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Cheating at Paralympics could involve self-harm

By MARIA CHENG,

AP Medical Writer

Updated August 27, 2012

LONDON (AP) Paralympics officials will be testing for more than just the usual banned drugs in London, where they also will be on the lookout for a practice called boosting in which wheelchair athletes use painful stimuli to cause a blood pressure spike that enhances performance.

In able-bodied athletes, intense physical exercise automatically raises the heart rate and blood pressure. Athletes with a severe spinal cord injury don't get that boost.

To get a rapid rise in blood pressure, wheelchair-bound athletes may resort to inducing a state called autonomic dysreflexia. That is a reflex that occurs when the lower part of their body is exposed to painful stimuli, like using tight leg straps or sitting on a sharp object.

International Paralympic Committee spokesman Craig Spence says "it's very dangerous."

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