Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Doping, sport, society – two good papers

Posted by Dave Bath on 2008-05-27

Two new papers from the Nature publishing group (in British Journal of Pharmacology), a special issue on drugs in sport, are freely available (although I don’t know for how long).  One is an overview of anabolic steroids (doi:10.1038/bjp.2008.165 as html or pdf).

The other is more interesting, written by olympic medal-winning marathon runner and his pharmacologist brother (oh dear, Spedding and Spedding are the surnames, lets hope the olympian has sped and the pharmacologist doesn’t speed!) : "Drugs in sport: a scientist–athlete’s perspective: from ambition to neurochemistry" (doi:10.1038/bjp.2008.163 as html and pdf).

As outlined in the introduction the authors "wish to contrast the scientific evidence with personal experience and in consequence this is a rather atypical article for the British Journal of Pharmacology and is at the interface of sports and science writing." and then goes on to say the main downside of doping is sociological, "with the risk that children are not encouraged to participate, with consequent major health risks for society".

Well worth a look, especially with the Olympics coming up and the inevitable discussion about doping and sport.

"Bottom line" and Abstract over the fold:

Here is the last paragraph:

Thus, doping devalues sport, and exercise.  As humans are starting to reach the limits of ‘normal’ athletic performance, competition to reach the very top becomes more and more difficult.  However, the old values, and health benefits, of doing sport for pleasure at a ‘local’ level remain valid.  Schools and families need to reinforce the importance of exercise to children and young adults, because it is not only their physical health which is at risk (particularly because of obesity), but exercise and physical play appear to be critically important for brain development.

And here is the abstract:

This article, by the United Kingdom’s last Olympic Marathon Medal winner, Charlie Spedding, and his brother, the pharmacologist, Michael Spedding, covers the difficulties posed by the availability of powerful drugs to ameliorate athletic performance, from an athlete’s perspective, particularly in view of the fact that performances are becoming highly optimised with less margin for further physiological improvement.  The authors have had long athletic careers and argue that doping not only devalues performance but sport, and exercise, as a whole.  Furthermore, the neurotrophic and metabolic changes involved in exercise and training, which can be modified by drugs, are central to health and reflect a part of the epidemic in obesity.


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