Is Viagra giving athletes a different kind of performance boost?

Athletes like cyclists, runners and skiers are increasingly turning to Viagra to enhance their athletic performance — although it remains to be seen if the drug is of any benefit to speed and endurance in competition. The trend is so new that anti-doping authorities are only beginning to study the drug.

CTV.ca reports:

Viagra … was originally developed as a heart drug; its use as a treatment for erectile dysfunction was only accidentally discovered. The drug works by increasing the effects of nitric oxide, which makes blood vessels expand. That should theoretically allow blood cells to travel to the lungs more efficiently and to also receive more oxygen. It may also improve heart function…

“Just because you have more nitric oxide doesn’t mean that you are going to be a better athlete,” Butch said. “If you have all the nitric oxide you need, and if you generate more from Viagra, it’s not clear what effect that would have.”

Still, some preliminary studies have shown that cyclists taking Viagra improved their performances by up to 40 per cent.

“If you have more oxygen going to your muscles, that’s more energy and that makes you a better athlete,” said Dr. Andrew McCullough, a sexual health expert at New York University School of Medicine. “Even if it only gives you a 10 per cent increase, in peak athletes, that is enough to win,” he said.

Frankly, I wonder if Pfizer’s over-the-top direct-to-consumer marketing for Viagra — including the obnoxious Viva Viagra ad campaign — hasn’t contributed to athletes, along with others who don’t have erectile dysfunction, trying the drug.

We all know that countless men in their 20s who don’t have ED are using the drug because of its “performance-enhancing” benefits. It’s only natural that athletes, who are always looking for an edge, would buy into this, too.

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