thevis, a forensic chemist at the German Sport University Cologne, tested a substance obtained by German journalists during an undercover investigation of a Russian scientist selling "full size MGF" for $1000 per milligram. Thevis confirmed the sample contained mechano growth factor (MGF), which can prompt muscle growth and is undetectable by current testing methods.Never heard of it before. For those who don't think milligrams, that's a million dollars a gram, or roughly 20 million dollars per gram. Pretty expensive for a Gold Medal.
Q:What is the substance you found in the sample?Which, we therefore presume means that MGF helps the body build up in response to exercise and training. Sounds like it could be a big help if it were used judicially. What's the chance of that?
M.T.:The closest way to describe it is human IGF-1 isoform 4. The mRNA of isoform 4 is elevated when mechanical stress is applied to muscle tissue. We could deduce that we were dealing with a highly pure and therefore probably highly dangerous substance.
Q:What might the side effects be?If it has side effects, we don't know them. OK, so how do we know who's using it?
M.T.:We don't know. It could cause any of the side effects associated with IGF-1, such as cardiovascular issues. Some of the growth factors also have cancer-causing effects. We can't prove or rule out any of these.
Q:Now that you know this might be in circulation among athletes, why can't you test for it right away?
M.T.:Practically we can, but we have to demonstrate that our test is fit for the purpose. We have to evaluate whether our detection limits are in the range for physiological or therapeutic amounts, even though we have no idea how much that would be.
Extended interview at http://scim.ag/_sochi.