Getting the Dope On

I am not new to international sport competition. I have a medical background (PhD). I am fairly new to archery.

For decades I competed as a junior, senior and an age grouper in running, cycling and triathlon. I was pretty good on a local and regional level in the US. I’ve gotten on the podium a few times at National events and earned a place on the USA Team for the World Championship Long Course Duathlon.

I did okay racing in the smaller events in Europe. I have trained or raced in: England, Germany, France, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, Belgium, Italy, Israel, Australia, and Japan. Racing, however, is not the sole area my interest in sports and health.

I have published a good many peer-reviewed medical manuscripts most on medical aliments, some on sports physiology. I was on faculty at a major medical school where I did much of my research. I’ve also given medical presentations of my academic work in those same countries where I’ve trained or raced. After over four decades of sports competition and medical research I have gotten pretty good at spotting dopers. (I have never pointed anyone out I suspected. Although, some I suspected in cycling and triathlon did get caught.)

In age group competition, the doping is bad. In archery is seems worse than other sports among age groupers. I understand that banned substances may be necessary for the well being of many age groupers. However, it does give them, what I consider, an unfair edge in archery.

Being athletic is good. Shooting a bow isn’t all that phyically demanding compared to competing in an Ironman or running a marathon.  Archery requires a different kind of skill.  Still, archery practice combined with a program to improve physical fitness will benefit an athlete.

It isn’t easy to remain fit for a lifetime.  It is less easy to be an athlete.  It becomes increasing hard for amateur athletes and professionals where income from sport do not provide a living wage.  For them work gets in the middle of the day meaning training becomes more of a scheduling trick. It is possible.  Athletes that take on the extra effort to remain fit enough to reach a podium without banned supplements shouldn’t be, in addition to their work, put into a position where they must surpass other athletes unwilling or unable to adapt a total fitness program.

Some age group archers that are not physically fit yet practice consistently have an advantage over athletes who shoot and combine healthy life choices with competition. The poorly conditioned archery age grouper that is able to consistently practice shooting can have the competitive advantage of drugs used to compensate for high blood pressure and abnormal heart rhythms.  Those drugs assist both the patient’s condition and shooter’s ability. As such they do not need to approach archery as a complete athletic process. Rather, they can practice with their bow, be in miserable overall fitness (non-athletic) and have the advantage during competition of their prescribed drugs.

Individuals that are on beta-blockers may be able to receive a therapeutic use exemption (TUE).  In many cases, beta-blocker use might be reduced or eliminated through healthy choices and exercise.

Dr. Sheps of the Mayo Clinic writes:

If you’re overweight, losing even 5 pounds (2.3 kilograms) can lower your blood pressure. As you slim down, it may be possible to reduce your dose of blood pressure medication — or stop taking your blood pressure medication completely. Don’t make changes to your blood pressure medication on your own, however. Do so only after getting your doctor’s OK.

Remember, high blood pressure isn’t a problem you can treat and then ignore. Even if you’re able to stop taking blood pressure medication, it’s still important to maintain healthy habits. Here’s how:

  • Eat a healthy diet — the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is an effective eating plan for lowering blood pressure.
  • Get 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week.
  • Limit alcohol.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Schedule regular checkups with your doctor to make sure you’re keeping your blood pressure in check. (1)

Being new to archery I have found it frustrating to train hard and enter an event on an unleveled playing field. Shooters are clean or they or not. If an age grouper is taking a beta-blocker at a minimum they should have a TUE. But, so long as USA Archery allows the unchecked use of beta-blockers by age-groupers during competitions it is not promoting the overall health of the sport.

I doubt that USA Archery is going to put much effort into screening age groupers using banned substances without a TUE.  For age groupers that are fitness focused they need to shoot well to win knowing that similarly trained unfit archers talking prescription drugs have an edge.

From USADA and applies to WADA:(2)

Substances Prohibited in Particular Sports

Some sports have additional rules about the use of beta-blockers. If participating in any of the following sports, please consult the current WADA Prohibited List or Global Drug Reference Online (GlobalDRO.com) before using beta-blockers.

P1. Beta-Blockers

Beta-blockers (including, but not limited to atenolol, bisoprolol, carvedilol, esmolol, labetalol, metoprolol, propranolol, sotalol, and timolol) are prohibited for the following sports:

  • Prohibited At All Times (in-competition and out-of-competition): Archery, Shooting
  • Prohibited In-Competition Only: Automobile, Billiards, Darts, Golf, Skiing/Snowboarding in ski jumping, freestyle aerials/halfpipe and
  • snowboard halfpipe/big air, and Underwater Sports as specified.

References:

1.) https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/expert-answers/blood-pressure-medication/faq-20058056

2.)

Athlete Guide to the 2018 Prohibited List

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