First observed in the 1968 Mexico Olympics when almost all records for anaerobic style events, such as splints were broken, however, was disastrous for endurance events due to the altitude. This proved to be a controversial issue at the time, on one central idea: Altitude Training.
Altitude Training in competitive sports brings forward an Ethical issue, as athletes who compete after training at altitude are at an advantage compared to their sea level counterparts. The majority of endurance runners nowadays train at altitude already, and most record holders train at altitude and use that edge to compete better. The ethical issue in essence however would be easy to factor out, as existing systems to either substitute for the lack of oxygen, such as the altitude training gym in Germany, a sea level gym where the air inside is similar to levels needed for high altitude training, or the US Olympic training areas in Colorado.
Altitude Training is when an athlete consciously puts themselves at altitudes higher than 1.5 kilometers above sea level, where the amount of effective oxygen in the air decreases due to a loss of air pressure, according to Wildsafe.org. Due to this, the body undergoes less aerobic respiration, and tires faster as more anaerobic respiration happens in the body. Furthermore, this is due to the change in barometric pressure in the air, as at normal sea levels, according to the Stanford Review, air contains 21% of effective oxygen at sea level, but as altitude increases, the amount of effective oxygen decreases, inducing a state of hypoxia in the muscles due to less oxygen getting to the muscles and increasing anaerobic respiration
Due to this rarified air, according to Untamed Science, the kidneys detect this change in oxygen and release a hormone called EPO, which kickstarts the body’s production of red blood cells, responsible for transporting oxygen to the muscles for aerobic respiration. In high altitudes, this would make the trainer’s body function at the same levels they normally would as their sea-level counterparts, however, once the user acclimates themselves to the altitude, then goes back to sea level, their excess of red blood cells in their body makes them better off than their other competitors in endurance competitions.
According to Men’s Journal, however: “That effect only lasts around 10 days to two weeks”, usually, however, athletes only need this advantage for their short competitions, the Olympics, for example, lasts on average 16 days. Furthermore, Altitude Training brings a healthier respiratory system, as the extra effort needed for the body to use opens up new areas in your lungs.
Thus, the solution as it stands today would be to either regulate the access to Altitude Training or ban it altogether. This, however, would not do much to change the issue, as all Olympic teams train at altitude. In my opinion, however, would be to equalize the access for athletes to access Altitude Training. This would remove the ethical issue, while still letting the athletes reap the health benefits. Altitude Training as a whole brings health benefits to all individuals who train at altitudes, including skiers like myself.
Connectusfundadmin. “10 Advantages and Disadvantages of Altitude Training.” ConnectUS, ConnectUS, 14 Jan. 2017, connectusfund.org/10-advantages-and-disadvantages-of-altitude-training.
Curtis, Rick. “OA Guide to High Altitude: Acclimatization and Illnesses.” Princeton University, The Trustees of Princeton University, 1999, www.princeton.edu/~oa/safety/altitude.html.
Matte, Michelle. “The Effects of Altitude Training on Athletes.” LIVESTRONG.COM, Leaf Group, 11 Sept. 2017, www.livestrong.com/article/329300-the-effects-of-altitude-training-on-athletes/.
MyProtein. “High Altitude Training | What It Is & Benefits for Endurance Athletes.” Myprotein UK, Myprotein UK, 16 Dec. 2015, www.myprotein.com/thezone/training/what-is-high-altitude-training-benefits-endurance-athletes/.
“Mexico 1968.” International Olympic Committee, IOC, 15 May 2018, www.olympic.org/mexico-1968.
“Oxygen Levels at High Altitudes – Altitude Safety 101.” Center for Wilderness Safety, Center for Wilderness Safety, 2006, www.wildsafe.org/resources/outdoor-safety-101/altitude-safety-101/high-altitude-oxygen-levels/.
Stahl, Jason. “How to Use Altitude Training Like an Olympic Athlete – Without Leaving the Gym.” Men’s Journal, Men’s Journal, 21 May 2018, www.mensjournal.com/health-fitness/secrets-to-oympic-success-training-at-altitude/.
UntamedScience. “Science of Altitude Training – Olympic Biology.” YouTube, YouTube, 6 Feb. 2014, www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUPNCBQw4o0.