Viagra

 
By Carrie Johnson Weimar • Published: February 24th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat
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Viagra is typically used by men who need a little boost to help them perform in the bedroom. But now athletes may be using the drug to enhance performance of a different sort… on the playing field… and that has anti-doping agents worried.

Scientists fear that elite athletes have started using the erectile dysfunction drug to help dilate blood vessels and increase oxygen-carrying capacity. This could give them an unfair advantage over other competitors.

Sound far-fetched? Viagra was actually developed to treat high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs by suppressing an enzyme that controls blood flow. This allows vessels to relax and widen. This process helps facilitate blood circulation, helping impotent men and top-level athletes alike.

The drug could help athletes competing in high altitudes feel as though they are at or near sea level. In fact, a study of climbers at a Mount Everest base camp more than seventeen-thousand feet above sea level found that Viagra greatly enhanced performance capacity.

While the use of the drug is not believed to be widespread yet, word spread that it was being fed to dogs at racetracks several years ago. And a cyclist was kicked out of the Tour of Italy last year when Viagra pills were found in his father’s car, along with syringes and other doping equipment.

Several agencies are studying the effect Viagra may have on athletes. Some scientists predict the little diamond-shaped pill may eventually be added to the list of banned substances.