Will this be the end of track and field as we know it?

Having been involved in track and field for 30 years, up to 2004, it is almost impossible to ignore the recent total confusion and the destruction of one of the most beautiful sports: track and field. Open any news medium and the scandals of doping and corruption will fly into your face.

Whenever the smoke will clear from this battlefield, we will see the real causes and the results of it.
Right now the cry for an intensified “War on Doping” is louder than ever before.

In my opinion, this so-called “War on Doping” is doomed to fail from the very start, it’s obvious if you look back into recent history.

Take the “War on Cancer”, the “War on Drugs” declared by President Richard Nixon in 1971, or the “War on Terrorism”. Which of these have we won and if you see a victory somewhere, what price have we paid for that? Cancer is far from eradicated, more drugs are sold and used than when the “War on Drugs” started, and the “War on Terrorism” isn’t very successful either, if you ask me, just watch the news and get the hard data. The expression the War on…. always comes from clever politicians who want generate credibility, attention, more power, and of course money by just creating or enlarging a problem. No, I am far from a hippie, and politics is hardly my cup of tea for if it was only for this very reason described above. But at least I am a keen reader about history, psychology and biology.

Facts: think only about one of the biggest social experiments ever done in this area: the Prohibition in the US, banning alcohol for religious, social and health reasons, from 19 20-1933. But the final results of it were: more people died from alcohol than ever before, more people died from criminal violence, it was the springboard for the birth of organized crime, since it placed the production of alcohol in the hands of criminals, just as happened in the “War on Doping”. The Prohibition also created disrespect for the law, and corruption flourished, since crime and politics found each other really fast.

Not a miracle that the Prohibition was stopped after society paid a tremendous price. We can observe the same in the ban of cannabis or marihuana. It started with the brainwashing of the general public with “Reefer madness”, the idea that use of cannabis would lead to most awful mental derangements possible and would turn innocent youth into murderous thugs.

In the US, all use of cannabis was banned, starting in 1937. In Holland, however we got a lot of criticism for our tolerant view on cannabis use, calling it a “soft drug”, compared to hard drugs like cocaine, crack, alcohol, nicotine or heroine. At least it worked very well for our tourist industry, since millions of young US tourists have visited Amsterdam for smoking a joint in a coffee shop, and killing sprees from reefer madness have not been seen or went by unnoticed. Recently cannabis was legalized or decriminalized in some states in the US as well, saving society billions of dollars, if it was only for not having to put thousands of young people into prison for smoking a joint. Polls show that 58% of the US population in support of the legalization of cannabis. One expects legalization to happen in democratic society if the majority is for it.

It’s not up to me to choose for legalization of performance enhancing agents in elite sport.
It would be a bad choice, but I am old enough to know that many choices in life aren’t about “good” or “bad”, but about “bad” or “worse”. Even though it seems to be an out-of-the box-solution in a time where the sports politicians prefer to sit safely inside the box and keep the lid firmly closed. They prefer to keep themselves far away from reality in sports and from a better solution than the dead-end street of repression, They prefer draconic punishments to the extent of the destruction of elite sport, as it is happening right now. But even the end of elite sports will not lead to an end of the use of illegal substances in sports in general.

Far from being an expert in this matter I would like to ask some simple but uncomfortable questions, mostly answered by silence:
Is a total clean sport possible, can we put the ghost back into the bottle?

And if yes,at what price? A totalitarian police state springs to mind, a total control over the communication and even the lives of athletes?
But…. in the same line of thought: will we see “clean” sport officials and politicians being free of corruption, fraud, theft, whitewashing, and other criminal acts or will they still have to prevail.
Why is there a strict liability for athletes only and not for officials or sports officials and politicians?
Why do so few fraudulent sports politicians appear before court, why no draconic punishments there?
Why the call for so called “independent” control institutes or “integrity taskforces”, or “authorities”?
Does independent mean: there is nobody to control THEM? As the saying goes: “If it’s worth winning, it’s worth cheating”. This applies to athletes as well as to the people waging the “War on Doping”.
Why are they not controlled? Or like the expression goes: who chooses these individuals, who guards these “guardians”?

Sports organizations are ruled mainly by lawyers and politicians, who are very good in making rules for others and interpreting these rules as far as themselves are concerned. Do you still know somebody at that level who isn’t a lawyer of politician? Looking for the general and mutual benefits for everybody involved in sports is seldom an issue for them. One can hardly find a visionary person there, who is able to think and act beyond the predictable knee-jerk-reflex responses they display most of the time.

But here is the real bad thing about: it’s US that made all of this possible, by being ignorant, silent and allowed this system to persist. We gave away our control to people we rusted to do their job. In other words, all involved in athletics guilty to the situation that is developing now.

Bibliography:

Thornton, M: Alcohol Prohibition was a failure; Cato Institute Policy Analysis No. 157, 1991.

Thornton, M: The Economics of Prohibition; University of Utah Press, USA, 1991.

Okrent, D: Last Call. The Rise and Fall of Prohibition; Simon & Schuster, USA, 2010.

