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on 9 April 2014
Excellent, accessible book on the physiological basis of doping. Having some background in bioscience would help a reader, but Cooper breaks down his approach to make anyone understand why doping works the way it does, why certain drugs are used in certain sports and how some are so hard to detect. Illustrated with many case studies, this is a fascinating study for anyone wanting to understand more of the hard science behind these doping scandals hitting the news, or why, for example, it is much easier to make a difference with doping in the 100m than the 10,000m races.
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on 29 June 2012
I must say at the start that the book is a well written, well set out and thorough account of doping in sports. That being said, I can't believe I'm the only reader who struggled with the lengthy biochemistry sections. As a doctor, the science wasn't new to me, and I could understand it, but was still bored by the depth of detail in some sections. I think if I did not have a science background I would definitely have struggled.

I would also have liked some more detail of real cases/ athletes- the BALCO scandal and Tour de france drugs debacle were alluded to frequently, but some specific case studies would have livened up some of the more deadly biochemistry chunks!
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on 13 May 2016
Was hoping for more examples of people who have cheated and maybe more first hand accounts of how they went about it.
The book is dated now with no mentions of Lance Armstrong for example. It does however go into scientific detail about certain aspects, much more detail than this reader could understand but I did still enjoy the book.
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on 12 September 2015
Useful as a sportsman to understand training, nutrition and the ways you can supercharge your performance (legally) - it's also a very good primer on how doing works and what really is its potential, effects and later consequences. If you love sports and science, it's a must read!
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on 6 January 2013
As someone who is researching performance-enhancing drugs in sport, I found this book very interesting and will use it in the future as a reference tool. It is, without doubt, quite complicated, but certainly worth reading through the heavy science parts. I do not come from a science background, but I did want to know some of the scientific details on how testing is done, how drugs work etc. This book worked well for me in that regard.
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on 24 August 2016
A great read for anyone interested in sports science.
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on 19 June 2012
I found this book really interesting it is set out in a straightforward way and really opens your eyes to the use of drugs in sport. It does make you sceptical on the performance of athletes. It is written by a biochemist but he makes it simple to understand. Highly recommended.
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on 3 September 2015
Very detailed, very informative and easily understandable. This is the one to read if you don't have a biochemist background but want a good educational base.
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on 9 November 2013
This book delves into the topics of both illegal and legal drugs in sport in a way which is very accessible to all
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on 4 May 2012
This is an exceptionally lucid survey of a very complicated and contentious topic. For anyone watching the Olympics, taxiing a sports-mad child or training for an event it is a worthwhile read. Chris Copper is a proper scientist, unlike most commentators in the field, and does a good and amusing job of teasing out the complications.

If you think the issues are simple try this (from p178): "To summarise: the inhibition of an inhibitor leads to the activation of an inhibitor of the inhibitory pathway." As the author concedes you need some patience to be a biochemist, and a fine appreciation of the quadruple negative, I'd add.

So what is a performance enhancing drug?

Placebos work. And intra-venous placebos work even better.

Your body has 38 or more hormones controlling diverse functions such as blood cell production, mood, muscle build-up, stamina... Are these drugs? Artificial drugs mimic their actions.

Are drugs just things made in a lab? They have to bind to the same receptors as your "natural" drugs, which might also be "enhanced" by the unscrupulous. Many of these don't, in the author's view, actually work, but coffee (not banned) does.

Given the difficulty you might think to hell with it, let them take dope and see the best doper win. This is a view shared by many athletes. Asked in a survey whether they would take (undetected) drugs guaranteeing sporting glory for five years, only to drop dead the day after, 50% of respondents answered "yes". (We aren't told what proportion of the other 50% was holding out for a longer winning streak.)

There are four good reasons for carrying on this "unwinnable" war on drugs. First, body building. Anyone know more than a wife and a dog who watches this sport? Second, East Germany. You don't drop dead, but you do have long term health issues from the side effects. Third, informed consent. Cooper shows that the earlier you start taking drugs, particularly gene doping drugs, the greater the effect. How could a child refuse?

Fourth, and most surprising, is Cooper's conclusion that while we'll never "win" we are far from losing. Most sports drugs are spin offs (even millionaire sportsmen can't fund the research) and the pharmaceutical companies produce tests as fast as they produce experimental drugs. So be optimistic, the Olympics this year might, just might, be relatively drug free, and fair.
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