Sunday, November 23, 2008

"Playing Sports With A Hard On" - Viagra Used As A Doping Agent



They may have to redesign the athletic supporter if this keeps up.
The cheerleaders had better watch themselves as well.

AJC: New suspect in sports doping is, no joke, Viagra

Except that the Marywood study does not involve the bedroom, but the playing field. It is being financed by the World Anti-Doping Agency, which is investigating whether the diamond-shaped blue pills create an unfair competitive advantage in dilating an athlete’s blood vessels and unduly increasing oxygen-carrying capacity. If so, the agency could ban the drug.

Viagra, or sildenafil citrate, was devised to treat pulmonary hypertension, or high blood pressure in arteries of the lungs. The drug works by suppressing an enzyme that controls blood flow, allowing the vessels to relax and widen. The same mechanism facilitates blood flow into the penis of impotent men. In the case of athletes, increased cardiac output and more efficient transport of oxygenated fuel to the muscles can enhance endurance.

“Basically, it allows you to compete with a sea level, or near sea level, aerobic capacity at altitude,” Kenneth W. Rundell, the director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Marywood, said of Viagra.

Some experts are more skeptical. Anthony Butch, the director of the Olympic drug-testing lab at UCLA, said it would be “extremely difficult, if not impossible” to prove Viagra provides a competitive edge, given that the differences in performance would be slight and that athletes would probably take it in combination with other drugs. Scientists have the same uncertainty about the performance-enhancing effects of human growth hormone, though it is banned. But some athletes do not need proof — only a belief — that a drug works before using it, Butch said.

“I think it’s going to be a problem,” he said.

Through the decades, athletes have tried everything from strychnine to bulls’ testicles to veterinary steroids in a desperate, and frequently illicit, effort to gain an edge. Several years ago, word spread that Viagra was being given to dogs at racetracks, said Travis Tygart, the chief executive of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, based in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Interest in the drug among anti-doping experts was further piqued by a study conducted at Stanford University and published in 2006 in The Journal of Applied Physiology. The study indicated that some participants taking Viagra improved their performances by nearly 40 percent in 10-kilometer cycling time trials conducted at a simulated altitude of 12,700 feet — a height far above general elite athletic competition. Viagra did not significantly enhance performance at sea level, where blood vessels are fully dilated in healthy athletes.

A 2004 German study of climbers at 17,200 feet at a Mount Everest base camp, published in The Annals of Internal Medicine, found that Viagra relieved constriction of blood vessels in the lungs and increased maximum exercise capacity.

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