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Cobalt Blues

Credit: iStockphoto/ogalT

Credit: iStockphoto/ogalT

By Dave Sammut

The spring racing carnival commences this month, but behind the glitz and glamour is a bitter legal case as horse trainers appeal bans for allegedly doping their horses. Dave Sammut examines the effects of cobalt and the science underpinning allowable thresholds.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Public scandals of doping in sport have become legendary. A tiny minority of competitors seek unfair advantage through the misuse of therapeutic and other drugs, and this creates problems for all. The fall of Western greats such as Ben Johnson and Lance Armstrong and the 2015 suspension of the entire Russian athletics federation from international competition show that this is a global sporting issue.

The problem is much wider than just the issue of cheating. Many of the drugs and techniques used in doping have serious and long-term health consequences. Danish cyclist Knud Jensen died suddenly during competition in the 1960 Olympics, with one autopsy finding amphetamines and the drug pyridin-3-ylmethanol (a vasodilator) in his system. The causes of Jensen’s death are debated even today, but this tragic event prompted the International Olympic Committee to establish its first medical committee, the start of ongoing efforts to protect the health of athletes and the fairness of competition.

A fundamental aspect of performance in elite sport – human or animal – is the oxygenation of the muscles. So there are many routes by which athletes and their trainers seek to enhance the capacity of the body to carry oxygen.

Arguably at its most benign, anaerobic training at high altitude creates hypoxic conditions in the system, which stimulates a natural increase in...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.