Should Living At Altitude Be Banned Like Steroids?

from the forget-mile-high-stadium dept

Last year, we had a story that asked If Steroids Are Cheating, Why Isn’t LASIK? Both are artificial, technology-based enhancements that athletes use to improve performance over what it would be naturally. While the sporting world isn’t yet looking into banning LASIK, they may be banning a different type of technology enhancement: the high altitude tent or any similar system that simulates the oxygen levels at a high altitude. Such systems have been used by athletes for years, after it was shown that living at altitude increases your endurance — especially if you then train at lower altitudes. The ultimate solution, then, is a system that makes your body think you’re at higher altitudes when you sleep or are at home, but then when you train, you’re actually at the lower altitudes. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is considering making the use of any such altitude simulation system just as forbidden as the use of steroids, saying it’s a similar form of cheating. Others, however, wonder why it’s really any different than actually living at altitude. Maybe next, WADA will tackle the massive threat that is LASIK surgery.

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Comments on “Should Living At Altitude Be Banned Like Steroids?”

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Aaron deOliveira (profile) says:

That really seems like a random thing to ban. You could always just go to higher altitudes. Is Denver suddenly off limits? I think this one will fall through.

And how is it unnatural. It just simulates an environment that anyone could go to. It only exists for convience, not cheating.

It’s not like the creator of it decided he wanted to play with atmosphere one day. The benifits of high altitude were already known and he just simulated it.

slick says:

Re: eye glasses and contact lenses

You must not need vision correction. Glasses are vastly inferior to contacts for many reasons; they fog up, they fall off, they get dirty they reduce you FOV and many other things that generally suck. For sports they are more of a problem than a cure. Contact lenses can also fail. They can dry out, fall out, they make it more difficult if you get something in your eye.

Lasik has none of these problems. And unlike glasses or contacts, Lasik can make you vision better than 20/20.

I don’t agree that Lasik should be prohibited in sports, but comparing it glasses or contacts is like comparing running shoes to a wheelchair.

ChronoFish (user link) says:

Natural enhancements

Living/training at altitude certainly does give a bennefit, but more so when the competition is held at altitude (where those who have not acclimated will find walking up stairs a strain). While many world class atheltes have migrated to Boulder or have choosen to live at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, your article pretty much says it – Living at high altitude and *training* at low altitudes brings the most bennefit. It’s just as difficult to find low altitudes to train in Colorado as it is to find high altitudes to live on the east coast.

Personally I see altitude training as much as a cheat as picking the right diet. Knowledge is part of making champion – it’s not just brawn. The whole concept of trianing is “cheating” – I mean no one naturally runs 5 min miles for 26.2 miles. But those who have the natural ability AND the knowledge will be able to train to do so.

So where is the line? In my book the line is with supplements. If you can’t produce the energy or hormones you need to compete naturally form redily available foods and environment – then you’re a cheat.

Is this acceptable? It depends on whether you’re an athlete or an entertainer. If you are in the NBA, NFL, NBL, etc – then you are an entertainer – drug up, juice up, do what you need to do to get paid.

If you are an olympian, going for world records, or the like – then you’re an athlete and your resources should be much more limited.


Bob says:

The Purpose of Training

Maybe i’m mistaken but i thought that the purpose of training was to improve performance beyond ‘normal’ or ‘natural’ levels. While they’re at it why don’t they ban wieghts because that simulates ‘un-natural’ resistance. Also my understanding of this technique was that you just spent as much time as possible at high altitude which induces your body to produce more red blood cells, so that when you go to compete at low altitude your overall oxygen capacity is increased. I don’t think that this technique requries you to, or is even enhanced by, doing your training at low altitudes while living at high altitude, but I could be mistaken.

not me says:

what the he!!

Don’t these people have better things to look into?? People who try and use steriods, hide the face that they are on the juice (most people anyway). Look in any cycling or tri magazine and you will see Pros pitching these tents. Heck, I know pros that live at altitude and still sleep in a tent. This is totally absurd, WADA SUCKS!

Pesti says:

Whats The Difference.....

