Sunday, September 17, 2006

Rating Sports By Drug Effectiveness

This post is basically a restatement of the previous one. It's a writing experiment of sorts. There are many ways to say the same thing, after all.

The last post tried to make the point that drug-use in a sport is related to the effectiveness of drugs at improving performances in that sport. In other words, if blood-doping doesn't improve running performances, then no runners will blood-dope, and distance running will have no drug-related issues. If blood-doping works, then runners will be tempted to try it.

Below I rate various sports according to the degree to which doping (primarily steroids/testosterone/hgh, or blood boosting of various sorts, including EPO) will improve performance in the sport. The top score is 100, which I have arbitrarily assigned to weight lifting. The lowest score is 0, which I have arbitrarily assigned to table tennis. All other sports fall somewhere inbetween. The higher a sport's rating, according to this system, the more likely that the sport will have doping-related problems. (The amount of money involved in a sport also influcences drug-use, with bigger-money sports attracting more drugs, but I don't want to deal with the $$$ effect in this column.)

This is not a scientific ranking, and I am providing no explanations, as that would eat up too much space. You're invited to give your own ratings and explanations in the "Comments" section.

Rating Sports According To The Degree That Drugs Improve Performance In The Given Sport

Weight lifting: 100
Bicycling, multiday events: 90
Shot: 90
Running, sprints: 80
Running, distance: 80
Bicycling, one-day endurance events: 70
Running, mile: 70
Crew and Rowing: 70
Football, linemen: 70
Boxing: 60
Bicycling, sprints: 60
Swimming, sprints: 60
Swimming, distance: 60
Baseball, batter: 50
Javelin: 50
Sumo: 50
Speed Skating: 50
Football, backfield: 40
Baseball, pitcher: 30
Soccer: 30
Basketball: 20
Hockey: 20
Pole vault: 20
High jump: 10
Golf: 10
Archery: 10
Tennis: 10
Golf: 10
Figure skating: 10
Yachting: 10
Equestrian: 0 (unless the horse is doped)
Table Tennis: 0

Please use the "Comments" to add new sports, and/or give your own ratings and explanations.


At 9:06 PM, Blogger pjm said...

I agree with the root of this argument, but as you anticipated, I want to quibble a bit with your ordering.

I suspect you're underrating both ends of swimming and maybe rowing.

Swimming has had a drug problem for as long as track has, and I'd only rate its sprints lower than track's sprints because technique plays a larger role in swimming.

Distance swimming has the same distinction from distance running (that is, technique and stroke economy are more important.) That said, I might argue that that makes aerobic capacity (and, by your argument, the sport's sensitivity to EPO) *more* important, not less: with more muscles in play, and the technique to apply them effectively and efficiently, it's much easier to reach one's "red line" in a workout or a race, and consequently more attractive to attempt to chemically shift that red line.

A corresponding argument applies to rowing, which I was once told "uses more body parts than cheap sausage" and positively requires some athletes to red-line for a long time. (I've heard more tales of elite rowers dying in the boat than of elite runners dying on the track.)

I notice that cross-country skiing isn't on your list. (An oversight, I'm sure.) All the rowing and swimming arguments apply, plus several psychological ones. I suspect that cross-country skiing pioneered some of the doping methods eventually applied to distance running (e.g. "reindeer milk.") Let's put it at 80 or 90.

I'm also interested in the fact that you've got 100 marks on this ruler, but you've dropped sports at 10-point increments. I guess that leaves room for fine-grained adjustment?

At 9:38 PM, Blogger Editor said...

Thanks. Great comments. I rated swimming lower than running purely for technique reasons, as you suggest. I agree that rowing seems to deserve a higher rating; I guess I went easy because I've never heard of a doping case in rowing...but I haven't had my ear to the water, either. Nordic skiing must involve something more than pure physiology, or those Kenyans would have moved up the ranks by now. But you're right that I oversighted it; and it should be in
more or less the same position as running-bicycling-swimming.

At 10:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Experimentally speaking I wonder if it would help not so much to list sports individually, but to put them into broader categories (for example it would seem logical to place swimming, running and nordic skiing in the same HIGH AEROBIC category) and subsequently add variables which describe the sport in terms of - say -popularity, number of people that practice it, retribution levels of athletes, titles, prizes and award opportunities ect. Otherwise the risk is to make it look like an arbitrary list of names and numbers. This categorizing could perhaps help to relate any analysis/data to all those sport-like activities (dancing, body-building, wrestling, extreme-sports?) which involve intense physical activity where - I ask - are there doping controls being done?

At 2:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Amby -- Nice to have you blogging. I think your overall point is well taken and don't have much to add except that I'd give archery (and riflery, etc.) a higher number due to the calming effects of beta blockers. Also, an interesting tangential question: are multisport athletes (decathletes, modern pentathletes, etc.) more, less, or equally likely to dope than single-sport athletes? Each of the different disciplines provides opportunities for pharmacological enhancement; as a modern pentathlete, you could use beta blockers to help with the shooting, epo to help with the swimming and running, some horse potion to help with the riding, etc....

At 8:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some interesting points and overall its a good blog but are you sure about the facts? especially swimming? Im a competative swimmer and I've been around some of the greatest and never has there ever even been suspion as muscle building drugs are useless to swimmers.


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