Viagra's efficacy on the bed is vouched for by many now. What is new is that it could also improve athletic prowess on the field. At least sprortsmen in the West seem to think so.
In June, 2006, a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology reported that "Sildenafil (Viagra) significantly improved the cardiovascular and exercise performance measures of trained cyclists at high altitude" The drug helped some cyclists improve by as much as 45%, while others received no benefits. At sea level, there was no improvement. Viagra causes lung tissues to relax, which improves blood flow and increases oxygen transport to muscles, which is a problem at higher altitudes.
The ten participants in the study performed 10 cycling trials, with and without Viagra, at sea level and again at a simulated altitude of 12,800 feet. The cyclists didn't know whether a specific trial included a placebo or one of the two Viagra doses of either 50mg or 100mg. Four of the ten cyclists showed significant improvement with Viagra, which suggests that responders who experienced a greater degree of constriction of the vessels in the lungs at high altitudes benefited more from the vessel relaxation effects of Viagra.
On Tuesday New York Daily News reported that Roger Clemens, a baseball star and under federal investigation for steroid use, had taken to Viagra.
He stashed the clearly marked, diamond-shaped pills in a GNC vitamin bottle in his locker, it has been claimed. And many others do too.
Clemens told at least one friend the drug made him feel flushed and caused his heart to race.
Last month at the Giro d'Italia, Italy's biggest bike race, pro cyclist Andrea Moletta was suspended after the national police searched his father's car and found 82 Viagra pills and a syringe.
In March of this year, NFL draft prospect Heath Benedict of Florida was found dead at his home. A local medical examiner's report described the suspicious circumstances of the death, including a syringe and needle found nearby and bottles that were labeled "L-Dex" and "L-Via" - which the report interpreted as anabolic steroids and liquid Viagra.
"It's the latest thing guys are doing to get an extra edge in the gym," says Michael Dusa, a chiropractor who treats bodybuilders, football players and other athletes.
The drug is so widely used for off-label purposes that it has drawn the attention of anti-doping officials and law-enforcement agencies in the United States and beyond.
The World Anti-Doping Agency is funding a new study to determine if Viagra can be used to cheat in sports competition.
If researchers conclude that Viagra enhances athletic performance, the agency could add Viagra to the long list of prohibited substances it imposes on all Olympic sports and develop a standard lab test for the drug's active ingredients.
"Every year we can recommend that WADA add substances to the list," says Travis Tygart, the CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, WADA's American counterpart.
A drug policy must be consistent. If steroids are banned, then how can not banning Viagra be allowed? Is there a test for Viagra use? Don't answer that. The fact that Viagra enhances cyclists' performances at high altitudes illustrates the absurdity of the situation.
If a twenty eight-year-old pitcher's pituitary gland produces large quantities of growth hormone naturally, and it does, what is wrong with being injected with growth hormone when he is ten years older? If ingesting arginine and ornithine, two amino acids legally purchased over the counter and found in many protein-containing foods increases growth hormone production, why are athletes allowed to ingest GH precursors but not allowed to be injected with GH in the abdomen? writer Harold Friend demands to know.