Sports

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Susan Walsh/AP
Former New York Yankees baseball pitcher Roger Clemens is sworn-in on Capitol Hill in
Washington, in this Feb. 13, 2008 file photo, prior to testifying before the House
Oversight, and Government Reform committee hearing on drug use in baseball. (AP)

Does Viagra Enhance Athletic Performance?

June 13, 2008 02:27 PM
by Denis Cummings
A report reveals that Roger Clemens and other baseball players have used Viagra, which has been shown to improve athletic performance at high altitudes.

30-Second Summary

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According to a report in the New York Daily News, sildenafil—the generic name for the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra—is used by a large number of baseballs players as an on-field performance-enhancer.

Sildenafil has been shown to help athletes performing in high-altitude settings where a lack of oxygen can trigger increased blood pressure. Sildenafil relaxes blood vessels in the lungs and combats hypertension.

For athletes who perform lengthy, aerobic exercise in high-altitude environments—such as cyclists, mountain climbers or marathon runners—the drug can be very valuable. Cyclist Andrea Moletta was recently suspended for possessing a large number of Viagra pills.

The advantage for baseball players is less clear. They do not play in very high altitudes and their sport requires very little aerobic exercise. Studies have shown that sildenafil offers little to no performance improvement at sea level or combined with other performance-enhancing drugs.

Nonetheless, Balco founder Victor Conte—who provided PEDs to athletes like Marion Jones, Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi—says all his athletes used sildenafil. “It’s bigger than creatine,” he said. “It’s the biggest product in nutritional supplements.”

The prevalence of sildenafil use has spurred the World Anti-Doping Agency, which oversees the Olympic Games, to investigate whether the drug should be banned. The agency has funded two-year study into the advantages of sildenafil.

Thus far, the study has shown that sildenafil has limited benefits. “It doesn’t look like an across-the-board enhancer,” says researcher Kevin Jacobs, “It’s probably not the magic pill athletes are looking for.”

Headline Link: Clemens ‘took little blue pills’

Background: Viagra as a performance-enhancer

Opinion & Analysis: Does Viagra help baseball players?

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