Most of us mention the concept of doping in our A&P courses because it's an ever present issue in our society and therefore a good way to help students apply their knowledge of human structure and function to practical scenerios. In Olympic years, it becomes an even more potent way to draw students interest into the world of human A&P.
Doping in its broadest sense is adding something to the body to gain an advantage. We usually think of it in a more specific sense of adding some sort of enhancer to the body, usually into the bloodstream, to somewhow enhance athletic performance.
Doping could be the introduction of extra RBCs (blood doping) or erythropoietin (EPO), both of which increase hematocrit (RBC ratio) and thus expand oxygen-carrying capacity and thereby promote improved athletic endurance. Or it could be synthetic androgens to promote the protein anabolism that enhances muscle development and strength. Or it could be a drug enhancement such as caffeine, which acts as a stimulant and may improve concentration. Diuretics are on the prohibited list as well. Diuretics are sometimes used by athletes to quickly reduce body weight in events that have strict weight limits.
[Click the EPO molecule above for the source of the FREE image to use in your course. For more FREE images to use in your A&P course click here.]
Did you know that there is a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) with a mission "to promote, coordinate, and monitor the fight against doping in sport in all its forms?" See the table below to find links to their current "code," the "prohibited list," and how to get their FREE DVD about doping in athletics.
|There is also a United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). Check out the links in the table below.|
The August 2008 issue of Popular Science magazine had an interesting article about trends in athletic doping called Juicing 3.0. For example, it brings up myostatin blockers that can dramatical increase the size and strength of muscle. Myostatin is a regulatory substance that inhibits growth of skeletal muscle tissue. And of course, the concept of genetic enhancement is discussed—one result of the current age of genetic therapy.
Besides referring your students to your school's library (assuming they subscribe to Popular Science), probably the easiest way to share the essential content of this article (in the form of gallery of examples) is to link to http://www.popsci.com/scitech/gallery/2008-07/juicing-30 from your course website or in an email.
Science News ran a cover story on genetic doping in the August 2, 2008 issue called Finding the Golden Genes. Here is the link to the article:
Embedded in the story is a FREE animation of one type of gene therapy called Repoxygen. Repoxygen was developed by BioMedica to treat severe cases of anemia. As the animation illustrates, tissues are infected with a virus that acts as a gene therapy vector to introduced a modified gene for EPO. During hypoxia the EPO genes are activated and produce EPO. The EPO then increases the hematocrit and boosts oxygen-carrying capacity. An athlete could potentially inject Repoxygen into muscle tissues that, when exercised to hypoxic level during training, produce EPO.
Click here for the link for the Repoxygen animation.
This is a Flash animation.
Going into the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, many anti-doping experts were concerned by the possibility of doping with an experimental anemia treatment called Hematide.
The 2008 article in Popular Science also discusses other potential gene-doping strategies. For example, one called "mighty mouse" infects tissues with viruses bearing genes for insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), which promotes muscle development.
PBS's Talk of the Nation addressed similar doping issues in summer 2008 related to the 2008 Olympics.
The 2012 Olympics brought with it fresh doping news . . . that on the heels of months and months of doping scandals in the world of cycling.
The Scientist ran they article Anti-Doping Research Gets Creative—Scientists work hard to keep up with ever-evolving performance enhancement techniques that go undetected by existing tests just as the Summer Olympics 2012 began in London.
Here's an interesting twist . . .
Morphine is on the banned list for athletic doping. An advantage of using morphine would be to reduce pain during an intense athletic event--pain that could reduce performance. Studies show that if an athlete is given morphine during training (which is legal), then abstains long enough for the morphine to clear the system, then takes a saline injection (placebo) on the day of competition, the athlete experiences reduced pain.
Here's a related article:
You could use the linked information as an optional resource for those interested in the topic or as a place to send students who ask questions in class. Another idea is to assign it as an online discussion topic in your online/web-enhanced course. Or it could be the subject of an essay in which students apply their knowledge of A&P and also express their own informed opinions.
The famous case of champion cyclist Floyd Landis is an interesting case with which to start a class discussion on doping in athletics.
In May 2010, Landis admitted that he did indeed use EPO, some of which was given to him by cyclist Lance Armstrong (who denies it).
World Anti-Doping Agency resources
|Explains the purpose of the WADA. Download brochure, FAQs, etc.|
|Comprehensive list of categories and specific substances that are prohibited in the sports listed in the document. Links to information on therapeutic exceptions.|
|WADA offers the code itself plus resources regarding implementation and review.|
|Variety of resources, including Teacher's Kit|
|Order a FREE two-minute DVD on anti-doping or download a low-res version directly from the site.|
U.S. Anti-Doping Agency resources
|Explains the purpose of the USADA.|
|The DRO is an online searchable database of substances that are prohibited in U.S. Olympic and paraolympic sports.|
|General statistics and lists of results of all athletes tested since October 2000.|
|Variety of resources, including Teacher's Kit|
|Download several FREE videos.|
More ideas for teaching and learning
- Assign different groups to each explain the biology behind each major category of prohibited substances. Have them explain what it does to possibly enhance performance, then what medical or other risks exist.
- Caffeine is on the prohibited list. Discuss whether an athlete should drink a cup of coffee or have some iced tea or cola before an athletic event.
- Some mountain climbers have used blood doping with RBCs or EPO to prevent altitude sidkness. What issues exist in such a scenario?
- If an athlete uses a placebo to enhance performance, is that doping? Legally? Ethically?
You may also be interested in the PBS video Doping for Gold, which chronicles doping in a generation of European athletes. In the 1970s, female East German athletes came from nowhere to dominate international sport. Behind their success lay a secret, state-sponsored doping program that distributed untested steroids to athletes as young as 12. Many of these girls had no knowledge that they were being doped, and now, their damaged bodies and psyches deal with the cruelty of a government that pursued international glory at the expense of its most acclaimed citizens.