I was recently interviewed here in Vancouver about the boosting that will be going on in the coming paralympic games. No one actually participating in these events would ever discus performance boosting obviously, so Sky News in London found my blog and got in touch.

They wanted to know how it works and “is this cheating”? This is a loaded question in my mind. There are many ways to gain some kind of an advantage in sports. With anyone with an injury above T6 there is the risk, and the option using, Autonomic Dysreflexia (AD) to increase blood pressure and heart rate. “Winner’s always want the ball” is the aphorism that comes to mind. So, what do you think? I recommend this documentary film about steroid use before making up your mind.

In this blog article, Dr. Andrei Krassioukov is quoted as being against the practice. What I noticed was:

It’s called “boosting.” And while it serves as a natural doping strategy that can boost athletic performance by up to 15 percent, it also comes with life threatening risks to the athlete.

So, where does this 15% number come from? Maybe from the apparelyzed blog were DR K is again quoted? How can one arrive at performance increase value anyway? Do they mean wattage of output, or speed on the court or what?

When I get AD, my blood pressure (BP) can jump to near double (from 100/60 resting). Now that is more than a 15% change so maybe the article means heart rate (HR)? Well often boosting can suddenly drop in reaction to the BP spike before it bounces back up (above the max of 120 beats per minute).

Limits on max HR is the most frustrating for quadriplegics like me. We simply can’t just “try harder” and expect the HR to respond by speeding up. Boosting can make one very dizzy, or even nauseous, because of the blood pressure swings. So, sometimes it can even work against the person too. There is an optimal amount to boost, but there is no fine grain control when dealing with AD.

I think some of these articles for non-experts, written by non-experts can really get things wrong when trying to carve out the “take home message”. It makes me wonder how often the blogs I’m reading are throwing out a value without fully understanding what what it means. The readers just need to know how much better, faster, stronger these athlese are when doing this crazy boosting thing.

Well, there is no one out there really studing it because it is considered unethical. In my own data collection efforts.. well, I never had the time to do proper experimentation where I only changed one thing at a time and removed all confounders possible. That is a huge ask, and with a case study only, even that doesn’t mean a heck of allot. I know I could lift more and I could wheel or bike at a higher wattage (power output)… but, it doesn’t always work. Actually it can often work against you. Anecdotal evidence only because when I was doing these tests with boosting I was fat, but really strong. My diet was different and I wasn’t looking after myself as well. Too many variables. Far too many to control well enough to really find out, unless you had many dedicated athletes that were really into record keeping.