Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Can Straight Shooters Use Beta Blockers?


What if some athletes were prevented from performing to their full potential because they were abnormally nervous in front of big crowds? Mastering the mental aspects of competitive sport is integral to being a true champion, but what about uncontrollable nervous reactions, like sweaty palms or nervous twitches? Carl Elliot asks whether Beta Blockers, which were used by two North Korean pistol shooters at the recent Olympic Games, can be classified in the same way as steroids or human growth hormone in this piece in The Atlantic:

http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200808u/beta-blockers

What do you all think?

8 comments:

Emily Ryall said...

Interesting and well written article (incidentally, Elliot's 'Slow Cures and Bad Philosophers' is a great read). I think the key, as Elliot said is about whether beta-blockers 'level the playing field' or provide an unfair advantage. The debate then has to be around which criteria are elite sports testing; the absolute limit of the individual's ability or their ability to perform it in stressful (public & big competition) situations. And that's a difficult one to assess as stress affects individuals differently. Some people will raise their performance on the big occassion, others with fall to pieces. Would it be fair to the former to assist the latter?

Carl Thomen said...

I wonder what would happen if every contestant took them...would that be the fairest possible shooting competition ever? I suppose another question that would then need answering is: At base, what skill(s) does pistol shooting actually test? Controlling your shaking hands? Your eyesight? Lightness of trigger-finger? If we 'even one of those up', what is gained, and what is lost?

Eric C. Nuse said...

As a former national champion pistol shooter I can say that most competent shots can shoot one 10, but only the very best can shoot 150 10's in a row, especially in a big match. In other words, the physical act of shooting one 10 is no big deal. The mental ability to do this time after time, is the difference between the elite and the plinker. This includes channeling the pressure of an Olympic match into a peak performance. Allowing drugs takes away the challenge of the sport and diminishes the skill needed, thus the satisfaction of a job well done.

Parashooter said...

As a current high scoring Air Rifle shooter with a significant heart problem, (double bypass with high blood pressure) I can not survive without a beta-blocker. There is no substitute for this drug as I can not use Calcium Channel Blockers with a damaged heart muscle. I have proven with heart monitor testing that that my heart rate does not fall below normal but does rise well above normal in stressed situations. I believe that I meet or exceed the 3 WADA requirements of, 1)There is no alternative drug available. 2) Not taking the beta blocker would cause significant health issues (possible Sudden death in my case)and 3) would not give me a significant advantage over another competitor. I compete in the disabled shooting arena as I am a paraplegic. Why am I unable to get a Therapeutic Use Exemption TUE? Is this fair on an athlete that is honest and not trying to cheat? Is it fair that because some people cheat that everyone gets to suffer?

kenan said...

I personally think they can. discount sports tickets

Parashooter said...

Well CAS ruled that even though my heart rate was not returned to a state of Normal I may still have an advantage over another athlete, thereby ending my shooting career.
Will WADA change the wording in the code to say that there is no point in applying for a TUE because you wont get one? See www.parashooting.co.nz home page for a link to the ruling by CAS.

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