Miron J.A; Zwiebel, J: Alcohol Consumption during Prohibition; The American Economic Review, Vol. 81, No. 2, 1991, pg. 242-247.

Blackwell, T: Is the war on cancer an ‘utter failure’?: A sobering look at how billions in research money is spent; National Post, Canada, March 15, 2013.

Faguet, G: The War on Cancer. An Anatomy of Failure, A Blueprint for the Future, Springer, 2005.

Lynch, T.(Ed.) After Prohibition – An adult approach to drug policies in the 21st century; CATO Institute, 2001.

Hari, J: Chasing the Scream; The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs; epub.

McVay, D.A: Drug War Facts; Common Sense for Drug Policy, 2006, http://www.csdp.org/

Mendoza, M: US War On Drugs Has Met None Of Its Goals: Associated Press , May 13, 2006.

“The drug war is lost”; Interview with Milton Friedman, in “Der Spiegel”, 14/1992.

Sekulic, D: Why are we losing the war against doping? In fact, do we want to win at all?; JAHR, European Journal of Bioethics, Vol.2, No.3, 2011, pg.293-301.

Lopez, B: Anti-doping cheating? The manufacture of truth in the war against drugs in
Sport;

Moeller, V: DiMeo, P: Anti-doping – the end of sport; International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, Vol. 6, No. 2, 2014, pg. 259–272.

Moeller, V; DiMeo, P: Anti-Doping: Is the Cure Worse Than the Disease?; http://www.theouterline.com

Moeller, V: Who Guards the Guardians?; The International Journal of the History of Sport, 31:8; 2014, pg.934-950.

Lopez, B: Creating fear: the ‘doping deaths’, risk communication and the anti-doping
campaign; International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, 2013.

Fincoeur, B; Van de Ven, K; Mulrooney, K.J.D; The symbiotic evolution of anti-doping and supply chains of doping substances: how criminal networks may benefit from anti-doping policy; Trends Organ Crim, 2014; DOI 10.1007/s12117-014-9235-7.

Dimeo, P; Moeller, V; Think the war on doping is a force for good? Its ideals have been compromised all along; The Conversation, March 4, 2015.

Hermann, A; Henneberg, M: Anti-Doping Systems in Sports are Doomed to Fail: A Probability and Cost Analysis; J Sports Med Doping Stud, Vol.4, No.5, 2014, pg. 1-12.

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But what about genes?

Every athlete, better said, every living organism is the result of the genes of his/her parents. It’s our genetic blueprint, or the “map” on which we can have an overview where we can go and where not, before we travel. As coaches we spend almost 90% of our time thinking about and tinkering with our programs. That is necessary, absolutely, but in my opinion it equally necessary to look at the individual you are applying this training to. One of the founders of modern medicine Dr. William Osler once stated: “It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.” Or in our language: it is more important to know what sort of athlete you want to train than to what kind of training you apply to the athlete.

Very often we still think along the line of “One size fits all”. We listen to sport scientists who try to convince us that training method A is better than training method B. In my opinion this is irrelevant, at least for elite athletes. Often we see this in weight loss diets, some people swear by a certain diet, because they lost weight, while others don’t lose weight or even gain weight with the same diet. How can that be? Well it’s simple: the diet fits the genetic blueprint of the people who benefit from it, while the same diet doesn’t work for people who have a different predisposition. Your superfood might be my poison. In training we see the same thing happen all the time: some athletes really benefit from a given program, others don’t or get injured. Again: looking at the genetic blueprint of the athletes might prevent this from happening.

I have always been interested in the genetic part of sports training but until recently, genetic testing was too expense, and not well established yet. This has now changed.

So, yes, genetic testing: what speaks against it?
I hear a lot of people speak out against genetic testing, at least for athletes.
Arguments I hear are: “Genes are irrelevant it’s gene expression that is important” . Well expressing genes is what was we already do on a daily base, we call it: training. But what if you don’t have the right genes to express or if you are the expression of the wrong genes? You can’t train a donkey the way you train a racehorse. And from a distance we can see that the donkey has a different genetic make-up from a race horse. In humans is more difficult. From the outside the difference is not as clear as with the donkey and the race horse. We cannot see whether an athlete is born to sprint, to lift, to play soccer or to run the marathon. Winners come in all sizes and types, because performance is complex and there is a lot of room for compensation. A simple example is high jump: being tall is an advantage – high center of mass. But if you aren’t you might still beat a tall high jumper by e.g. being more explosive or having a better technique. In other words, you (over-)compensate your lack of height. But here is the catch: only if you are suited to be explosive and to train and improve explosiveness. If you are short and not explosive you will have very hard time compensating these two factors by having a better technique. So the jumper who is tall, AND explosive AND has a good technique has the best change to reach the top. Of course you can increase explosiveness a lot, but not everybody to the same extent.

