Winning By Cheating

This news is nothing new in the world of sports, but it is refreshing to read about an scientifically rigorous, peer-review study that was recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine about the very significant advantages that athletes have who illegally use drugs to improve their athletic performance.

In a study that was funded by the World Anti-Doping Agency, which is responsible for testing athletes around the world, Dr. Kenneth Ho of St. Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney and his fellow researchers found that human growth hormones improved the sprint capacity in men and women by an average of 3.9%. A 3.9% improvement translates to a 0.4 second improvement from a 10-second 100-meter dash or a 1.2-second drop from a 30-second time in a 50-meter swim. These improvements are easily enough to enable the eight-place finisher to win the Olympic gold medal.

Even less surprisingly, but more dramatically, when male athletes take both growth hormones and testosterone, the study found that the increase in sprint capacity was an average of an astonishing 8.3%.

Human growth hormones reduced body fat and increased the athlete’s lean body mass. After testing 96 recreationally trained athletes with an average age of 27 for 8 weeks, the results were clear evidence of the advantages received by athletes. But the findings appeared to only be the tip of the iceberg.

We think the real effects of growth hormones are, or could be, far greater than what is reported in our paper. Equally, the side effects could be much more serious,” said Dr. Ho.

It’s concerning that athletes could take levels low enough to improve performance, but that can escape detection,” said Dr. Gary Wadler, professor of medicine at New York University. “[Low levels] would not result in a positive urine test.”

While the results of the study were depressing for all those athletes and coaches who compete legally, it was refreshing to hear from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency representatives that the sport of swimming is one of the cleanest sports in the world. Representatives said that the real impediment is the moral character of the athletes themselves who train hard and compete fairly according to the highest ideals of the sport.

Copyright © 2010 by Steven Munatones