Viagra might help cyclists cheat

Untold numbers of men -- and their partners -- can attest to Viagra as a performance enhancer in the bedroom.

Can it also perk up performance in a bicycling race?

Scientists at the University of Miami are studying whether sildenafil citrate can improve the speed of cyclists riding at altitude. The World Anti-Doping Agency is funding the two-year project to determine if Viagra should be added to the list of banned drugs in sports, joining steroids, human growth hormone and EPO.

At a lab on the Coral Gables campus, cyclists swallow a 50-milligram Viagra pill or placebo, step onto a stationary bike, warm up, then pedal at race pace for 3.6 miles while breathing oxygen-reduced air that simulates the effect of riding on a 12,800-foot mountain.

The Tour de Romance? No. None of the subjects has had an erection.

''If they did, they're wearing Spandex shorts anyway,'' said senior research associate Mark Stoutenberg, who is used to joking about his experiment. 'It's a great topic of conversation at parties -- `Hey, this guy is testing Viagra.' ''

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