Another argument is: “Genetic testing is not yet fully developed, we don’t know enough yet, only maybe 1%.” My argument is simple: “than you wait until we know everything about genes and genetics which might be another 100 years, the choice is yours!” What do we know about the brain or even about the muscle? If you read enough you will see we know surprisingly little about the brain and the muscle. It does not stop us from working with it on a daily basis. I like to work with what we have even it is a little or not enough, as long as what we have is solid enough to work for my practical application.

Genetic testing will not replace other information I have about the athlete’s structures and functioning, I will just have more information.

Genetic testing will not test whether you are going to run 9.90 or 9.60 in the 100 meters. Nor will it tell you if you are going to be a top level soccer player. This last one is impossible anyway, because an excellent forward might be a lousy goal keeper, just because the functional demands, and thus the profiles, are so different.
“There are many genes that determine performance”. Absolutely true! Complex factors like speed, endurance or coordination are controlled by hundreds or maybe even thousands of genes. But could that stop us from starting to work with the ones we know? Every journey starts with the first step, and so is the solving of the genetic puzzle. Again, do you want to wait until that whole puzzle is solved? That’s good too!

As coaches we realize certainty does not exist in elite sports. We are looking at probability, increasing our chances to create successful athletes. We can deal with this uncertainty better than scientists, they only act when things are known (evidence-based). Elite performances let’s say world record levels, are an unexplored territory. Nobody has ever gone there, so nobody has the experience of being there even Usain Bolt doesn’t know what it is to run 9.30. Nobody has the experience, no evidence, so we have to do without, but we can live with that. Basically what we do is “thin slicing”, which is making an adequate judgment about a situation or a person with the least amount of information. (How big, or rather how small a slice of cake do you need to taste in order to know if the cake tastes good or bad?)

Here is another example: aspirin, who doesn’t know it? In 1898 Felix Hoffman synthesized aspirin, but only in 1971 John Vane won the Nobel Prize for unraveling the mechanism of aspirin (through prostaglandins). Between 1898 and 1971 millions of people took aspirin without having a clue about why it worked. What they knew however, was more important: it worked (and no, not for everybody, and yes, there are side effects and precautions). Lack of scientific knowledge is not always a limitation for the proper use of ideas, tools, techniques or substances.
We limit ourselves to genes we have adequate knowledge of, there is no forecasting of genetic defects leading to pathology. We have doctors for that. We stay away from pathology.

We cannot monitor training by genetic testing. Our genetic blueprint is rather static and does not change by training. What does change, however, is the gene expression, and in future this will be a valuable tool as well. Genetic testing gives where to go and where not, it can save us from wasting valuable and limited resources like time, energy and money by trial-and-error, or trying to train donkeys thinking we have race horses at hand.

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Goodbye 2015, welcome 2016.

It has been a while since my last post, for the very simple reason of being too busy to write a decent post. I am shocked to see that it is almost 6 weeks ago.
The good side of this is, I have been traveling, lecturing and learning a lot and reading more new articles and books than before. For those who do not know yet, I am also writing some guest post for the Omegawave blog. Also I am finishing a simple book about speed training (in English) to be published by Ultimate Athlete Concepts, probably the best training book publisher in the market.https://www.facebook.com/Ultimate-Athlete-Concepts-138502616186652/

A few highlights: lecturing for the Global Hamstring project: the 2nd international seminar with some incredible knowledgeable lecturers. Here is the link to a short videoclip of it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPqn9Jd2Pz0

It was an invitation of my good friend Per Tesch, one of the world leading brains as far as muscle and strength training are involved. He is together with Hans Berg one of the designers of the flywheel- system, originally intended for use in space as being gravity-independent. His Yo-Yo machine is the “Coca-Cola” of the flywheels, now called NHANCE.

Per also wrote the interesting book, Muscle Meets Magnet, in which he researched muscle recruitment by putting athletes in an fMRI, doing an exercise, and again making an MRI and measuring the difference, which is the best way to see which muscle(-s) participate in an exercise.
This is interesting since most of the time we just assume that an exercise will involve certain muscle groups and as the books shows, many times we are wrong.

The same was revealed (by the same fMRI procedure) for different hamstring exercises and here is what might be a shocker for many of you: the popular Nordic hamstring exercise (which isn’t Nordic at all) is an almost useless exercise when it comes to adequately strengthening the hamstrings at least for prevention of hamstring injuries in sport.

One of the lecturers also showed video clips of the best new set of exercises I have seen in a long time, working with the best European soccer players. Some of these guys are 10 years ahead of the rest of the field. We work with flywheels since 15 years, but only recently the US embraced flywheel training as being “new, revolutionary and innovative”. Also with vibration training we were 5-8 years ahead when the US S&C community discovered vibration training.

Amazing that in this time of the “Internet”, the information about new developments still travels at snail speed and it still takes years to discover, leave alone embrace, new ideas and tools. Most of the time only when many copycats and me-too products start to flood the market. Despite our innovative image, coaches are rather conservative, and seldom belong to the true innovators or even early-adapters. We just prefer to jump on the busy bandwagon. On the balance of risk-taking and experimenting at one side, and “wait-and-see-what-everybody-else-does. on the other side, we coaches often choose the last option. Most people who talk about out-of-the-box-thinking prefer to sit cozily inside that box, and keep the lid firmly closed, one never knows, what might happens outside.

