Episode 26: Performance

Baseball, track, swimming, biking—is there any sport that hasn’t suffered a scandal in the past few years? It turns out that the obvious culprits—performance enhancing drugs—are just the tip of the iceberg for how chemistry can alter athletic competition. In today’s show we look at some of the chemistry going on both inside and outside athletes’ bodies. We talk with John Hoberman, a professor at the University of Texas, Austin, and the author of Testosterone Dreams: Rejuvenation, Aphrodisia, Doping, for some perspective on how steroids became part of the culture of sport. Later on, CHF’s Erin McLeary explains why you might want to invest in some Lycra if you want to set a world record in swimming. Element of the Week: Potassium.

Show Clock

00:00 Opening Credits
00:31 Introduction
01:10 Element of the Week: Potassium
02:56 A Conversation with John Hoberman
07:28 Chemistry in Your Cupboard
10:48 Quote: Damon Hill
11:00 Closing Credits

Resources and References

For background on potassium: Web Elements Periodic Table.
For the history of Lycra: DuPont’s Online Archives (click on Lycra).
For more information on the history of spandex: Marc Reisch, “What’s That Stuff?C&EN 77 (15 Feb 1999), p. 70.
We learned about spandex and biking from the ASSOS company’s Web page.
Online articles abound for the new swimsuit that’s been accused of “technological doping.” Just Google “LZR suits.”


This show was researched by Erin McLeary.

Our theme music is composed by Dave Kaufman. Additional music from the PodSafe Music Network. The music at the Element of the Week is “Let’s Get High,” by Disciples of Panic Earth. At the show ID, you’re hearing “That’s No Dream,” by Derek K. Miller. The show ends with “Shalom Aleichem,” by Jeremy Gimbel and Shira Tirdof.

This week’s image is the cover of John Hoberman’s book, Testosterone Dreams, available from


Posted In: Medicine | Society

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