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article imageThe Placebo Effect: 'Cheating' without cheating in sports

By Thespian     Nov 8, 2007 in Science
Given all of the doping scandals in sports recently, and the fad of undetectable designer drugs, what if there were a performance-enhancing substance that was perfectly legal and totally undetectable? How would sports officials deal with it?
The Placebo Effect (Wikipedia) is a well known, but poorly understood medical effect, wherein a patient believes that an ineffective treatment (like salt water or sugar pills) is an effective one, and their body actually responds.
The Economist reports on an interesting twist involving the placebo effect and athletes(Economist). Pain drugs, like morphine are legal for athlete use during training, but not during competitions. The story linked above describes an experiment where athletes who believed they were getting a performance enhancing drug (but who were actually getting salt water) outperformed control groups during a physical challenge.
The medical mysteries behind the placebo effect make for interesting science, but the moral and ethical questions of a technique like this used in sports are truly fascinating.
Is this just a variation on motivation and psyching oneself up before a contest, or given the fact that the placebo effect causes physiological changes in one's own body chemistry, is it a form of doping, without doping?
More about Placebo, Sports, Doping
 
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