The moral considerations associated with doping are as complicated as the lexical challenges of the term itself. What “doping” is, precisely, and under what conditions it should be allowed are questions the sports world may never totally resolve. Caffeine is a drug that enhances performance, but it’s OK. Amphetamine is also a drug that enhances performance, but it is not.
It’s all a matter of where you draw the line. So if competitive cyclists want to gain an advantage by ingesting someone else’s poop, I say we all just go ahead and let them, for crying out loud.
You think I am joking, but it’s right here in this Denver Post link, the URL of which ends with “poop-doping-cycling,” and the content of which concerns a powerful microbiome.
The most important, perhaps, is Prevotella. Not typically found in American and European gut microbiomes, Prevotella is thought to play a role in enhancing muscle recovery.
“In my sampling, only half of cyclists have Prevotella, but top racers always have it,” she told Bicycling. “It’s not even in 10 percent of non-athletes.”
Peterson reports she hosts Prevotella in her own gut – but not naturally. In fact, she might be the first case of “poop doping,” thanks to a fecal transplant she administered herself three years ago. Her donor? Another elite athlete.
That’s Lauren Peterson, a microbiologist and pro endurance mountain biker, who self-administered her first poop transplant from another elite athlete three years ago. She said she did it both to improve her athletic performance and to treat symptoms from the Lyme disease she contracted as a child.
Fecal transplants are rare for reasons I assume are obvious, and some reasons that are not. In the U.S., they’re pretty much only done to treat extreme cases of a specific disease, Clostridium difficile, which causes chronic diarrhea. Peterson couldn’t find a doctor willing to do a poop transplant on her, so she did it herself.
“I just did it at home,” she said of the February 2014 procedure. “It’s not fun, but it’s pretty basic.”
Of course, you know what happens next. It was a miracle cure, her energy went through the roof, she started winning races.
“I had more energy than I knew what to do with,” she told the same podcast last year. “Like everything just changed.”
All because of somebody else’s poop.
Whatever is to become of “poop doping,” these are the early stages of it. Peterson is pretty sure it’s going to catch on in cycling, and given everything we’ve learned about cycling culture over the last, oh … let’s just say the whole modern history of the sport, this seems like a good bet. Peterson imagined a day when you could accomplish the same thing just by taking a pill.
That would certainly be called a Prevotella pill, but we’d all know it by its street name: The Poop Pill.
And if that’s what cyclists really want to do, I say go ahead. I’m not going to talk you out of eating poop. That’s what your parents are for.