A decade ago, a player from the Oakland Raiders, Louis Murphy, was arrested for drug possession. Fans awaited news of what foul narcotics he was dealing, but then it turned out he had just had 11 tablets of ... Viagra. And his only crime was lacking a prescription. People made jokes about the wide receiver needing a pharmaceutical boost in the bedroom, and then they forgot all about it 

But later, something happened that changed the way we look at the incident (and we're not talking about Murphy getting arrested six years later for bringing a loaded gun to an airport). Lots of players have started talking about taking Viagra, openly, and not for sexual reasons. Viagra's great for the circulation when it's cold, said Bart Scott on ESPN. Chad Johnson from the Bengals said he took the pill before every single game. Outside of football, Roger Clemens supposedly took Viagra before games, and he was repeatedly investigated on suspicion of using other performance-enhancing drugs.

Viagra does more than just induce erections, you see. It tinkers with what chemicals the body slips into the bloodstream, resulting in all blood vessels dilating. It wasn't even originally intended as a sexual aid, it was supposed to increase cardiovascular flow, but your body's got vessels all over, so it hits every organ. 

Under some conditions, Viagra gets more oxygen in your blood, so you can run faster and longer. Specifically, when there's not much oxygen in the air (such as when you're up in the mountains), Viagra's effect on blood vessels removes that handicap, bringing your blood oxygen level up to normal. So, some players reason, if you take some Viagra even when you're not climbing Everest, it'll give you super levels of oxygen, and you'll be stronger than ever!

Scientists checking out that last claim say: No, there's no evidence of that. Viagra provably increases blood flow, but in tests at normal altitudes, that doesn't translate into increased athletic performance. For that reason, despite years of looking into the issue, the World Anti-Doping Agency doesn't ban Viagra and doesn't label it as a performance-enhancing drug. Maybe the players relying on Viagra are just enjoying the benefits of the placebo effect. Maybe their performance issues were all in their head. 

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For the history of that miracle pill, check out:

Pfizer Sold Viagra To Millions Of Men Instead Of Treating Their Heart Disease

The 5 Most Amazing Things Accomplished While in Prison

A Recovered Sex Drive Can Lead To Divorce

Follow Ryan Menezes on Twitter for more stuff no one should see. 

Top image: Yunner/Wiki Commons

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