Athletes use Viagra to gain an edge | india | Hindustan Times
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Athletes use Viagra to gain an edge

The World Anti-Doping Agency is currently studying Viagra’s effects in athletes, but hasn’t yet banned it, while preliminary studies show that cyclists taking Viagra improved performances by up to 40 per cent.

india Updated: Jun 28, 2008 00:02 IST

Athletes looking for a performance boost are increasingly turning to a little blue pill more usually taken for its off-the-field benefits: Viagra.

Some sports authorities say the drug is now finding a following among athletes. The World Anti-Doping Agency is currently studying Viagra’s effects in athletes, but hasn’t yet banned it. Experts are divided over whether it actually offers athletes an edge. “It’s possible,” said Anthony Butch, director of the Olympic Analytical laboratory at the University of California Los Angeles, a WADA-accredited facility.

Viagra, also known as sildenafil, was originally developed as a heart drug; its use as a treatment for erectile dysfunction was only accidentally discovered. The drug works by increasing the effects of nitric oxide, which makes blood vessels expand.

That should theoretically allow blood cells to travel to the lungs more efficiently and to also receive more oxygen. It may also improve heart function.

Preliminary studies show that cyclists taking Viagra improved performances by up to 40 per cent. “If you have more oxygen going to your muscles, that’s more energy and that makes you a better athlete,” said Dr Andrew McCullough, a sexual health expert at New York University School of Medicine. “Even if it only gives you a 10 per cent increase, in peak athletes, that is enough to win,” he said. McCullough said Viagra is only likely to help athletes like runners, cyclists or skiers _ sports where endurance and speed is the key.

If Viagra does give athletes an unfair advantage, they will be able to take it at the Beijing Olympics without worry, since it is not on the prohibited list of medicines.