performance enhancing drugs

Performance Enhancing Drugs

Can the governing bodies of sport ever win their hard-fought campaign to stamp out the illegal use of performance enhancing drugs? Or are they condemned to stand Canute-like on the shore in a fruitless attempt to resist the onslaught of smarter and ever-less-detectable substances?

There are no easy yes/no answers to these questions. The debate is ongoing and fiercely heated, as illustrated in this issue. Starting on page 4, we present an abridged version of a provocative leading article, recently published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. In it, Professor J Savulescu, chair of Practical Ethics at Oxford University, argues that, as technology advances, drugs are becoming harder to detect, making it ever more likely that athletes will cheat – because they can get away with cheating.

However, Savulescu has no problem with this because, in his view, taking performance enhancing drugs is not cheating to start with but merely utilising the human capacity for self-improvement and ‘removing the effects of genetic inequality’.

This being a debate, we didn’t want to present just one side. And so on page 6, Professor Ron Maughan, a man passionately committed to ‘cleaning up’ sport, hits back with the opposing view. Of a number of telling points he makes, the most powerful is that performance enhancing drugs are safe only in retrospect. ‘By the time the health effects – the cancers, liver damage, coronary abnormalities etc – are detectable, they are irreversible.’

This is one issue that won’t go away and doubtless we will be returning to it in future. Meanwhile, there is plenty of other meat in this issue for athletes concerned with more practical matters. On page 1, John Shepherd homes in on power combination workouts, recommended on account of the so-called ‘potentiation effect’ of one training mode on another. And there are some useful take-home messages for power athletes.

Elsewhere, James Marshall revisits the topic of ‘prehabilitation’ – the new buzzword for exercises designed to precondition your muscles in a sport specific fashion. Starting on page 8, he offers readers a choice of three detailed programmes to be incorporated into off-season training, to prepare you for pre-season and ensure your readiness for the season itself. With one programme designed for throwing/striking/swinging sports, a second for strengthening the knee and the third for enhancing local muscular endurance for running activities, this article really does offer something for everyone.

Isabel Walker


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