This week I met with one of my former athletes, I might say a kind of guinea pig for me, since I have always been working with sprinters up to 400 meter and 400 meter hurdles, the 800meters were a sort of unexplored territory and endurance plays as much a role as speed or explosiveness. Her name is Letitia Vriesde from Surinam And I must say, one of the toughest and most dedicated athletes I ever coached.

Letitia going for silver in 1.56.65 World Championships 1995 Goteborg (2nd from right)

Letitia going for silver in 1.56.65 World Championships 1995 Goteborg (2nd from right)

The funny thing was that, even though, training with me brought her the first medals indoor and outdoor in the 800 meters and also two personal bests (indoor and outdoor) she always doubted if we were doing enough work for the 800 meters.
Are you sure this is enough work, shouldn’t I be doing some more reps, shouldn’t I be doing some morning runs as well? Now, one seldom gets medals for how long you run, or how many miles you make, most of the time it is about how fast you run. With these results I think my hypotheses about 800 meter running were confirmed, since we only work with cases, not with groups. Probably more than in any other event it is important to know if the athletes is explosive or endurance oriented, (for the 100 meter or the marathon it is quite obvious and one-sided)

No need to say the period is one of family and friends and so last week I visited my mother to celebrate Christmas. She has been involved in local and national sports organization for a long time and many athletes have spent time in her house. She is now 85 years old, grows orchids, recently took computer classes (Henk, have you ever heard of Google?) and she started painting, even though her joints and so her hands are ruined by rheumatoid arthritis for many years now. But she is not a person to give up easily and an example for me. One of my favorite paintings of her below.

Tulips from Holland

Tulips from Holland

Wishing all my readers, a healthy, happy and successful 2016!

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The beginning of the end for athletics?

The last couple of weeks we heard how WADA, or at least its director David Howman, basically pleaded for criminal prosecution of doping-athletes. This plea was well received by and even supported by many high-level sports executives in their quest to abolish the “doping demon”. This week the world of athletics got a big “surprise”. Lamine Diack, ex-president of the IAAF, was arrested on suspicion of having “whitewashed” hundreds of positive doping-tests for money. And so was long-term anti-doping doctor Gabriel Dolle.

Surprisingly the voices of sport executives are not heard anymore. No demand for prison sentences or steep fines from that side. Could it be that the taking of doping-substances by athletes is considered a much higher level of “crime” than being instrumental in covering up hundreds of positive tests and getting a handsome sum of money to do so. Many people suspect this is only the tip of the corruption iceberg within the IAAF.

Nobody is asking for a Lance Armstrong-like treatment for Diack and Dolle: i.e. paying back not only the bribes they received, but also their salaries since they failed what they were paid for. So far nobody has had the guts to stand up and demand a long term imprisonment for Gabriel Dolle who has been in charge of anti-doping for the longest time, even David Howman is silent now.

All this once again raises the important question: who controls the controllers and who applies justice to the makers of the rules?

The gap between these two levels in sports, the athletes and the executives, seems to be widening rapidly. The athletes are requested to give up their civil rights in order to participate in their sports, are subject to more and more demonic rules and regulations and have very little opportunity to defend themselves. Let alone to speak openly about this without being subjected to scrutiny of the anti-doping authorities. And then the executives, who can lie, cheat, embezzle and / or whitewash money, be corrupt and show no integrity at all.

galg

Often they escape with a slap on the wrist or even unpunished. often they are only transferred to another important position in sport. No threats of fines, or prison terms here, no demands of returning the money. The IOC just recommended a lame, provisional suspension from the IOC for Diack………

Justice is only a joke when applied in this way. Justice was never meant to protect the strong and crack down hard on the weak. There is the misconception that athletes lie and cheat and sport executives do not.

The current policy of these executives is one of total destruction. It is the beginning of the destruction of the sport as we know it. One can just hope that I am wrong, time will tell.

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Shock and memories.

I am still in touch with most of the athletes I coached. Some of them regularly, some of them once a year, but in many cases our last workout together was 20-30 years ago. But I also lost contact with some of them simply because they moved, sometimes to another country.

One of the athletes I lost contact with is Ronald Desruelles. In the past years when I asked other people who knew him, nobody knew where he was or what happened to him, he seemed to have disappeared. He was one of the most gifted and also nicest athletes I ever worked with. I coached him from 1986-1988.

With Ronald before a competition

With Ronald before a competition

Ronald was an excellent sprinter (P.B. 100m 10.02 secs, 200m 20.66 secs, he also jumped 8.08 meter in the long jump and ran 60 meter indoors in 6.56 secs).

He became European indoor champion in the 60 meters in Madrid in 1986, was 6th in the World Indoor Championships 60 meters in Indianapolis in 1987 and won silver at the European Indoor Championships in Budapest in 1988.

As an athlete he was born to sprint and to jump, very explosive and elastic, a human kangaroo.

