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Experts on Athletes and Performance-enhancing Substances

December 17, 2009

The UC Davis faculty has broad expertise on athletes, including reputation management and the physical and psychological effects of using performance-enhancing substances.

  • Reputation
  • Biology of fitness and exercise
  • Nutrition and fitness, dietary supplements
  • Sports psychology and team dynamics
  • Better bodies through technology in modern culture


Kim Elsbach, a competitive athlete and the faculty athletics representative at UC Davis, is a professor of organizational behavior in the Graduate School of Management. She studies how organizations, their leaders and individuals acquire and maintain images, identities and reputations -- and how those can be affected by negative publicity. Elsbach is UC Davis' representative to the Big West Conference and its appointed delegate to the conventions and other activities of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. She certifies eligibility for all student athletes for conference and NCAA competition, practice and financial aid, among other responsibilities. A member of the athletics administrative advisory committee since 2003, Elsbach is an active master's swimmer, marathon runner and triathlete. She was a member of the varsity swim team at the University of Iowa. Contact: Kim Elsbach, Graduate School of Management, (530) 752-0910, kdelsbach@ucdavis.edu.

Biology of fitness and exercise

Keith Baar, assistant professor of neurobiology, physiology and behavior has advised professional athletes including U.K. Cycling and the soccer club Chelsea F.C. on training and fitness. His laboratory studies the genes and proteins involved in exercise and training, and how to engineer new body tissues to repair damaged tissues, especially tendons and ligaments. Baar began his career as a strength and conditioning coach at the University of Michigan, where he became interested in research. He joined UC Davis in July 2009. More information: http://www.fmblab.com/index.html. Contact: Keith Baar, Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior, (530) 752-3367, kbaar@ucdavis.edu

UC Davis biomechanist David Hawkins is interested in understanding the mechanisms that influence skeletal muscle performance and human movement. His work at the UC Davis Human Performance Laboratory aims to develop tools and training strategies that can assist people who have musculoskeletal disorders, as well as prevent injury and maximize athletic performance. He can talk about properties of biological tissues (i.e. bone, ligament, tendon and muscle) and how they respond to exercise and disuse. His recent research has focused on developing noninvasive techniques to study the behavior and adaptation of muscle-tendon units in living subjects and movement strategies to minimize injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament. Contact: David Hawkins, Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior, (530) 752-2748, dahawkins@ucdavis.edu.

James Shaffrath is a lecturer in UC Davis' exercise biology program and the section of neurobiology, physiology and behavior. He is also a co-director of the Adult Fitness Program at UC Davis. He can discuss in general terms the physical and psychological effects of anabolic steroids and performance-enhancing drugs. Contact: Jim Shaffrath, Exercise Biology, (530) 752-0704, jdshaffrath@ucdavis.edu.

Nutrition and fitness, dietary supplements

Liz Applegate, a UC Davis senior lecturer and director of Sports Nutrition, is a nationally known nutrition and fitness authority, and an expert on exercise and healthy eating. She has published several books, including "Bounce Your Body Beautiful," "The Encyclopedia of Sports and Fitness Nutrition" and "Eat Smart, Play Hard." She has written more than 300 articles for national magazines and is nutrition editor and a columnist for Runner's World magazine. Applegate serves on the board of trustees for the American College of Sports Medicine and is a nutrition consultant to various professional and U.S. Olympic teams. Contact: Liz Applegate, Nutrition, (530) 758-6281, eaapplegate@ucdavis.edu.

Marlia Braun, a dietitian with the UC Davis Sports Medicine Program, can discuss dietary supplements that are hormone precursors, such as androsterone and DHEA, which are thought to have anabolic effects when converted to testosterone or other hormones. The primary anabolic effect is accelerated muscle growth with potential changes in bone growth and red blood cell production. But Braun says that research has not produced proof of any anabolic effect, or even that the actual conversion occurs. Because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration generally does not regulate dietary supplements, Braun says that their quality and quantity are not guaranteed. The effects of long-term or repeated intake of hormone precursors are not clearly understood, and their adverse effects may not appear for years. These precursors are known to produce some acute side effects, such as acne, male-pattern baldness, unwanted hair growth, irritability, rapid heartbeat and prostate enlargement. Overall, Braun says, supplements should not be used until their effects, good or bad, are better understood. Contact: David Ong, UC Davis Health System, (916) 734-9049, david.ong@ucdmc.ucdavis.edu.

Psychology of sports and team dynamics

Paul Salitsky, a UC Davis lecturer in exercise biology, studies the psychological aspects of sport and exercise. He specializes in sport and exercise psychology, sport sociology and motor learning, and has coached women's volleyball at the international, club and NCAA Division I level. Salitsky has conducted more than 350 clinics and workshops on the mental skills needed for performance success. A certified consultant for the Association for the Advancement of Applied Sport Psychology, Salitsky has been listed on the U.S. Olympic Committee's Sport Psychology Registry since 2000. Also in 2000, he was selected to join the Sport Psychology Committee for USA Track & Field. He has joined the Positive Coaching Alliance and has mentored coaches, parents and leaders in youth sports through nearly 100 workshops across the United States. Salitsky's recent research interests have been in the area of exercise and mental skills training for cancer patients and survivors; in 2002, he survived non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Contact: Paul Salitsky, Exercise Biology, (530) 752-3381, pbsalitsky@ucdavis.edu.

Better bodies through technology

Carolyn de la Peña, a UC Davis associate professor of American studies, can talk about the history of products that promise better bodies and the relationship between technology, the human body and enhancements in American culture in general. According to de la Peña, early 20th century attitudes about using technology to release latent energy and reverse physical decline have carried over to today. She can discuss how Americans adapt to new technologies in their daily lives by generating and participating in cultural myths about our physical capabilities. De la Peña's book, "The Body Electric: How Strange Machines Built the Modern American," was published in 2003. Contact: Carolyn de la Peña, American Studies, (530) 752-3375, ctdelapena@ucdavis.edu.

About UC Davis

For more than 100 years, UC Davis has engaged in teaching, research and public service that matter to California and transform the world. Located close to the state capital, UC Davis has 32,000 students, an annual research budget that exceeds $600 million, a comprehensive health system and 13 specialized research centers. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and more than 100 undergraduate majors in four colleges -- Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Biological Sciences, Engineering, and Letters and Science. It also houses six professional schools -- Education, Law, Management, Medicine, Veterinary Medicine and the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing.

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