Human chorionic gonadotrophin and sport.
Human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) is a glycoprotein hormone which is produced in large amounts during pregnancy and also by certain types of tumour. The biological action of hCG is identical to that of luteinizing hormone, although the former has a much longer plasma half-life. Some male athletes use pharmaceutical preparations of hCG to stimulate testosterone production before competition and/or to prevent testicular shutdown and atrophy during and after prolonged courses of androgen administration. Testosterone administration can be detected by measuring the ratio of concentrations of testosterone to epitestosterone (T/E). An athlete is often considered to have failed a drug test if the urinary T/E ratio is greater than 6. In contrast, hCG administration stimulates the endogenous production of both testosterone and epitestosterone without increasing the urinary T/E ratio above normal values. Although the administration of hCG was banned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1987, no definitive test for hCG has been approved by the IOC. Currently, the only way of measuring small concentrations of hCG is by immunoassay, and this does not have a discriminating power as great as gas-liquid chromatography with mass-spectrometry which is necessary to satisfy IOC requirements. Extraction procedures and chromatographic steps could be introduced before using a selected immunoassay for hCG to meet these requirements.