Ronald in training

Ronald in training

This week, I learned why I lost contact with him, he had moved from Belgium to Thailand and became the owner of three restaurants there. The bad news however is that he has taken his own life, most probably as the newspaper article said, because he could no longer cope with the financial burden of the restaurants which that weren’t doing too well.

This news must have been a big shock to all who knew him, and in my case trained with him. If there would have been anything I could have done to help him, I surely would have done so.
I got to know him as a very gentle and almost shy personality, proud, and with a great sense of humor. Somehow he found the balance between enjoying life and being dedicated to the sport and the training. He was a handsome athlete and always attracted female attention, which was the cause of many anecdotes. I fondly remember going to training camps with him, he was great addition to any group.
I feel sorry for the family and friends he left behind. No matter how fast he was, somehow he could not outrun the harsh reality of life. But Ronald has not disappeared, he is now on the outside looking in and he is still here in our memories.

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Could it be genetic?

As a young coach I was educated with the idea that genetic factors were the limitations to performance: “you can’t turn a donkey into a race horse”. Irrelevant statement: donkeys do not race against race horses.

More puzzling were the observations that some athletes seemed to response so well to a certain training program while others barely improved with the same program.
It’s not difficult to observe a large inter-individual variation in training responses. Nor is it hard to see ct that one-size-fits-all does not work optimally for everyone and that every individual athlete needs an individual training program or in a broader sense, an optimal environment to thrive.

In the same line of thinking is the fact that this idea also applies to nutrition: some people can eat a lot of calories without gaining weight while others can only eat a few calories and still gain weight.
Also here: one man’s superfood can be another man’s poison.

There are ways to find out what the individual response to training or diet is: coincidence, trial-and-error or taking estimated guesses. Science won’t help us a lot, as scientific research tends to average the results of individual responses. Most of the time we look at (bio-)markers of individual progress, which is also not an easy task, since there are any different variables that influence the results.
For example: for explosive sports we might look at jumping height, other strength parameters, and of course competition results, to see if our training is heading in the right direction. For many of our athletes things seem to go well, but what if an athlete stops making progress, what could be the cause? Yes, many factors can be taken into account, but one factor is difficult to judge: the genetic factor. Maybe our training program is not optimal for the specific genetic design of the athlete: physiologically, biochemically, hormonally, psychologically, etc.

Already in 1970, I wanted to perform genetic tests on athletes, but only in 2003 the human genome was unraveled and it took another 10 years for genetic testing to become feasible for coaches (reliability and pricing).
The procedure of genomic testing is simple: just have the athlete swab their cheeks. But then, trouble starts: even though the results might be accurate, the interpretation and practical meaning is not. Here are some practical hiccups: even though the genetic predisposition of the athletes is of the explosive power type (according to ACTN-3), there is still huge difference in muscle type composition between the different muscle groups in the human body.

One other methodological problem is the associations between certain qualities and the genomic design. Some labs will tell you having gene A might predicts a 80% probability of a certain quality or disease. But another lab will tell you gene A only will give you a 20% probability of the same quality or disease.
It depends on the population from which the samples are taken, since many qualities depend on environmental influences as well. So in one country one might have a gene with a 80% chance, since other environmental influences are not present or have a negative amplifying effect. While in the 20% example the same gene is expressed less in that particular population since there are positively amplifying factors like, temperature, sunlight, altitude, food, pollution, exercise, lifestyle, smoking, cultural and social habits, etc. And this might explain the difference between the 20% and 80% probability.

And there are more methodological difficulties. All of this does not decrease the value of genetic testing at all, just makes the interpretation more difficult and therefore challenging.
In sports we are not specifically looking for the risk of certain (rare) diseases. We looking for the genetic factors that associate with training and diet. These factors might show that maybe you have been training and/or eating against your genetic design and so your results are negatively affected.

The more we start to know about the human genome , the more we realize it’s not a destiny, but a set of possibilities mainly influenced by the environment. And it are those strong influences , like training and diet that we work with, every day.

A few books:
Collins, M (Ed.): Genetics and Sports; Medicine and Sport Science Vol.54, Karger, 2009.
Pescatello, L.S; Roth, S.M.(Eds.): Exercise Genomics; Humana Press, 2011.
Bouchard, C; Hoffmann, E.P.(Eds.): Genetic and Molecular Aspects of Sports Performance; Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.
Wackerhage, H.(Ed.): Molecular Exercise Physiology; Routledge, 2014.

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Hamstring seminar

Since I get requests for the Hamstring seminar, here is the information:

THE 2nd INTERNATIONAL ”GLOBAL HAMSTRING PROJECT” SYMPOSIUM

http://nhance.se/global-hamstring-project-register-now-2/#.VhddVPu5gUA.facebook

Program:

09.00: Per Tesch, PhD. Karolinska Institutet, Founder nHANCE™ driven by YoYo™ Technology, Stockholm, Sweden. ”The Global Hamstring Project”.

09.15: Kristian Berg, Dr. Naprapathy. Rygg & Idrottsskadekliniken, Stockholm, Sweden. ”The underappreciated complex anatomy and function of the hamstring muscle group”.

