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Saturday 13, Sep 2008

  Boosting and steroids – IPC is busy keeping an eye on violators

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Cheats will always find ways to gain unfair advantage. So far, four athletes have been tested positive for steroids and other banned compounds at the Beijing Paralympics but it looks like the International Paralympic Committee has one more problem to contend with other than the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Read on to know more about this other problem.

Athletes without disabilities have only steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs to use to gain competitive edge. Paraplegic athletes can go through two avenues – chemicals or voluntary autonomic dysreflexia, otherwise known as boosting. Reuters reports on this almost macabre method:

Self-flagellation, mutilation, bladder constriction — welcome to the world of the Paralympic cheat who reaches for a belt or a sharp object rather than a banned substance to gain an edge in elite competition.

The grisly practice of voluntary autonomic dysreflexia — commonly known as boosting — involves disabled athletes beating, stabbing and strapping parts of the body to provoke an adrenalin rush that might improve their performance by up to 25 percent, or failing that, kill them.

“We are talking about headaches, gooseflesh, brain damage, arterial disruption…there have even been cases of athletes passing away,” said Peter Van de Vliet, medical and scientific director of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).

While generally not regarded as a widespread problem, adherents were found in all sports that catered to athletes whose disabilities precluded a circular central nervous response, said Van de Vliet, such as those with spinal cord injuries.

In essence, athletes who could harm parts of their bodies without feeling pain.

“Typically athletes can induce this through strapping or clamping the bladder or sitting on something sharp because we know that pain stimuli can induce a similar reaction on the…nervous system.

“We find these athletes in table tennis in severe (disability) classes, swimming, in wheelchair racing, they are in cycling.”

The IPC is on the lookout of this illicit practice since it provides unfair advantage as well as health risks to athletes. However, testing for it is proving to be more problematic compared to conventional doping cases, such as the use of anabolic steroids. One way to test for boosting is through high blood pressure readings and IPC officials know they still need to find other testing methods to detect violators.

Autonomic dysreflexia occurs when the blood pressure of an individual with a spinal cord injury becomes excessively high due to the overactivity of Autonomic Nervous System. The overactivity may be caused by painful stimuli, such as those mentioned in the article above. The most common symptoms of this condition are sweating, pounding headache, tingling sensation on the face and neck, blotchy skin around the neck and goose bumps. However, these symptoms may not appear simultaneously and their severity varies.

The Reuters article says that money could be the motivating factor for athletes to commit this act as financial incentives, in the form of government funding and corporate sponsorships, await triumphant athletes.

“There are certainly more incentives for Paralympic athletes these days,” said Canadian Sarah Hunter, a professional wheelchair tennis player. Hunter has been tested at least 10 times this year. “The stakes are definitely higher,” Hunter added.

Saturday 13, Sep 2008

  Two more failed steroid tests at Beijing Paralympics

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As promised, we’ll keep you posted on the ongoing Paralympic Games in Beijing. So far, we’ve only reported two Paralympic athletes who were kicked out of the Games because they tested positive for steroids.

Now, we’re going to add two more to that statistics as two powerlifters have been banned for failing doping tests. The two Paralympians who both received two-year ban are Facourou Sissoko of Mali and Liudmyla Osmanova of Ukraine. The two gave positive tests for anabolic steroids in out-of-competition tests, according to the International Paralympic Committee on Thursday.

Sissoko’s urine sample on September 6 tested positive for boldenone metabolites. Osmanova’s sample on August 29 yielded 19-Norandrosterone, a metabolite of anabolic steroid nandrolone. The IPC stated that it had implemented 461 tests to date for the ongoing Paralympic Games and it intends to carry out around 1,000 screenings before the Games end on September 17.

Earlier doping incidents at the Paralympics involved Pakistani powerlifter Naveed Ahmed Butt and German wheelchair basketballer Ahmet Coskun.

Butt’s urine sample tested positive for methandienone. The sample was taken September 4 just tow days before the opening ceremony. Coskun, meanwhile, was banned from the games because his pre-competition urine test resulted to a positive test for a masking agent. Coskun’s sample taken on August 23 tested positive for finasteride, a legitimate drug that is used in the treatment of male pattern baldness. The drug, however, is included in the World Anti-Doping Agency’s Prohibited List since it is typically used  by anabolic steroid users to cover up drugs that enhance athletic performance.

The IPC’s official website states the following relating to their anti-doping program:
“Anti-doping programmes seek to preserve what is intrinsically valuable about sport – “The spirit of sport”. Thus, the rationale for doping control in sport is twofold: first, to protect athletes from the potential harmful side effects that some drugs can produce; and second, to ensure fair and ethical competition by preventing athletes from taking prohibited substances or using prohibited methods in an attempt to increase performance or violating the spirit of sport.”

According to IPC’s Anti-Doping Code, doping is defined as the occurrence of one or two of the following anti-doping rule violations:

•    the presence of a prohibited substance in an athlete’s bodily specimen
•    use or attempted use of a prohibited substance or a prohibited method
•    refusing or failing to submit to sample collection after notification
•    violation of the requirements regarding athlete availability for out-of-competition testing
•    tampering with any part of doping control
•    possession of prohibited substances and methods
•    trafficking in any prohibited substance or prohibited method
•    administration or attempted administration of a prohibited substance or prohibited method to any athlete, or assisting, encouraging, aiding, abetting, covering up or any other type of complicity involving an anti-doping rule violation or any attempted violation.