May 22, 2006

Athletic Overseers Are Skating on Thin Ice with Tent Objection

Art writes in the San Jose Mercury News:
Should the bureaucrats who set the rules for the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sports extend their critical eye to where athletes are allowed to sleep? This past weekend in Montreal, the bureaucrats, otherwise known as the World Anti-Doping Association, indicated that they are going to try to do exactly that. Bad idea.

WADA has done a good job in setting the rules and overseeing compliance concerning what drugs athletes can and cannot take. They are the drug police for all 28 summer and seven winter Olympic sports federations. Their efforts have led to much safer athletic competitions as the steroids and the growth hormone users have been bounced out of competition. WADA's reach is extending into professional sports as well, with WADA drug prohibitions likely to be imposed on all athletes in the upcoming soccer World Cup. So why is an organization skilled at finding illegal drugs trying to get into the bedrooms of athletes?

When it comes to sports, altitude matters. Many athletes in amateur endurance sports such as skiing, running and cycling use altitude tents. These tents simulate thin mountain air. By sleeping in them, athletes who live at sea-level can get the benefits enjoyed by those who live in mountainous areas. Mountain air has less oxygen, so the body makes more red blood cells to compensate. Those extra red blood cells can provide a slight boost if you are running a marathon or skiing cross-country for 15 miles. That is one of the reasons the U.S. Olympic training facility is located in the Rocky Mountains at Colorado Springs, Colo.

So why is WADA worried about tents? There seems to be one main reason -- sleeping in a tent is a passive activity producing benefits that athletes do not ``earn'' or ``merit.'' The idea that athletes ought to train to gain improvements in performance, not just lie snoozing in an artificial environment while their bodies make more red blood cells, is at the core of WADA's concern. WADA is worrying about tents not for reasons of safety or even fairness but on ethical grounds -- athletes should strive, not snooze, to succeed.

[Read the Rest at the San Jose Mercury News]

View blog reactions

| More