By Leslie Taylor
Why are certain substances used? How are they detected? Do they truly have an effect on the body? Cooper explains how drugs designed to improve physical ability — from anabolic steroids to human growth hormone and the blood booster EPO — work and the challenges of testing for them, putting in to context whether the ‘doping’ methods of choice are worth the risk or the effort. Showing the basic problems of human biochemistry, physiology, and anatomy, he looks at what stops us running faster, throwing longer, or jumping higher. Using these evidence-based arguments he shows what the body can, and cannot, do.
How much do you know about sports doping? Science Friday spoke with Chris Cooper, author of Run, Swim, Throw, Cheat, about the science of performance-enhancing drugs and the methods used to detect banned substances. Try the quiz and test your knowledge.
Leslie Taylor is Science Friday’s Web editor. She has a background in oceanography and is passionate about getting non-scientists and young people to realize how cool science can be.
Chris Cooper is Head of Research, Sports and Exercise Science at the University of Essex and the author of Run, Swim, Throw, Cheat: The Science Behind Drugs in Sport. He is a distinguished biochemist with over 20 years research and teaching experience. He was awarded a PhD in 1989, a Medical Research Council Fellowship in 1992, and a Wellcome Trust University Award in 1995. In 1997 he was awarded the Melvin H. Knisely Award for ‘Outstanding international achievements in research related to oxygen transport to tissue’ and in 1999 he was promoted to a Professorship in the Centre for Sports and Exercise Science at the University of Essex. His research interests explore the interface of scientific disciplines. His current biochemical interests include developing artificial blood to replace red cell transfusions. His biophysics and engineering skills are being used in designing and testing new portable oxygen monitoring devices to aid UK athletes in their training for the London 2012 Olympics. In 1997 he edited a book entitled Drugs and Ergogenic Aids to Improve Sport Performance.