Viagra: Can it enhance athletic performance?Written by Lee Cleveland
With professional athletes trying to gain a competitive advantage these days, some very unusual, outside-the-box avenues have been considered.
At that level, a split second - or fraction of a second - can be the difference between success and failure.
"... It is such a competitive league, guys try anything just to get that edge," NFL wide receiver Brandon Marshall said, via Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, two years ago.
"I've heard of guys using Viagra, seriously, because the blood, it's supposed to thin. I don't know. Some crazy stuff. It's kind of scary with some of these chemicals that are in some of these things, so you have to be careful," the pro football player added.
As funny as it may seem, is Viagra, one of the most discussed drugs ever, a PED (Performance Enhancing Drug)?
After all, a study released in October by Sapienza University of Rome suggests Viagra may be able to fight heart disease due to its blood flow benefits. Who would have thought... Viagra for heart disease?
Maybe in some roundabout way it can help improve athletic performance?
For starters, what does Viagra do?
When the drug, also known by its generic name Sildenafil, works as intended it helps a man who is sexually stimulated to get an erection by enhancing blood flow to the penis.
And yes, there are several benefits of increased blood flow such as improved oxygen levels and healthy skin. In addition, it's believed increased blood circulation throughout the body improves brain function and helps the mind stay sharp and focused.
Some even assert people with increased blood flow are better at handing stressful situations.
But increased blood flow is not necessarily a sports enhancer unless one is participating at very high altitudes. Because Viagra can improve blood flow to the lungs it may have a positive impact in conditions where oxygen levels are seriously diminished.
A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology in 2006 states the drug may decrease performance attrition in oxygen-scarce environments but does not provide enhancement.
As a result, cyclists who bike on tall mountain ranges, marathoners who run high elevations and cross-country skiers may deem "some" benefit from Viagra. However, at elevations below 10,000 feet, the little blue pill appears to have no real athletic benefit.
During the 1990s, Big Bear, Lake, CA, which has a peak elevation of the 6,752 ft, became a famous training location for many high-profile boxers but even Big Bear probably isn't high enough for one to gain any tangible athletic-related performance enhancement.
But if you plan to box at elevations of 10,000 feet and greater, taking Viagra "may" give you a small edge over your opponent.
Lee is Managing Editor of FightSaga.com, a student of the Sweet Science and longtime boxing fan.
A gym rat in the 1990s, Lee was trained by 1976 Olympic Silver Medalist Charles Mooney and several retired seasoned pros. He was also a sparring partner for former WBA Super Middleweight Champion Steve Little who upset Michael Nunn for the WBA Super Middleweight Title in '94.
Lee created FightSaga.com to honor and preserve boxing's rich heritage, chronicle the achievements of top fighters, celebrate the legacy of big fights and provide a fun, educational experience for fight fans.