Sunday, May 20, 2007

How do you define "Drugs in Sports"

What a difference a year makes ... Floyd Landis triumphant, Floyd Landis angry and despairing.

What with baseball records about to be broken, and other sports sitting on similarly explosive stories (Operation Puerto has so far affected cyclists - rumor has it many, many other sports are involved), the whole topic of sports and drugs is in the news.

Blogs on various news sites are filled with screaming angry offerings that can't even spell liar (lier) ... in a kind of knee jerk progression: drugs...eek...bad...kill.

Few seem to remember that the whole idea of not "using drugs" in cycling began out of a simple concern that cyclists not die on route. English cyclist Tommy Simpson died of exhaustion on a hill in the Tour de France in 1967 because he had too much amphetamine and alcohol and too little water in his system.

Now the use of almost anything is called "doping" so it all sounds like the "war on drugs". Ooooo, bad.

Actually, re Operation Puerto, which appears to involve cyclists making autologous blood donations (their own), only to have their red blood cells infused back into them before a race, allowing more oxygen to be processed more quickly by their bodies, well, guys, face it -- there is really very little if any difference between this and training for six months at 10,000 feet, which you do because living at altitude where the air has less oxygen makes your own body make more blood cells of your own. That's how I used to ace my exams when I was at University in Switzerland, for heck's sake. Up to the top of the Jungfraujoch (14,700 feet or whatever) to study for the last two or three weeks, then down just in time to take the exams. A whole bunch of us did that, and our brains were fizzing ... straight alphas (A's).

Should an athlete who can not afford six months of training at high altitude (leaving their day job, extra rent and expenses) be prevented from achieving the same effect using their own blood?

Do women athletes still take the birth control pill in order to control their menstrual cycles (if they still have them, some severe training stops the whole business of course) for big sporting events like they used to? Does testosterone gel to recover after an event actually cause any danger to athletes? Careful science now goes into everything a cyclist eats or drinks for maximum energy output. Isn't that an unlevel playing field - if your team doesn't have the money for that much science? Should all sports people have to eat exactly the same things in the same quantities all the year round or be disqualified? Stupid, eh? But what about the negative health effects of all that protein powder?

I tell you, just calling it "doping, shock, horror", may have cost us our ability to think!!

Instead of a little club of pale males in suits, who create races and make money from them, setting down the law for everyone else, what about a true drugging policy for sports men and women created by those actually playing in those sports, specialist sports doctors, and other medical experts, focussed on what will help, and what might harm, athletes. Radical, I know, but isn't it about time?

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