Why Viagra is a great workout partner for athletes
BY TERI THOMPSON, CHRISTIAN RED, MICHAEL O'KEEFFE and NATHANIEL VINTON
DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITERS
Tuesday, June 10th 2008, 11:26 AM
When the Daily News approached John Romano about athletes' love affair with Viagra, the senior editor at bodybuilding magazine Muscular Development laughed.
"All the good secrets are getting out," Romano chuckled.
Viagra, first studied as an aid for hypertension, remedies erectile dysfunction by relaxing blood vessels in the penis.
Athletes have found plenty of other reasons to embrace Vitamin V, though.
Romano said many athletes take Viagra with anabolic steroids before a workout, hoping Viagra's ability to dilate blood vessels will help deliver the anabolics to their various muscle groups.
"The object of nutrient delivery is to get as much of it in the muscles ahead of time as possible," said Romano, who said he used Viagra for that reason.
"You want to fortify the blood with whatever you're going to pump in there. Viagra is tailor-made for that because you're slamming in all kinds of amino acids and whatever else, then expanding the muscles and pumping it in there."
Romano pointed to a wide variety of legal nutritional supplements built around the molecule nitric oxide (NO), which is a key component of Viagra.
These supplements - with names like "NO Explode," "Nytric EFX" and "Satur8" - are marketed as preworkout vaso-dilators.
Athletes are notorious for taking any pill or potion that seems to boost their performances, but research indicates Viagra is more than just a fad.
Kenneth Rundell, a respiratory researcher at Marywood University in Scranton, Pa., said Viagra could increase stamina for athletes who compete at oxygen-poor high elevations.
"Any sport that's primarily an aerobic sport would benefit - cross-country skiers, cyclists, marathoners, 10K runners, 5K runners," he said.
For a 2006 study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, scientists using trained cyclists at high altitudes as test subjects found the drug had a similar effect on the lungs as it did on the penis, improving blood flow and moving more oxygen to muscles.
Those findings echoed a 2004 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Scientists discovered improved pulmonary and cardiac performance in Viagra-fueled mountaineers at Mount Everest's base camp, 17,600 feet above sea level.
Other athletes count on Viagra to kick-start their sex lives.
Long-term steroid use, says Gary Wadler, a Long Island physician and an adviser to the World Anti-Doping Agency, causes testicular atrophy, which leads to impotence.
"That may be why these guys started using it in the first place," said Michael Dusa, a Hamden, Conn., chiropractor who treats athletes.
"I suspect they started taking it for impotence and found that it had other benefits, too, but bodybuilders are not the kind of guys who will admit impotence."
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