Sports Enhancements: Peek at a “Brave New World”

Without real regard for the long term effects of different technical and medical “enhancements” the future is rapidly arriving.  Without a doubt all medical “advances” are being welcome by a significant part of the population with open arms. At the leading edge of this are many of today’s athletes.  This article is from H+ Magazine.

 

If you want to see the future debate over human enhancement, look no further than today’s sports. The modern athlete is a highly-enhanced creature. Whatever physiological edge you can get may provide the razor-thin margin for victory in contemporary sports. And with more ways of modifying the body come more restrictions, and innovations to get around the restrictions.

Athletes may very well be leading the rest of society into the debate about who, how, and why people will be allowed — or even required — to enhance their bodies.

Elite players get it all: performance-enhancing drugs, surgeries, gadgetry, specialized equipment, even mathematical analysis to help them perform their desired tasks. They are monitored and modeled, tested and retested, sorted and classified. The modern elite player is an isolated cyborgian construct with barely room for a life and identity away from their sport.

 Current attitudes towards enhancements vary wildly. Some enhancements are considered the price you pay to get in the game; others, the worst type of cheating. Certain dangerous acts are considered wrong while others are considered honorable. Some seem arcane while others could be useful to anyone and everyone. These attitudes tend to polarize — a new injectable hormone will quickly become anathema, but seeking multiple LASIK eye surgeries to get better than 20/20 vision is a professional responsibility.

Form matters at least as much as outcome. Take the case of Erythropoietin, or EPO. You make EPO to regulate the number of red blood cells you have, and therefore how readily you can get oxygen to your muscles. Injections of synthetic Erythropoietin to boost performance are a major no-no in sports. It’s considered blood doping. But athletes can produce EPO another way: by sleeping in a hypobaric chamber. This reduces oxygen and air pressure to what it would be somewhere 10,000-15,000 feet above sea level. The body responds by producing its own EPO — and lots of it — to get as much oxygen to the sleeping muscles as it can in the deprived environment. After a few weeks in one of these chambers, training in the thick O2 bath at sea level is a breeze. And sleeping in a hypobaric chamber would not be considered cheating any more than pitching a tent halfway up Everest.

More at the link:

via Sports Enhancement and Life Enhancement: Different Rules Apply | h+ Magazine.

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