ANTI-AGEING clinics have been directly linked to widespread doping in the sporting community, with some identified as having links to organised-crime identities.
The revelation was made in the Australian Crime Commission's report on a 12-month investigation into the integrity of Australian sport, which found the anti-ageing market had expanded significantly in recent years.
The report says anti-ageing clinics were selling a wide range of performance and image-enhancing drugs. Some clinics were a ''major source'', able to supply pharmaceutical quality drugs banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency directly to athletes, in some cases without a prescription.
''In many cases, anti-ageing clinics are marketing their services directly to athletes by offering services such as hormone profiling and hormone-based training regimes to enhance athletic performance,'' the report says.
Dr Robin Willcourt, from Melbourne anti-ageing clinic Epigenx Integrated Medicine, defended the industry.
''I think probably most people are really very professional … You'll find that anti-ageing people are very committed to trying to get people healthy in the best natural way possible,'' he said.
''You've got the occasional idiot who comes in and wants to fill himself up with bucketloads of growth hormone and testosterone because they want to look like Mr Ape, but they're not your typical person.''
Melbourne health supplement suppliers confirmed that peptide and colostrum products were becoming increasingly popular.
A spokeswoman for the Medical Board of Australia said anyone concerned about treatments provided by a medical practitioner should bring it to the board's attention.
Arta Brown, from 365Supps in Port Melbourne, said performance and image-enhancing drugs were popular among men and women in their 30s and 40s who had regular training and exercise programs.
Athletes and bodybuilders had previously been identified by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority as using anti-ageing clinics to acquire testosterone, HGH and anabolic steroids, the commission's report says.
But the report says doctors play a part in helping athletes.
''As many of these substances - such as testosterone and HGH - require a prescription from a medical practitioner, complicit doctors have been identified providing prescriptions to clients of anti-ageing clinics, even if there is no medical reason for the prescribing of these substances and they have had no contact with the patient or access to their medical records,'' it says.
In May 2009, an investigation by Fairfax Media in Melbourne found that the illicit trade in human growth hormone had moved to anti-ageing clinics.
Middle-aged men in particular were increasingly injecting human growth hormone in a bid to fight old age, spending up to $15,000 a year.
Government guidelines say human growth hormone should be prescribed only to children with growth disorders and adults with severe hormone deficiencies. But the Fairfax investigation found many anti-ageing clinics in Melbourne's wealthier suburbs were flouting regulations by prescribing human growth hormone drugs to people as young as 35 who want to look good, stay fit and boost their sex lives.
with Kate Hagan and Rachel Wells