Viagra appears to be on its way to becoming the drug of choice for athletes looking to enhance their performance on the playing field – not just in the bedroom. The Olympics are looking into adding Viagra to the list of banned substances and it’s even been found in race horses.
It wasn’t so long ago that the only person in sports who wanted to publicly discuss Viagra was Rafael Palmeiro – and Pfizer had to pay the slugger a reported $500,000 to pitch its product. But the little blue thrill pill became the talk of the sports world yesterday after the Daily News reported that Roger Clemens and other athletes have turned Vitamin V into one of the hottest drugs in locker rooms.
The World Anti-Doping Agency is trying to determine if Viagra can be used to cheat in the Olympics. Major League Baseball and the National Football League will also try to determine if the erectile-dysfunction drug aids training and improves performance. “As we do on a regular basis, we will review and consider new substances that are recommended for further discussion by our scientific and medical advisers,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.
MLB vice president for labor relations Rob Manfred said baseball officials are gathering more information on the topic. Neither sport could ban Viagra without the consent of the players unions. Bodybuilders, weightlifters and other athletes have turned to Viagra because they believe it helps dilate blood vessels and delivers oxygen, nutrients and steroids to various muscle groups more efficiently. Other athletes use Viagra to treat impotence – a side effect of steroid abuse.
Jocks who participate in aerobic sports – cycling, marathons, cross-country skiing – say Viagra, which went on the market in 1998, increases stamina at oxygen-poor high elevations. Not everybody is convinced. Dr. Lewis Maharam, the medical director of the New York Marathon, said, “I don’t think there is any evidence it’s a performance enhancer, except in the bedroom.”
Jonathan Vaughters, the sport director of the Tour de France cycling team Slipstream-Chipotle, said he thought it would only work at the highest altitudes. “I haven’t heard of it being used in cycling,” he said. Viagra has already become a problem for four-legged athletes. Dan Toomey, a spokesman for the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, said at least three horses have tested positive for Viagra here since 2000. The pill is believed to boost a horse’s cardio-respiratory functions
According to another story on the topic, San Francisco Giants star Barry Bonds (who is currently under investigation for steroid use) tried Viagra as a playing enhancer as well, but complained that it left him congested. That’s always been my complaint.