Need an Edge? Try Performance Enhancing Placebos

Athletes need only think they're cheating
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 2, 2007 7:36 AM CDT
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(Newser) – If there’s nothing actually illegal in your steroid injection, is it still cheating? Placebos, long one of medicine’s top tools, can act as performance enhancing drugs, a new study has proven. The study pitted athletic young men against each other in a pain-endurance contest. Those given a morphine placebo won handily. Of course, the athletes have to believe they’re actually cheating.

Morphine, and other drugs providing temporary advantages, are only verboten during competitions, according to World Anti-Doping rules. So it would be perfectly legal to begin a morphine regimen in the off-season and continue it with placebos while competing. Their effectiveness would depend on athlete credulity, but as the Economist notes, doctors have been getting away with this stuff for millennia.