09.30: Henk Kraaijenhof, Holistic Track & Field Coach, Helping the best to get better. Laren, The Netherlands. ”When hamstring becomes an Achilles’ heel. A practical approach to prevent and treat hamstring problems in athletes”.

10.30: Coffee Break

11.00: Julio Tous Fajardo, PhD. Strength & Conditioning Coach of the Italian National Football Federation, La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain. “My approach to prevent hamstring injuries in professional athletes while enhancing speed and agility“.

12.00: Mateja Fritz, RPT. Optimal Fysik, Stockholm, Sweden. “Treating tendon injury and hamstring muscle strain using ultra-sound guided EPI® technique and YoYo™ technology”.

12.15: Srecko Mijatovic. RPT. Cortex Training Center, Belgrad, Serbia. ”Enhancing speed, strength and power and preventing injury with YoYo™ Technology: My Approach!”

12.45: Rodrigo Fernandez-Gonzalo, PhD. Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden. “Exercise models to prevent hamstring injury in elite soccer players. What muscles are actually targeted? An exhaustive study employing functional MRI”.

13:30: Lunch

14.45: Jordi Garcerán, Holistic Sports Coach & Advanced Personal Trainer. Paradise, Mataro, Spain. “Hands-On exercise using YoYo™ technology. My favorite exercises for brute eccentric power or functionality – more than hamstring only”.

16.00: Wrap-up.

Where: TecnoCampus, Mataro (Barcelona), Spain
When: 09.00-16.00; 28/11/2015
Invited: Coaches, Clinicians, Researchers, Athletes, Team Managers
Host: nHANCE™ driven by YoYo™ Technology
How to get there: By car from Barcelona (C-32) or Girona; by train from Pl. Catalunya; by air to either Girona or Barcelona (El Prat).
Where to stay: Ibis, Barcelona Mataro or Hotel Atenea Port Barcelona Mataro, both situated right on the beach.
Attendance Fee: €245 (deadline: 21/10); Early Bird: €195 (deadline: 20/11).
How to Register & Pay: Bank wire transfer to account number (IBAN) SE58 6000 0000 0000 4244 6309; BIC/Swift: HANDSESS; accountant: YoYo Technology AB, Pryssgrand 10, 113 51 Stockholm, Sweden. Important: Provide Name, Title, Affiliation, e-mail and mobile tel along with bank wire transfer copy to info@nhance.se

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Lactate, back to the roots.

In the 1980’s, coaching some young middle distance runners, they were advised to do some lactate tests, because that would help me to guide their training. Being young and naïve (as I am still), we did this, but for some reason I could not believe that measuring one singular factor could lead to the designing of the complete program for the athlete. So I discarded this way of testing as soon as possible. But many of my colleagues kept on doing this for the longest time. The people promoting this test were German-educated sports doctors. Even whole books have been written about this test.(1,2). Clear examples of the one-factor fallacy: trying to explaining complex performances by focusing on one singular parameter, in this case: lactate.

Also a few years later training abroad with sprinters I saw the German sprint team having their lactate levels tested before and after every workout every day. And I overheard these athletes and their coaches comparing their lactate levels as if it was the only and most important parameter for sprinting. Producing optimal lactate levels seemed more important than winning sprints in competition.

The Germans had, at least in Europe, always been a formidable force, but coincidence or not, since they started focusing on lactate, a German sprinter at the highest level became an exception. And in middle-and long distance running, their performance level became even worse. Since I was and am still a keen student of German sports sciences, I was curious if their firm belief in lactate testing and control of their training process had something to do with that. But I could never really clearly reveal this relationship.
But then I found the website of the original developer of the lactate-testing concept: Dr. Alois Mader, a brilliant East-German sports doctor, who in 1974 escaped from the GDR to the BRD and who designed the lactate test in the years 1970/1972. He published some valuable insights in the lactate testing as well as the adaptation mechanisms of the muscle cell to training load (3,4).
On his website, in English, he intensively describes the problems with the dogmatic application of the lactate testing, the wrong interpretation and the consequences for German sports and the political and (un-)scientific background of it all. This website is a must-read for everyone interested in muscle metabolism and adaptation processes and of course the role of lactic acid in exercise metabolism.

1. Janssen, P: Lactate Threshold Training; Human Kinetics, 2001
2. Olbrecht, J: The Science of Winning, F& G Partners, 2007.
3. Mader, A; Heck, H: A theory of the metabolic origin of “Anaerobic Threshold.” Int. J.  Sports Med. Vol.7 (Suppl.1), 1986, pg. 45-65.
4. Mader, A: A Transcription-Translation Activation Feedback Circuit as a Function of Protein Degradation, with the quality of Protein Mass Adaptation Related to the Average functional Load; J. Theor. Biol. Vol 134, 1988, pg.135-157.

Dr. Maders’ website: http://www.muscular-energy-metabolism.com/

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Supplements: gateway to doping use?

