A quantitative approach for assessing significant improvements in elite sprint performance: Has IGF-1 entered the arena?


Correspondence to: Perikles Simon, MD, PhD, Head of the Department of Sports Medicine, Faculty of Social Science, Media and Sports, Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz, Albert-Schweitzer Str. 22, 55128 Mainz, Germany. E-mail: simonpe@uni-mainz.de


The introduction of doping substances and methods in sports triggers noticeable effects on physical performance in metric sports. Here, we use time series analysis to investigate the recent development in male and female elite sprinting performance.

Time series displaying the average of the world's top 20 athletes were analyzed employing polynomial spline functions and moving averages. Outstanding changes in performance over time were statistically analyzed by Welch's t-test and by Cohen's measurements of effect. For validation we exemplarily show that our analysis is capable of indicating the effect of the introduction of in- and out-of-competition doping testing on women's shot put as well as the effects of the market introduction of erythropoietin (EPO) and the introduction of EPO and continuous erythropoiesis receptor activator (CERA) testing on 5000 m top 20 male performances.

Time series analysis for 100 m men reveals a highly significant (p < 0.001) drop by more than 0.1 s from 2006 to 2011 with a large effect size of 0.952. This is roughly half of the effect size that can be found for the development of the 5000 m performance during the introduction of EPO between 1991 and 1996. While the men's 200 m sprinting performance shows a similar development, the women's 100 m and 200 m sprinting performances only show some minor abnormalities.

We will discuss here why the striking sex-specific improvement in sprinting performance is indicative for a novel, very effective doping procedure with insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) being the primary candidate explaining the observed effects. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.