Athletes often use drugs, originally developed for medical purposes, as doping. The most famous example is anabolic steroids. Sildenafil is also not an exception due to its vasodilating properties.
What is Sildenafil and What is It Used For?
Sildenafil is the main component of Viagra, a blue anti-ED tablet. It was released in 1998 after approval by the American FDA. Sildenafil belongs to the class of PDE5 inhibitors*. The substance is a vasodilator (it dilates blood vessels) and its basic vasodilating effect focuses on the male organ. Therefore, it improves the erection in men under the condition of sexual arousal.
*Read Full article about phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors: https://awcanadianpharmacy.com/PDE-5-inhibitors.php
The main purpose of sildenafil is to treat erectile dysfunction in men. But this is not the only area of the use of the drug. Back in 2005, sildenafil-based drug Revatio was officially approved for the treatment of pulmonary hypertension (NHS.UK Overview). In addition, scientists are exploring the possibility of using sildenafil for heart disease and prostate enlargement. Even athletes began to benefit from the drug using it to improve athletic performance.
Sildenafil-Based Drugs in Bodybuilding
In bodybuilding, additives belonging to the group of donators of nitric oxide are very popular. These are, for example, L-arginine, AAKG, and citrulline. Many people think that sildenafil is a direct donor of nitric oxide (NO), but this is a wrong opinion. Viagra does not affect the levels of NO however it does contribute to vasodilation. “True” donors increase levels of nitric oxide in the body, which in turn raises the concentration of cGMP. As a result, a number of reactions are triggered in the body, which ultimately lead to relaxation of the vascular wall.
Since Viagra belongs to PDE5 inhibitors, it inhibits the enzyme phosphodiesterase-5, which destroys cGMP. Therefore, the concentration of cGMP also begins to increase and a similar effect is obtained from true “donors” of nitric oxide.
Sildenafil has several other properties that are useful in bodybuilding.
- a slight decrease in blood pressure;
- a positive effect on the heart (Viagra was originally developed to treat angina);
- improving the supply of nutrients to the muscles due to the intensification of blood flow.
One of the drawbacks of Viagra, which repels athletes, is the high price of the original drug. However, in the pharmaceutical market, there are many sildenafil generics, for example, Canadian Viagra.
Note: the use of the drug for sports purposes is not approved by the doctors. A patient can use Viagra only if he consults with a doctor and received a prescription, although in the future the drug may well be over-the-counter one (Britain has already made such a decision).
Using the Drug in Other Sports
Sildenafil can also provide benefits in other sports. In particular, it can help cyclists, especially if the competitions are held in a mountainous area or in areas with a high level of pollution, such as Beijing. Cyclist Andrea Moletta was suspended from cycling after syringes for injections and about 80 Viagra tablets had been revealed in his car at Giro d’Italia in 2008. In 2017, the information appeared that cyclists of Team Sky tested performance-enhancing effects of Viagra being at a training camp. It was reported that one of the team members had been prescribed the medication by his general practitioner for unknown reasons.
Scandalous businessman Victor Conte admitted that he had supplied Viagra to Olympic sprinters Dwain Chambers & Marion Jones.
He said that they had called the drug “Vitamin B”, because it had definitely increased their performance.
In 2006, the Journal of Applied Physiology** published the study conducted by Stanford University scientists. According to their findings, 10 well-trained cyclists involved in 6 km (3.7 mile) trials in 3,874-m (about 12,700 feet) altitude simulating conditions showed better times (reduced by a collective 15%) due to the use of sildenafil. The scientists distributed the participants into 2 groups: 4 cyclists who demonstrated strong response to sildenafil and 6 sportsmen with insignificant change in performance. The representatives of the 1st group improved their times by 39% in comparison with their drug-free performance.
**The Journal of Applied Physiology online: http://www.physiology.org/
Viagra is now not banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), that is, it is not included in the banned substances list. This means that if an athlete is slapped using the med, this will not be considered a violation of the rules. However, some experts suggest that sildenafil should be banned as it increases blood circulation and oxygen delivery to muscle tissues. WADA has recently considered this issue, but the decision about sildenafil banning has not been made.
Using Sildenafil for Better Performance in People with PAH
PAH stands for pulmonary arterial hypertension, a life-threatening disease, which is characterized by changes in the structure of pulmonary vasculature and rise of pulmonary arterial pressure.
In addition to the presence of PDE5 in the cavernous bodies of the penis, this enzyme is also present in the pulmonary vascular system. Therefore, sildenafil leads to vasodilation of the pulmonary arteries & decrease of pressure inside the pulmonary artery.
Revatio*** improves the ability to exercise (in particular, it improves walking distance) in PAH patients. In addition, the med slows down the development of worsening changes in patients’ condition. Its side effects are typically mild, and include flushing, headaches & epistaxis. The use of the drug is contraindicated to people undergoing treatment with nitrates.
***The Full information about Revatio can be found on this page: www.revatio.com/