Doping on Mount Everest

Posted: Apr 18, 2013 11:42 pm EDT

(Newsdesk) Mountaineering big cheese Reinhold Messner knows how to choose his words:

"90% of all Everest climbers are doped," he recently told Spanish climbing website Desnivel.

He was not talking about supplementary oxygen.

Medical drug abuse is not news in high mountains. The practice is an open secret on peaks such as Denali.

At the dawn of internet, more than 10 years ago, in the Survival Guide, founders of ExplorersWeb wrote about Diamox:

"An emergency drug, sometimes also used to speed up acclimatization. It reduces the increase in blood pH resulting from carbon dioxide loss at altitude caused by faster and deeper breathing. Diamox enables you to breathe easier at night (and avoid the Cheyennes), thus enhancing your performance at daytime. We tried it on Denali, peed every 30 minutes, felt our fingers and toes tingle and gave it up altogether after a few days. Diamox doesn’t do anything for us. Taking your time while climbing and drinking well is the best altitude beater. We bring Diamox only for rescue situations."

And about Decadron:

"This steroid should only be used in emergency situations. Taking it will require immediate evacuation, since Decadron will relieve acute mountain sickness but not cure it. Don’t try to rely on Decadron while climbing if you don’t wish to die. Bring it with you (pills and shots) for serious situations only."

Doping is a growing problem in all kinds of sports. Unexpectedly Outside magazine, who until recently featured cyclist Lance Armstrong on every other cover (alternating with Bear Grylls), just ran a lengthy article about a climber abusing meds on Everest in 2009.

Reports to ExplorersWeb say the use has exploded on the mountain lately with accounts pretty much supporting Messner's estimates. Italian climbing mag Montagna checked in with several altitude doctors and mountaineering veteran Silvio Mondinelli who all agree with Messner, albeit knocking the overall number down to 50% or so.

The issue goes way back too, the magazine concludes: According to his own account, in 1953 Hermann Buhl climbed Nanga Parbat in a first ascent, solo, without oxygen, and... on methamphetamine.

"A psychostimulant which was then spread on a commercial level, known as 'the drug of the Nazis' because it was used by German soldiers on the war front," Montagna wrote.

#Mountaineering #Medical #topstory

"Don’t try to rely on Decadron while climbing if you don’t wish to die," wrote ExWeb 10 years ago.
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"Don’t try to rely on Decadron while climbing if you don’t wish to die," wrote ExWeb 10 years ago.

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