June 15, 2017
NOT ALL female athletes suffer from fertility problems.
Dr. Eowyn writes at Fellowship of the Minds:
This is a companion post to DCG’s post this morning on U.S. gold medalist runner Sanya Richards-Ross’ confession that she had an abortion one day before she left for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and her even more startling admission that every female athlete she knows has had abortions — “I literally don’t know another female track-and-field athlete who hasn’t had an abortion”.
That “every” female athlete has had abortions strains credulity in our age of widespread knowledge of birth control and availability of contraceptives. [TH: Actually, abortion and contraception are part of the same social phenomenon.]
What Richards-Ross doesn’t tell you in her autobiographical book that she’s hawking, Chasing Grace, is that female athletes deliberately get pregnant (and then abort) in order to boost their athletic performance. The practice is called blood doping.
WebMD explains that blood doping is an illicit method of improving athletic performance by artificially boosting the blood’s ability to bring more oxygen to muscles via increasing the amount of the amount of hemoglobin — an oxygen-carrying protein — in the bloodstream. The increase in hemoglobin allows higher amounts of oxygen to reach and fuel an athlete’s muscles, thereby improving stamina and performance, particularly in long-distance events, such as running and cycling.
Blood doping is banned by the International Olympic Committee and other sports organizations.
— Comments —
Bert Perry writes:
I’m as horrified as anyone that Mrs. Ross chose to kill her baby rather than skip the Olympics, but it’s worth noting that blood doping actually hurts sprinters like her because it adds more weight. Plus, pregnancy loosens the ligaments in the hips (and elsewhere) and separates the muscles of the stomach, neither of which are good for running.
No argument that elite athletes often do incredibly bizarre things to try to achieve a little bit of advantage, but if they’re sprinters and trying to dope this way, they deserve what they get. Mrs. Ross was 49.93 seconds and third in 2008, 49.55 and first in 2012 with presumably no prenatal infanticide.
Mr. Perry adds:
Just for interest, I took a look at the world record progressions for the 1500m run and the 400m and 1500m swims to see what “middle distance” might have to do with blood doping, and what I find is a strong string of finishes in the 1500m run by the Soviets, but not much for either swim. I also notice the Soviets had a string of wonderful female 1500m runners dating back to the 1920s, the pre-steroid era, so we’d expect that to continue.
So the pattern is very different from what we saw in weightlifting, the sprints in track, and short distance women’s swimming, where anabolic steroids made a huge difference. Maybe it’s there, but it certainly isn’t like it was in the 1970s and 1980s.
Posted by Laura Wood in Uncategorized