Recently I read an interesting article by colleague-coach Steve Magness about the psychology of doping. He states as follows: “Research has linked the use of numerous supplements to acting as a gateway towards doping”.
But not everything that sounds obvious or logical is true. In order for this statement to be true, cause and effect must be clearly established…..and they just are not! The use of supplements does not automatically lead to the use of doping for quite a few reasons.

The often used “gateway theory”, in former days called the “stepping stone theory’, is mildly stated, far from established. Addiction expert Denise Kandel states: “It doesn’t mean that because you start with tobacco, you’re going to become a heroin addict. That’s completely false reasoning. Many people start smoking. Only a few go on to use heroin. Use of a drug at a lower stage may be a necessary but not a sufficient condition for progressing to a higher stage”.

The definition of nutritional supplements and of doping, and the difference between them, is arbitrary. The many changes in the banned list show this. A few examples. Alcohol is on the banned list for some sports, so it is part of everyday nutrition, a supplement, a social drug, a hard drug (think Saudi-Arabia), a medicine or is it doping? Alcohol is also an good example of a substance where the gateway theory does not hold. The best example? One of the biggest biological and social experiments ever staged: the Prohibition in the US.

Interestingly enough, during the Prohibition, the use of alcohol increased, instead of decreased. And so did the relative amount of alcohol-related deaths and organized crime. Alcohol-related deaths, that is what it is called, but in fact those deaths were not related to ethanol, but to the toxic methanol, the chemical produced during the production of alcohol through the improper and inadequate production process by illegal bootleggers. The taste or the attractiveness of alcohol as a substance did not change during the prohibition. The old saying that the forbidden fruit tastes sweeter certainly holds true for alcohol.

The idea that nutritional supplements are a gateway to doping use certainly raises more questions. For instance, the fact that most of the world’s population has been supplemented with nutritional supplements one way or another, knowingly or not: iodine in salt, vitamin A and D in butter, iron in cornflakes and I’ll never forget the spoonful of cod liver oil and the sour-tasting 50 mg vitamin C tablets I had to take in wintertime. Would this really mean a step towards the use of doping?

And what about one of the most effective performance enhancing agents in existence, coffee? Again, is it a social drug, a poison, a nutritional substance , or a PED?
Research is clear: caffeine improves performance on many levels, so for sure it is a doping agent for that matter, but it’s not on the list. Yes, it was, but taken of the list as fast as it appeared. Nowadays some athletes test positive for substances that are on the list, like geranamine, but with much less proven effectiveness than two cups of strong coffee. Also we find banned substances in normal food, stuff like synephrine. Yes, orange marmalade should be on the banned list.

And according to some people, creatine should be on the banned list too, since it’s performance enhancing properties are without any doubt. This would also mean an end to the consumption of steaks and fish. Creatine is a fuel to the body, is produced by the body itself and should be taken in a somewhat higher dose to take effect.
And following this line of thinking: the same can be said of carbohydrates, so pasta-parties before a marathon should also be banned. Would eating two-three plates of pasta before marathon also be considered to be a gateway do doping? Let’s get real here.

This is the catch: the whole concept cannot be taken serious for several reasons, one of them is that the list states that a substance only has to be potentially performance enhancing, isn’t that an interesting concept?

Doping is about cheating, to beat your opponent in an illegal way, at least that is one of the main conclusions of Steve Magness’ article.
Yes, sometimes it is, but most of the time it’s not. This could explain why thousands of recreational athletes and fitness participants use performance enhancing drugs. Not to beat somebody else, since there is nobody to beat and nothing to win. I also think that athletes still would use performance enhancing drugs if they were the only athletes in the world or running 100 meters against the clock, or throwing the discus, without any other competitors around to beat. Just from pure curiosity, just to see how fast your body can sprint or how far you can throw or jump.
Well, one can say, but it’s not the “real, natural” you running that fast or throwing that far. But there isn’t something like the real or natural you. The moment you start training you drift away from your natural untrained “gift” or “pure talent”.

Anyway who cares about that anyway, not the millions of people taking anti-depressants, anxiolytics or sleeping pills, not willing to accept the natural limitations of their organisms. You are unhappy, but the pills make you artificially happy, how can you be happy with that?

Not accepting our natural limitations is one of the main characteristics of mankind! How many people don’t take sleeping pills when they can’t sleep, drink coffee to stay awake, smoke a joint or take a drink to relax. If you think about it, a lot of our activities are geared towards manipulating our environment and ourselves. Just because we just cannot deal with the limitations or the limited resources Mother Nature is presenting to us. We use antidepressants, Viagra, (cosmetic) surgery, weight-loss product – the list is long.
Mountaineers taking oxygen bottles to climb the Everest or K2? Or taking oxygen bottles for diving? What makes you think athletes are different, that they are less inclined to manipulate their limitations or have higher moral values than the average person? Without people who explore, without people who go beyond, without people who look for the edge, we probably would not exist. Explorers, designers, inventors or visionaries do not accept limitations.
I agree with George Bernard Shaw, who wrote: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man”.

