Alcohol banned from rifle competitions

By Blair Euteneuer on January 22nd, 2009

Hearts pounding, sweat running, nerves running. Any slight movement could trigger a misfire.

Rifle is a sport where accuracy and steadiness are essential. Competitors have to fire single rifle shots in a set period of time and are scored purely on accuracy.

It is crucial for competitors to have strong mental concentration, hand-eye coordination and steadiness.

Because shooters must be calm enough to steady their rifles and perform under pressure, competitors must try to release any anxiety and calm their nerves before competition.

Some college students may try to relieve everyday stress and anxiety with alcohol, and it's easy to see why. Its effects are so significant that alcohol is considered a performance-enhancing drug in rifle competition.

Although alcohol travels to all parts of the body after consumption, the drug affects the brain the most.

Obviously, if competitors consume too much alcohol their balance, steadiness, reaction time and motor skills become impaired.

But if a smaller amount of alcohol is consumed, the drug can potentially relax and slow competitors' heart rates.

Since alcohol is seen as a performance-enhancing drug in rifle, the National Collegiate Athletic Association and World Anti-Doping Agency have banned the drug specifically for the sport.

The NCAA states that it bans the use of alcohol "in competition for rifle." Along with alcohol, both organizations have banned beta-blockers, which are drugs that slow the heart rate, reduce blood pressure and are commonly used to treat cardiovascular conditions.

Husker junior Christine Costello, a junior rifle competitor, said she has known the dangers of using alcohol and shooting since she was a young girl.

"That's one of the first rules they tell you," she said. "I remember going to a class at my junior club. Alcohol was like rule number three: Don't mix alcohol and firearms. It's kind of a common sense thing."

Nebraska rifle coach Morgan Hicks said she hasn't heard of any cases in which competitors on the local or national level were caught with substances. However, she said she doesn't doubt alcohol's effects in the sport since athletes need to be as mellow and calm as possible while performing the same action over and over for two hours.

"Obviously, if the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency thinks alcohol is going to be a depressant or a performance-enhancing drug, it will help in some way," she said.

Hicks said the team is under constant watch, so the shooters know not to even think about using a substance such as alcohol. The team is tested randomly at least twice a semester under university policy. The team is also tested at championships and larger meets. A lot of the athletes also compete internationally, so they are tested by U.S. Olympic committees and international organizations.

"We're under constant watch, so we don't try to mess up," Hicks said.

Costello said she believes using alcohol and shooting is not a good combination. Also, she said she believes it's something that shouldn't be taken lightly.

"I think the disadvantages outweigh the advantages," Costello said. "Balance, hand-eye coordination and concentration are so much more important than nerves. You can always control those in other ways."

blaireuteneuer@dailynebraskan.com

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