Canadian researcher works to make paralympic games safer

In an effort to gain a competitive edge, some athletes at the Paralympic Games have taken to a risky and banned form of performance enhancement.

While not as widely publicized as during the , performance enhancement is an issue among disabled who compete in the Paralympics. However, the practice of performance enhancement is often taken to extremes by disabled athletes who are trying to give themselves a competitive edge.

Many athletes who participate in the Paralympics have that limit their ability to regulate their heart rate and blood pressure. For top-level athletes, this can be a huge competitive disadvantage. An increased heart rate and elevated blood pressure gives athletes the energy and they need to compete in strenuous sports. Some athletes go to extreme lengths to spike their blood pressure ahead of a competition – going so far as to break a toe or hold their urine. Known as "Paralympic boosting," this is a dangerous practice that can lead to , stroke, even death.

"As a clinician, I can understand the motivation for athletes to boost their blood pressure. They are suffering from a condition that has a real effect on their ability to compete." said Dr. Krassioukov, a clinician and leading researcher on injuries at the University of British Columbia (UBC) who is working with Paralympic officials to educate athletes about the risks involved in this practice.

Dr. Krassioukov, who has received funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, has been asked by the International Paralympic Committee to find a process for assessing and classifying athletes based on their – ensuring that they compete on a level playing field and making the need to boost their irrelevant. He says the end goal is to establish fair competition by ensuring that athletes are competing against people who have the same ability and level of function.

The cardiovascular classification system that Dr. Krassioukov is working on would group disabled athletes in ways similar to weight classes for boxers. Dr. Krassioukov began his research in this area in 2008 with Paralympic athletes competing in Beijing, continued it at the 2010 Vancouver Games, and is now headed to London to present his findings, as well as monitor and educate athletes on the dangers of Paralympic boosting.

Dr. Krassioukov conducts research into spinal cord issues at ICORD, a leading health research centre that is supported by the UBC Faculty of Medicine and the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

The challenges and rewards of Paralympic medicine

Jul 05, 2012

In the Lancet paper, "Paralympic medicine," Nick Webborn of the British Paralympic Association and Peter Van de Vliet of the International Paralympic Committee Medical and Scientific Department, outline some of the issues ...

Anti-doping expert warns cheating athletes

Sep 15, 2011

Professor David Cowan, Director of the Drug Control Center at King’s College London, has warned athletes who take prohibited performance-enhancing substances that the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games will be ...

Reverse inclusion and the question of disability

Jan 17, 2012

Wheelchair basketball: It's a fast, skillful game, dazzling to watch, gruelling to play. It's also a sport that in Canada has become one of the most inclusive, welcoming athletes with disability and able-bodied athletes alike ...

Australia's Twitter warning to athletes

Feb 28, 2012

Australian athletes have been warned against using Twitter during competition after officials found competitors tweeting during last week's Olympic diving test event in London.

Recommended for you

Researchers review help for navigating 'Dr Google'

3 hours ago

With the onset of the digital age more and more people are turning to 'Dr Google' for health and medical information, however local researchers are worried about a lack of resources for helping consumers ...

Baby bonus blues ahead for mothers

3 hours ago

Young mothers who are not in the paid workforce or are marginally employed will be significantly disadvantaged by the removal of the Baby Bonus.

User comments