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Kyung Lee

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Is the use of EMS(electrical muscle stimulation) a form of doping?

This week in my bioelectricity class, we discussed electrical stimulation of the body. There are EMS (electrical muscle stimulation) devices that allow the user to stimulate and contract specific muscles by sending electrical impulses via electrode pads. EMS is sometimes used in competitive sports to increase exercise tolerance and manipulate the behavior of muscles favorably.

In 2011, a study revealed that EMS may enhance pitching performance and recovery in baseball. Without EMS, pitchers need to find a balance between resting and active exercise. With EMS, blood can continuously flow into the muscles, reducing the risk of exhaustion. There are other studies that show positive effects of EMS on athletic performance such as helping athletes stay warmed up without fatiguing the muscles, while the validity of these claims have not been confirmed. There are coaches that use EMS training on elite athletes who compete in the Olympics.

I’d like to pose a question, is the use of EMS in competitive sports a form of doping? While eating healthy or regular exercise can shape and improve an athlete’s performance, the use of EMS seems to be a more direct and invasive way of making the athlete’s body more fit for the sport. If the EMS technology advances enough to the extent where it can significantly improve athletic performance, do you think it is legitimate or fair to use EMS in competitive sports?

Topics: ems

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  • Mar 6 2013: I understand the underlying concern with doping and now this question, is whether any kind of enhancement is considered unfair advantage. With this development we are justified in examining the broader relationship issues and civil behavior: If EMS is fair, then why is doping an unfair advantage? In our relating to one another in sports or any other human activity we are able to consider what is fair for achieving peaceful and acceptable civility.

    If there is no damage or harm to another person, then are we able to say an activity is fair and through law consider an activity to be legal?

    Would doping and EMS be unfair if the costs put these enhancements out of reach for other sports participants? If fair, then do activities, whether or not sports, become only for those who can pay? To me, this is a deeper concern and if only persons of adequate resources can pay, then participation is limited. That seems unfair!

    Real fairness does not block or impede persons from participation. Or, is this statement too simple?
    Good question!

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