Why aren’t anti-inflammatories and painkillers on the banned list? Many athletes would not even be able to train leave alone to compete or to win, without using them. Again, it is to overcome the natural barrier, pain in this case. Pain indicates a risk for damage to the organism. And since one cannot accept that fact, one takes them. But it is legal.
Just as taking thyroid medication is, as is shown very recently.

Questions, questions, but no answers: why is marihuana on the banned list and is alcohol not. If there is one tip I would give my opponents in any sport: smoke marihuana, one of the most ergolytic substances known to man, one becomes mellow and giggly, not sharp and strong.
And as far as acute or chronic damage for your health is concerned: alcohol beats marihuana all the time.

Is taking drugs the only way to “cheat” ? Certainly not, if I am the 5th athlete in my country in my sport and only the first three go to the Olympics, (in other words: I am not good enough) I can change my nationality or arrange another country to change my nationality. And when necessary one could change ones family name too. Bypassing the rules in a completely legal way.

Or you could change you date of birth, this way a 24 year athlete will beat the 17 and 18 years old competitors. I met to a world champion of 28 years, married and two children, who just the year before became the best of the world in his junior “calendar-age 18” group. Is that cheating or what? Risk of detection: none, sanction: none.

Masters: some athletes feel the drive to compete long after their prime years: the Masters. But aging comes with an almost inevitable loss of health, so especially in older age groups, these athletes have to take medications for their health. Unfortunately for them many of those medications are on the banned list: diuretics, insulin, beta-blockers, some of them have testosterone replacement therapy, others use Viagra, the list is long. But … are they trying to cheat or should they accept the fact that they are aging and stop exercising at a competitive level?

Don’t change your mind, but sometimes one has to consider the more sides of an issue in order to take a good point of view.

Steve Magness’ article: http://www.scienceofrunning.com/2015/09/psychology-of-doping-why-were-fighting.html

I won’t even try to make list of articles and books about this subject.

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Pier and Per

Sometimes in life you walk a path together with other people. Sometimes this road splits again and one might not meet ever again, both going his/her own way. But it also happens that after a long period of time, a decade or more, the paths cross again. And this happened to me twice last week.

After having coached PierFrancesco Pavoni, for some years during 1987-1989, we did not see each other for a long time. PierFrancesco was one of the most gifted sprinters I coached, finalist in the WC in Rome in 1987 in the 100m and 200m, European Champion silver medal winner in the 100m in 1982 in Athens and two bronze medals in the WC indoor in the 60 meters in 1987 and 1989. He used to train with Pietro Mennea most of the time in Formia.

Training in Formia

Training in Formia

PierFrancesco, wasn’t only a very good sprinter but also a real gentleman, a very creative designer and an unconventional and independent thinker. And on top of all that very funny too. His muscle fiber type is a clear indication of his talent. Just read his story about exceptional muscle fibers in the blog of Pierre-Jean Vazel: (in French, but you’ll get the drift from the graphs).

http://vazel.blog.lemonde.fr/2015/03/21/les-fibres-superrapides-le-secret-du-sprinteur-pavoni/

It was good to meet him again after almost 30 years. He is a businessman, developing, producing and selling hyperthermia equipment which presents an excellent intervention to speed up the recovery of soft tissue injuries. This equipment is also a very good modality for the treatment of cancers for people who react badly to chemotherapy.

At the Amsterdam Medical Center (a huge hospital) they even have a whole department with PierFrancesco’s machines called Alba: http://www.albahyperthermia.com/.
Technical progress and advancements in research made hyperthermia even more interesting in recent times.

 

Alba hyperthermia

Alba hyperthermia

Meeting each other again, we immediately picked up where we left almost 30 years ago, like it was yesterday, I feel this is one of the main characteristics of a good friendship. And when I coached him, I knew he would be successful in whatever he decided to do.

Contacts like these are one of the greatest pleasures life has to offer. I had the joy to meet another friend of mine, Dr.Per Tesch, again after a long time. Per Tesch is the world’s expert on eccentric training. He was the inventor and developer (together with Dr. Hans Berg) of the fly-wheel concept. Originally designed for strength training in microgravity, since flywheel training is gravity-independent.

In my opinion Per is one of those scientists who has contributed a tremendous amount of groundbreaking research for sports performance. His research spans a long period of time and covers a lot of different issues. He was one of the top scientists of the well-known Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. A few years ago I invited him to come to Holland to speak about muscles, muscle fibers and strength training.

One can read his long list of publications, his eye-opening book about (first) use of MRI to see the effects of different exercises on the recruitment of muscle fibers (Muscle meets Magnet, now called Target Bodybuilding) or his chapter in the book “Strength and Power in Sports: “Acute and Chronic Muscle Metabolic Adaptations to Strength Training”.

Being retired now, he organizes the second Global Seminar on the Hamstring (the first one was in Stockholm), part of the Global Hamstring Project, on November 28, 2015, in Spain, near Barcelona.

Report on the first Seminar: http://youtu.be/nUOTzGxT25U?t=2s

If you are working in elite sports or in rehabilitation of hamstring injuries, this seminar might be something you want to attend.

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