Even though the Paralympics features athletes with disabilities, the 12-day event shares much in common with the traditional Olympic Games. There’s the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat and the ever-present concerns about cheating.
For some Paralympians, opportunities to cheat go beyond doping. One persistent concern is a strategy called boosting.
To raise their heart rate and blood pressure, according to The Daily Mail, athletes with spinal cord injuries sometimes injure their own lower limbs.
They may intentionally break a toe, for example, wrap their legs with tight straps, or sit on something sharp. They don’t feel the pain, but the injury causes a reflex called autonomic dysreflexia.
The reaction can boost performance by as much as 10 percent, according to some estimates. The risks, however, include heart attacks and strokes.
Boosting was banned in 2004, reported ABC, an Australian news service. But when the World Anti-Doping Agency interviewed 99 athletes with spinal injuries who competed in the Beijing Paralympics, nearly 20 percent said they had tried boosting, despite knowing of the risks.
Only about 100 athletes could theoretically benefit from boosting at this year’s Paralymics in London, which start today, reported the Daily Mail. The International Paralympic Committee plans to test for persistently high blood pressure.
“To assume people in Paralympic sport won’t engage in whatever way they can to get an advantage is to put them on a pedestal,” David Howe, a senior lecturer at the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences at Britain’s Loughborough University told the paper. “Just because somebody has an impairment doesn’t mean they’re a virtuous person.”
Image credit: Corbis