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Does Viagra Improve Athletic Performance?

Some Athletes take Viagra

In 2012, the American footballer Brandon Marshall suggested in an interview, that he knew of fellow professional footballers that were taking Viagra to boost their performance. Then the wide receiver for the Chicago Bears was asked what he knew about recent player suspensions due to the drug Adderall, which contains amphetamines. Marshall he knew nothing about Adderall but said that some players were taking Viagra to thin their blood.

Does Viagra thin the blood?

Back in 2008 the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) funded a study at Marywood University in Pennsylvania. The study tested the use of Viagra on their lacrosse team to measure the potential benefits for athletes. Despite the idea that the medication thins the blood, the tests showed no evidence to support the theory and was therefore not included on the WADA ban list.

Improved oxygen uptake

The active ingredient in Viagra is sildenafil citrate, which expands and relaxes the blood vessels of the penis and this increased blood flow is what causes an erection to occur. Similarly, taking this medication also expands the pulmonary blood vessels and allows improved oxygen supply to the lungs.

High Altitude Tests

Scientists at Stanford University tested the effects of sildenafil on triathletes at high altitude, to see if it improved lung capacity.
The study group completed a 6km time trial at high altitude after being given either sildenafil or a placebo. The results showed that there was no improvement in performance at sea level. However, the tests showed there was improvement for some athletes at high altitude. Those participants who showed the most improved performance after taking the drug, were those athletes who had previously suffered from altitude sickness.

A Psychological Edge

Based on the inconclusiveness of that study, another similar trial was performed by researchers the University of Miami. They too used triathletes, at sea level and altitude, to test whether the blue pill improved athletic capability. Some athletes did show an improvement in the oxygen flow to the arteries but that did not improve their physical performance. The conclusion of the tests was that taking Viagra does not produce any benefit to athletes and any perceived advantage was more likely to be psychological.




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