Chris Cooper
Oxford University Press
2012 | 320pp | £16.99 (HB)
ISBN 9780199581467

Run, swim, throw, cheat is an interesting and informative book detailing the scientific basis behind substance use in enhancing sports performance. Topics covered include all of the current known performance enhancement routes: nutrition, oxygen use, muscle size and strength, psychological stimulation and genetic manipulation. In addition, approaches to defining ‘cheating’ and testing in sports competitions are explored, along with the basics of human physiology and how this relates to performance. These topics are covered in a logical manner – from the background of normal performance, through the rationale for using substances to attempt to modify this, to the evidence of success in performance enhancement.

The writing style is informal and very readable, whilst being sufficiently detailed for academic study of the topic. Analogies are used well throughout the text to support explanations and explore attitudes. It presents the science in an accessible manner, suited to a wide audience from the interested amateur to students of sports science or pharmacology. The underpinning physiology and pharmacology are clearly described and the supporting diagrams are helpful in clarifying what are, in many cases, highly complex biological systems. In some places a reader not familiar with the sports or scientific disciplines concerned may find it necessary to read around a topic to fully understand the issues discussed, but excellent bibliographic and further reading sections are provided.

This book would be an excellent accompaniment to the coverage of the Olympic Games this summer – both to help to understand some of the physiological and genetic aspects of sport and the drugs testing regimes that the athletes are subject to, as well as the meanings of some of the outcomes.

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