|Can doping with Viagra give athletes an edge? (HO) |
Last week, U.S. football player Brandon Marshall of the Chicago Bears caused a stir when he told the Chicago Tribune that some National Football League players are taking Viagra to boost performance. While athletes have reportedly been popping the little blue pill for years to boost their athleticism, does it help?
Maybe, but no one knows for sure -- at least that's what experts are buzzing about in the media. Viagra works to improve erections by relaxing muscles and opening arteries to improve blood flow. Two parts of the body benefit from this: the penis, or course, but also the lungs, reports LiveScience. At least theoretically Viagra could also boost endurance during competition, similar to the way altitude training is thought to improve oxygen flow, adds Popular Science.
"While studies have not found a link between Viagra and athletic performance at sea level, other studies suggest Viagra improves results at a high altitude, like 6,000 feet (1,828 metres) or above, which would make it more attractive to high-climbing mountaineers and cross-country skiers," adds Popular Science.
So if Viagra would help Everest climbers, will it do anything for someone at sea level? Probably not, Kevin Jacobs of the University of Miami's department of kinesiology and sports sciences told LiveScience. His research attempted to replicate Stanford University's study published in 2006 that found the active ingredient in Viagra, sildenafil, enhanced the performance of some cyclists pedalling in simulated high-altitude conditions.
"We tested close to 60 trained men and women across our two studies and found no clear benefits at altitudes ranging from 2,100 to 3,900 meters [6,890 to 12,795 feet] simulated altitude," Jacobs wrote to LiveScience. "It appears from previous work that sildenafil has more consistent benefits at very high altitudes, above 4,300 meters [14,100 feet]."
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