Exhibit A: Tour de France winner Floyd Landis failed a drug test. Shooting yourself up with testosterone. Bad.
Exhibit B: World Anti Doping Agency considers banning rooms that simulate sleeping at altitude. Debatable.
Exhibit C: Paula Radcliffe swears by an ice bath after every race. Good.
Drugs don't make you faster. Even if I riddled my body with needle marks and someone else's EPO enhanced blood I'd be lucky to ever break 15 minutes for 5000m. Drugs do help you recover quicker from hard workouts though. So do icebaths. If you haven't discovered the icebath and are training for a marathon, really, now is the time to start before they ban them too. In fact, I'd say that sometimes the icebath after the hard workouts seems to be the difference between 2 and 3 workouts in a week, because it seems to cut my recovery time by up to 12 hours.
I don't think they're going to ban icebaths anytime soon, but my point is that where you draw the line on unacceptable aids to athletic performance is not clear. The rationale that drugs are bad because they may cause harm to athletes is one basis for discriminating between drugs and artificially simulated altitude, but even here it's a matter of probabilities and proportions, not absolutes. Jack your altitude settings all the way up to 30,000 feet and you'll cause some harm to the athlete. Stay too long in an ice bath that's too cold and you could kill yourself. It's harder to do than overdosing on drugs, but still just possible. And once you're dead, what does it matter?
This is to say nothing of the probably even greyer area that you reach when athletes have legitimate medical conditions that may require drugs that also have recovery-enhancing benefits. Or, the difference between "natural" and "synthesized" products. Getting protein, carbs and liquid within 15 minutes of a workout is also a significant boost to recovery. It's significant enough that you sure notice the difference when you don't replenish straight away, and then try to run twice that day, or do another moderate to hard day the next day.
No-one is ever going to be worried about what I'm doing in between workouts, but I'd wager it's a good deal easier for me to get in the icebath and the full meal after my morning run than someone with children and a job that expects them there promptly. You could extend this contrived example of inequity to more accomplished athletes, the sponsored runner who only works a 20 hour job because they have a shoe contract versus the person 20 seconds slower than them over 5km who doesn't quite have the sponsorship and works full time. But where do you stop with inequity as a basis for banning recovery-enhancing substances and techniques? We can't sponsor everyone, nor could we really level off the playing field by making everyone wait four hours after working out before getting anything to eat.
Drugs are bad, I agree with that. Icebaths are good [for you]. But in between them there's a lot of grey and the ethical basis on which we draw the line is not that clear.Posted by eroberts at July 27, 2006 1:00 PM