….hmmm lets see….Money!!! Isn’t that a suprise! As far as Pro Sports go, the analogy would be like betting on a fixed horse race. Unfortunatly, like always the real issues here come back sooner or later. Training, education, and dedication, are and always should be the the things that

make the true “athlete” stand apart from the rest of us..

ehrichweiss says:


i was watching the Discovery Channel a few weeks back and they were pumping a room with about 10% extra nitrogen while a guy slept so his body would do this exact thing(apparently it’s extra nitrogen that causes the high altitude effect). They said he could sleep with the nitrogen on and when he got up he could train like he was at a lower altitude….rinse and repeat. Since nitrogen isn’t exactly something we can say that someone has been using, I don’t see a way they could prevent this or high altitude living without having someone from the olympic committee by your side 24/7. I’m considering getting some nitrogen so I can train at martial arts a lot longer and better. It’s a semi-easy way out but I have no desire to get into steroids so it’s a lot better than nothing.

Does anyone know if they ever banned “blood packing” where you would “donate” a pint of red blood cells and then a month later they’d pump that blood back into you? That’s basically what the high altitude and nitrogen do so I’m curious how they approach the concept.

Daryl Ducharme says:

the difference

I think the main difference between steroids and other things is the dangers it poses to the different subsystems (read organs) of the body. I do not know what effect these simulated high altitude training methods have on people’s bodies. If there are negative, long term effects then that would be the difference.

Having been training while living in Denver then moving to the east coast near the ocean and training, the difference in endurance is definately huge. I felt like I could go all day at first. Of course now…

Posterlogo says:

Apples and oranges.

LASIK is meant to replace something broken. I see no problem with that. Steroids add something you should never have — unnaturally excess muscle mass. If LASIK is used to enhance vision significantly over 20/20, then that may be a problem, but just repairing myopia is as acceptable as repairing a broken bone. That whole oxygen tent thing is just ridiculous.

Justin says:

Re: Apples and oranges.

“steroids add something you should never have”

Bear with me on this one: If you train with weights you will eventually reach your genetic potential for muscle mass/strength. Your body has reached it’s maximum capacity. Steroids allow the body to go beyond it’s natural capacity and pack on more muscle.

Each of us is born with different visual acuity. Each of us is born with different genetic potential for muscle mass… In my opinion both lasiks and steroids add something you should never have (according to your genetics).

What if instead of steroids an athlete moved the tendon insertion point of their muscles to create more leverage/strength? Should that be legal?

anonymous coward says:

why don’t they just ban training altogether? if these people really are “amateur” athletes, training would really ruin it. they should just walk out on the field and go at it. years of intensive training takes all the fun out of it. the olympics would be alot more interesting if it was more like my wednesday night softball league.

Apennismightier says:

The athletes did this to themselves. They took the steroids too far and ruined baseball (not that it was at all interestin in the first place) and for some reason made everyone think that Congress gave a shit, as well as the rest of the world. Now, they’re looking for the next big thing to bitch about. Pretty soon they’ll be banning cotton or mesh uniforms claiming that teams don’t sweat as much in certain uniforms, giving other teams an advantage in how much heat exhaustion they’re exposed to.

Other than football, everything else in the sports world has become a joke.

Special K says:

Enhanced Olympics

I think we should have an ‘Enhanced Olympics.’ Basically anything goes. Come one come all. How much can you enhance your body to do amazing things. It’s already happening, so this would just make is lawful and out in the open. The entertainment factor is a no brainer and imagine the sponsorships. That would leave the ‘Nautral Olympics’ to those interested in that form of competion. Then if you are caught ‘enhancing,’ your scores are transferred to the ‘enhanced olymics.’ No need to get in trouble or have huge scandals. For marketing, I think a better name would be, “Super Olymics” – I know I’d watch both.

george says:

Illegal fitness regimens

So if it becomes illegal to include aclimatization techniques as part of your training, will it be illegal to go to the gym and use all those unnatural free weights and treadmills in the future? At least that way, I might have a chance at becoming an olympian right off of my couch. Puts us all on the same level wouldn’t it?

Someone says:

Blood Packing

Yea they banned that back in the 80’s i do believe. The russian wrestling team was caught doing it to my knowledge.

WADA are idiots. Are they going to start watching peoples every move? are they going to watch how much protein you ingest? Ban protien powder because its “unnatural”? just eat 4 more pieces of chicken and thats fixed.

I think people get bored and look for things to get a stir.

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