Saturday, July 19, 2008
Drugs, Testing, and the Olympics
I received a really cool article from Popular Science magazine on how drugs improve an athlete’s performance, and the chances of it being discovered. The article can be found at: http://www.popsci.com/scitech/gallery/2008-07/juicing-30, and is entitled ‘Juicing 3.0’. It’s a quick read, and very informative. Here is my quick summary:
Five different Drug Enhancements were discussed. I thought the most interesting of the 5 was the Mental Improvement drugs like Modafinil. This was used at the 2003 World Track and Field Championships by sprinter Kelli White. And with this chemical help, she cut a whopping second and a half off of her 100 and 200 meter races, sweeping both the races. Modafinil is one of the FDA approved ‘neural enhancers’, used in the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease and depression. Drugs like these can boost a bodies’ dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin levels. These can help an athlete’s mental outlook, as well as their motor control and muscle reaction time—an edge in any sport. But drugs like Modafinil can be detected in blood and urine tests, which was how Kelli White was caught.
Another really weird Genetic enhancement was discovered by Genetist doctors who learned that turning off the protein Myostatin can double the muscle size in mice. Yes, this picture below is a picture of a whippet dog (the normal size of a whippet is below)! Yes, with this sort of muscle increase, you have to think that athletes will try and abuse it. Right now, tests can detect the use of antibodies to turn off the protein. But scientists can be tricky, and they may find out a way to use other delivery systems, like RNA interference, which would be undetectable.
I hope you enjoy the Popular Science article. Oh, the China Summer Olympics are going to be fun, won’t they?