Viagra Could Make For Stiffer Competition

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Okay, now that I've gotten the obligatory joke out of the way, let's focus on the facts, kids: Researchers at the University of Miami are currently running tests on athletes to find out if Viagra can improve the performance of cyclists at high altitudes. Viagra, technically known as sildenafil citrate, works by opening blood vessels in the genitalia to allow for an erection over a period of six hours. But the drug also works on receptors in the lungs, meaning cyclists could unfairly improve oxygen efficiency while riding in the mountains during a race. In a 2006 study conducted at Stanford, 4 out of 10 cyclists showed improved blood flow at higher altitudes.

''If you're an athlete who has problems at altitude, Viagra may bring you up to the level of athletes who don't have problems,'' [Principal researcher Kevin] Jacobs said. "But it doesn't look like an across-the-board enhancer. It's probably not the magic pill athletes are looking for.''

Still, at last month's Giro d'Italia last month, the Gerolsteiner team suspended Andrea Moletta when they found 82 Viagra pills in his father's car. Other triathletes report seeing Viagra around everywhere as the latest and greatest (athletic) performance enhancer. Jacobs and his team hope to provide the most comprehensive study results ever for outfits like the World Anti-Doping Agency, who are funding the research.

Using oxygen masks, researchers simulate riding a bike at 12,800 feet for young athletic volunteers.. While the researchers tout the seriousness of the work, they also realize the inherent awkwardness and hilarity of testing Viagra. They've set up shop in a library adorned with posters of mountains and Lance Armstrong — the better to stave off any, er, distractions.

''I've got to keep my mind in the right place for six hours, so I stay in the library,' (' exercise physiology major, triathlete, and test subject Tony) Stover said.

Good luck, Tony. I can imagine most men wouldn't want Viagra to produce its intended affects while pounding out miles atop a stationary bike in a library. That could get complicated real fast.

Viagra might help cyclists cheat (Miami Herald)

Via GoBlog