Doping control back in full force at Paralympics

We take you behind the scenes this month with our timely Vancouver Games Blog, an insider perspective on sport medicine and science headlines, talking points, statistical data and emerging trends.

Doping control is in full swing with the Paralympics underway – with testing just as rigourous for the Paralympian athletes as it was for their Olympian counterparts . An Canadian Press article by Helen Branswell details one of the major anomalies between Olympic amd Paralympic testing and cheating detection:

For one thing, athletes who are partially paralyzed can take advantage of a side-effect of their condition to give themselves a competitive edge. In the Paralympic world, it’s a technique called boosting.

Certain stimuli that would cause pain in people who aren’t paralyzed can trigger what’s called autonomic dysreflexia, a situation where the blood pressure rises sharply. That can give athletes a significant edge in events which involve distance racing, for instance.

“The reason why we monitor boosting is we know from clinical investigations that autonomic dysreflexia impacts on your capacity to excel in performance,” says Dr. Peter Van de Vliet, (the medical and scientific director of the International Paralympic Committee.)

At the Winter Paralympics, the sport where boosting might be used is cross-country skiing. At the Summer Games, it’s sometimes seen in rowing, cycling, athletics and swimming, he says.

Some of the techniques used to trigger autonomic dysreflexia can’t be detected easily. So medical officers at events where it may be in use can ask to check an athlete’s blood pressure before an event.

If the systolic blood pressure reading (the higher figure) is above 180, the athlete is informed he or she will be tested again in a few minutes. If the second test shows the systolic blood pressure reading is still over that threshold, the athlete isn’t allowed to compete, Van de Vliet says.

Read the full article here.

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