Among Paralympic athletes, self-harm as a doping technique

While we know some of the techniques of doping in “able-bodied” athletes, some Paralympic athletes sometimes give in to the use of techniques to improve their performance, very specific techniques that can be seen as self-harm.

As the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games started yesterday, September 7 and will run until September 18, let’s take a look at a technique used by some athletes with spinal cord injury called « boosting ». or self-mutilation, a form of « doping » since it is a question of improving one’s performance. The explanation is that these athletes do not feel their lower extremities, but also suffer from blood pressure and heart rate problems. So during an effort, they do not necessarily feel their heart rate increase, which leads to disappointing performance, fatigue due to low blood pressure and a lack of endurance.

So, to avoid such disappointments, some athletes do not hesitate to mutilate their desensitized limbs in order to increase blood pressure, improve blood flow to the muscles and obtain better sports performance. A self-mutilation that can take several forms that send shivers down your spine, between electric shocks, bleeding, blockage of the urinary catheter to distend the bladder, waders that are too tight on the lower limbs, torsion or crushing of the testicles, fracture of the big toe, etc. .

For the wheelchair tennis player, flag bearer of the French delegation in Rio, Michaël Jéremiasz, this is a fairly uncommon practice.  » It’s very marginal. I heard about it during the Paralympics (winter) in 2014. I don’t know too much, but it can exist, it’s no crazier than those who inject blood. This is one of the crazy things some people can do“.

These techniques pose a problem, since those who practice them expose themselves to a risk of autonomic hyperreflexia (AHR), a medical emergency known to paralyzed people, which causes a sudden increase in blood pressure, with a risk of potentially fatal stroke or heart attack.  » This method is excessively dangerous, because it is uncontrollable explains Doctor Jean-Claude Druvert, doctor and head of mission of the French delegation in Rio.

Banned since 2004, boosting was the subject of a study that the World Anti-Doping Agency and the IPC (International Paralympic Committee) had made public a few years ago.  » Despite their knowledge of the dangers to their health, 16.7% of survey participants said they had used boosting to boost their performance, in training or in competition can we read in this study. Overwhelming figures which push the IPC to intensify the tests a few hours before the opening of the Paralympic Games in Rio.

Source: AFP

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