Students Staff

10 March 2008

Focus on the science behind drug use in sport

Colchester Campus

Essays in Biochemistry by Cooper and Beneke

Scientific experts at the University of Essex have tackled the topical and controversial subject of drug use in sport in a new book published this month. Editors Professors Chris Cooper and Ralph Beneke from the Centre for Sports and Exercise Science have focused on the science of improving sports performance, by both legal and illegal means

Professor Cooper explained: 'Drug cheats in sport have hit the headlines recently as testing regimes have improved, but using substances to improve sports performance can be traced back to the ancient Greeks.

'Now scientific advances are making it possible to modify human genes to potentially transform athletic performance, and sports officials face new challenges. This book covers the biochemistry that will enable students to interpret stories about legal supplements, illegal drugs, genetically enhanced humans and drug testing.'

Some surprising facts emerge. For example, there is much better scientific evidence that the legal use of caffeine improves sport performance than the illegal use of human growth hormone. And Sigmund Freud was one of the first to measure the effect of a performance-enhancing drug when he ingested cocaine and measured the improvement in his hand grip strength.

The book, entitled Drugs and Ergogenic Aids to Improve Sports Performance is published this month. Part of the Portland Press 'Essays in Biochemistry' series, it features chapters by leading experts in the field, including four current or former Essex Sports and Exercise Science staff. In addition to chapters by the editors, Teaching Fellow Gareth Jones, and Ceri Nicholas, formerly of Essex, also contributed.

Aimed at final year undergraduate and postgraduates, the book covers topics including the factors limiting human performance; using legal supplements to assist energy metabolism; the biochemistry of drugs and doping methods used to enhance performance; and the use of drug testing to detect prohibited methods and substances.

Students at the University are engaged in a variety of research projects aimed at improving sports performance. For example, with the recent lifting of the restrictions on caffeine, students are testing combinations of caffeine with compounds that have always been legal, such as carbohydrate drinks.

To arrange an interview with the editors, for more information, or for an image of the book cover, please contact Jenny Grinter in the Communications Office at the University of Essex on 01206 872400, e-mail:

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