Performance enhancement from Doping is for life and not just for Christmas

August 24, 2010

Doping, medicine, Uncategorized


The .pdf file of the full PNAS research findings can be downloaded at:

This interesting story caught my eye this morning. Essentially five scientists from the University of Oslo, Norway (Jo C. Bruusgaard, Ida B. Johansen, Ingrid M. Egner, Zaheer A. Rana, and Kristian Gundersen) have announced their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) that “Myonuclei acquired by overload exercise precede hypertrophy and are not lost upon detraining,”

In lay speak, while it is common knowledge that the principle “use it or lose it!” applies to exercise and that muscle fibre will atrophy when it is inactive over long periods of time, this research found that muscle fibres retained nuclei substantially longer after overload (training) was discontinued, indeed the scientists even suggested that the presence of this nuclei may also help to delay muscle atrophy.

Where the findings become really interesting for sports lawyers though is in Professor Gunderson et al’s findings on page 3, that contrary to popular opinion, these muscle nuclei do not disappear with the surrounding fibres when the muscle atrophies. If a hypertrophic episode leads to a lasting higher number of myonuclei, this might provide a long-term advantage even if the stimulus for hypertrophy subsides. The advantage could manifest itself as resistance toward detraining-related atrophy and a more efficient response to retraining.”

 And at page 4: “because anabolic steroids facilitate more myonuclei, nuclear permanency may also have implications for exclusion periods after a doping offense.”

This would seem to suggest that the advantages gained from taking performance enhancing substances, particularly anabolic steroids may stay in the body permanently, even when that athlete has demonstrated they are clean after a period of suspension, thereby giving drugs cheats an unfair advantage over other athletes. If these findings are true, they would certainly seem to support the British Olympic Association’s current life ban for Drug Cheats.

It also gives me hope that if my abdomen can somehow remember what a six-pack feels like all those years ago, there is hope for me yet, or at least that’s what I keep telling myself!

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About Kris

Associate Professor in Sports Law, Staffordshire University; British Gymnastics Senior Coach

View all posts by Kris

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