An unfair boost

'Health risks just one concern if athletes seek to cheat'

Last Updated: 22/08/12 5:13pm

Special Report has investigated how some Paralympic athletes might seek to gain an unfair advantage by adopting an illicit practice this summer called 'boosting'.

"I do know people who have boosted in the past and for a long time it wasn't illegal to do it. It was absolutely accepted within some sports."

Tanni Grey-Thompson

Quotes of the week

The International Olympic Committee says London 2012 was a huge success in their clampdown against drugs cheats - and organisers will be looking for a similar outcome when the Paralympic Games begin next Wednesday.

But one of the biggest fights Games organisers may face is something they may not be able to trace.

Boosting is a process where athletes deliberately injure themselves in a part of their body where they have no feeling - such as wheelchair athletes breaking a toe.

This injury prompts a surge in both heart-rate and blood pressure, giving competitors a short-term boost in performance - although at the risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.

Boosting has been outlawed by Paralympic authorities but is still thought to be a widespread practice.

Canadian rock-climber Brad Zdanivsky, who is paralysed from the waist down, told Special Report: "Boosting is basically like throwing gasoline onto a fire.

"Anybody that is going to spend years of their life training for an event or training for a specific sport is going to experiment with boosting just because they want to see if they can get the performance enhancement.

"If you are going to train for that long for a sport and you think the difference between a gold and a silver medal is taking a risk with your health, those guys will do it every time."

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson - who won 16 Paralympic medals during a glittering wheelchair racing career, including 11 golds - revealed: "I do know people who have boosted in the past and for a long time it wasn't illegal to do it. It was absolutely accepted within some sports.

"The first guy who realised that he could bring on this Autonomic dysreflexia used to tap nails into his feet."

The International Parlaympic Committee banned boosting in 1994 but the ban has been difficult to enforce as there is no lab test for boosting and no ban for boosting.

The only sanction available to the IPC is to withdraw from competition any athlete they suspect of boosting.