Is This Really the Best Allocation of Resources?

NY Times:

A test similar to one used in cancer treatments has antidoping officials encouraged that they have found a new, and important, way to catch athletes using human growth hormone.

The test uses the same science that detects bone and breast cancer. A laboratory technician takes several milliliters of blood and spins the sample in a centrifuge. The blood is then mixed with chemicals, a reaction occurs and an instrument is used to measure the illumination in the blood.

The intensity of the light, antidoping experts say, signals whether the person has used H.G.H. over the past 10 to 14 days. The procedure is known as the biomarkers test.

So, all that equipment and labor that is extremely scarce can now be put to work catching athletes dumb enough to use a substance that doesn’t enhance performance instead of aiding cancer victims. Nice tradeoff.

I also found this quote telling (all science quotes were from anti-doping authorities, BTW).

“H.G.H. has been used with great impunity since the 1970s,” Howman said. “It’s very available to athletes. They use it freely, and they usually don’t use things that can’t help them.”

1) Synthetic growth hormone was not developed until the 1980s.
2) Players use placebos like titanium necklaces, corked bats, and superstitions quite frequently.

11 Responses “Is This Really the Best Allocation of Resources?”

  1. realitypolice says:

    “So, all that equipment and labor that is extremely scarce can now be put to work catching athletes dumb enough to use a substance that doesn’t enhance performance instead of aiding cancer victims. Nice tradeoff. ”

    You’re certain the equipment’s scarce? You’re certain that the relatively low-level lab techs who do the actual centrifuge work don’t have down time?

    Even if you do assume both those things – something you probably shouldn’t – then wouldn’t adding a new (and lucrative) marketplace for the equipment result in more manufacturers developing and selling that equipment? And what did your econ 101 prof tell you would happen to pricing when more suppliers enter the marketplace?

  2. BenS says:

    Centrifuges and photometers, which is what it sounds like this test uses, are not rare equipment. What evidence do you have that this will impact testing for cancer?

  3. JC says:

    I’m pretty sure these tests are expensive.

  4. jpdtrmpt72 says:

    just to agree with what the other guys said already, in Bio class at my high school we used photometers and centrifuges. I’m sure they weren’t as high quality as the ones used for testing, but still, we had like 5 photometers and 2 centrifuges. Its not like its rare equipment.

    *just a quick change, i think that its probaly a spectrometer. photometers are the things photogrophers use to test lighting in an area.)

  5. Peter says:

    So the question of the day is, what’s more effective: the titanium necklace, the magnetic copper bracelet, or HGH?

    Trick question. They’re all useless.

  6. Tyler says:

    I love how corked bats were tested, and they actually are a detriment to the hitter

  7. BenS says:

    Even if the tests are expensive, how does WADA, MLB, or whoever spending their own money affect cancer patients? It’s not like there’s a finite amount of money that can be spend on this type of test. If anything, prices tend to go down with more volume.

  8. Larry says:

    JC, HGH was available before the 1980s. They used to get it from the pituitary glands of cadavers. I’m still trying to figure out how the new test works — actually, this appears to be an old test developed more than 10 years ago. The connection between the test and cancer treatment appears to be tenuous at best — I think that the testers threw in the stuff about cancer to make the test seem impressive and hi-tech. As for the cost of the test, again I can’t say, but the budgets for drug tests in most sports are limited. Based on what I’ve seen, the cost of anti-doping testing is usually in the $100 – $300 range per test.

  9. Jake Russ says:

    JC,

    Don’t you know demand creates its own supply? (sic)

    BenS & Realitypolice are right this is a (long run) win for cancer patients. Now suppliers will make more machines!

  10. JC says:

    Pre-synthetic growth hormone was so expensive that I think it is highly unlikely that any athlete considered using it. The synthetic stuff is expensive enough.

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  1. [...] J.C. Bradbury ridicules a new HGH test so I don’t have to: So, all that equipment and labor that is extremely scarce can now be put to work catching athletes dumb enough to use a substance that doesn’t enhance performance instead of aiding cancer victims. Nice tradeoff. [...]