After seven years' work a team at Southampton University have developed a test for human growth hormPICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE A significant step in the fight against doping will be revealed on Wednesday evening's Channel 4 news in the United Kingdom when a team from Southampton University announces that it has developed a test for the banned drug human growth hormone (HGH). The new test will be used for the first time at the Athens Olympics next month. Although banned by the International Olympic Committee since 1989, it has been difficult to develop a test for HGH because it is produced naturally in the body. However, the team at Southampton, which has been working on the project since 1997, has achieved its goal. According to a report in this morning's Guardian, tests for HGH will go through two phases. Urine and blood samples will be taken from randomly selected athletes within an hour of their event finishing, with an initial analysis being undertaken at the Olympic anti-doping laboratory in Athens that will reveal whether HGH has been used within the previous 36 hours. Samples will then be flown to the UK where a second batch of tests will be carried out to assess whether HGH has been in an athlete's system up to 84 days before the Olympics take place. HGH stimulates the growth of muscles and bones and is believed to be one of the most widely-used of doping products. Although its short-term effects may be seen as beneficial by athletes, in the longer term it can lead to enlargement of the major organs and of the bones in the head, feet and hands. Mental disorders and premature death have been associated with the use of a product that was initially developed to treat children with stunted growth.