July 30, 2007

Doping: To Dope or Not to Dope?

The answer to this vexing question will vary on whom you ask the question. From the point of view of athletics and sport, the answer is a clear and resounding no. This is because, the WADA (world anti doping agency) will bar anyone from participating in a sports event, who dopes. Doping here means taking of drugs which enhance performance or drugs which are narcotics.

Drugs belonging to this category include androgens and anabolic steroids (DHEA, nandrolone, stanozolol etc.); hormones (EPO or erythropoietin: which produces blood in the body thus increasing better oxygen delivery to the tissues, somatotropin or growth hormone etc.); beta 2 adrenoceptor stimulant like salbutamol-which broaden the airway; diuretics (drugs that increase urine formation, thereby reducing weight-->may matter a lot, where weight of the person is an important criterion for a particular category); narcotics (heroin, oxycodone, morphine etc.); stimulants (amphetamine, ephedrine etc.). This list also includes blood doping, where athletes take out some of their own blood from their bodies, stores them and adds to their bodies later. This means that since our bodies have the ability to replenish the lost blood, it will produce that amount of blood within our own body, thus our athlete in question will have his own stored blood as a bonus. Recently, the WADA added cannabinoids (marijuana, cannabis, hashish) to the list, while taking pseudoephedrine (a drug used as decongestant and in cough), and caffeine (a common beverage found in tea, coffee etc.) off the list.

Alternatively, if your question was directed to an electronics professional, he would instantly have answered 'yes' to your question. For, doping here means a process, by which p type or n type semiconductors are produced from tetravalent molecules like silicon or germanium. Silicon, for example, is a tetravalent molecule, that is, it has 4 electrons in its outer shell. Like us humans, molecules too prefer a stable position. For this, they tend to form an 'octet' with neighboring molecules, since inert elements, which are very stable, have 8 electrons in their outer shell. What we get as a result is a silicon lattice, due to this octet formation. This being stable, is an insulator and it thus can not conduct electricity. Now if we dope (=add some impurity) them with a pentavalent molecule (e.g. arsenic, has 5 valence electrons), then even after forming an octet, an electron will be surplus. Now it has nowhere to go, no free electron to bind with, it will roam free in the lattice, allowing a current to flow through the doped material. The lattice is not unduly disturbed as the sizes of the molecules nearly match well. We have succeeded in creating an n type semiconductor, n type because there is a surplus electron and electrons are negatively charged. Similarly, we could produce a p type material by adding a trivalent impurity like boron. These semiconductors are of immense importance in electronics and telecommunications, medical physics, biophysics, computers and countless others.

Thus both a yes and no can be the answer of a single question like this.

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