Olympic hockey gold brings hormonal high
After Sidney Crosby scored the goal that won the gold medal for Canada in the Olympic men’s hockey final, people across the country went berserk. Fans at GM Place erupted with one of the loudest roars in the building’s history when the hometown goalie, Roberto Luongo, skated around the rink holding a huge Canadian flag. Crosby received a similar response when it was his turn to carry the flag.
The party didn’t end with the presentation of the medals. Canadians gathered in downtown Vancouver, along North Vancouver’s Lonsdale Avenue, and in public places across the country to share their joy. In some cases, they drove around for hours honking their horns.
As a Canadian, Ontario physician and provincial politician Shafiq Qaadri was proud of the country’s success. But as an expert on andropause (male menopause), he also thought about the role that testosterone was playing in the celebrations.
“At the end of the day, there is chemistry involved,” Qaadri told the Georgia Straight in a recent phone interview. “You could see the testosterone oozing into the streets. Biologically, it was a great testosterone surge. It was like a tsunami of testosterone.”
In his book The Testosterone Factor: A Practical Guide to Improving Vitality and Virility, Naturally (Doubleday Canada, 2006), Qaadri writes that for men, watching sports can influence hormone levels, particularly during the playoffs. When their favourite teams win, men get a jolt of testosterone, which increases their energy level and enthusiasm, creating a feeling of euphoria.
Qaadri, who represents Etobicoke North in the Ontario legislature, said that this was particularly on display after the gold-medal men’s hockey game. “The television cameras were focusing on Sidney Crosby, who probably had the biggest testosterone surge of anyone in the country, by the way,” he noted, adding that Crosby’s reaction was shared by millions across the nation.
He described the collective Canadian testosterone surge as “civilized” in comparison to what has sometimes happened in Europe after big soccer games. Qaadri pointed out that young men already have much higher levels running through their systems than older men, so when they get a jolt from a sporting event, it elevates the risk of violence.
“They actually lose control,” he said. “They start smashing things, burning things, and beating each other up.”
Qaadri added that they might even say, “ ”˜Hey, let’s take out a cop or two.’ ”
He said that many women across Canada also experienced an increase in their hormone levels, including testosterone, as a result of the gold-medal victory. “From a doctor’s point of view, increasing testosterone in women tends to make them more amorous, more in the mood for lovemaking,” he said, which is why the hormone is sometimes offered therapeutically.
But Qaadri said that while Canadians’ testosterone levels skyrocketed, the opposite occurred for the U.S. hockey players. He said that after the loss, their male-hormone levels crashed, and it was obvious from the looks on their faces as they stood on the ice after the game. “They were completely dumbfounded, literally in shock.”¦The poor guys—you could see the emotional trauma,” Qaadri commented.
Many sports fans drink beer, which, according to Qaadri, can reduce testosterone levels over time if it leads to a beer belly. That’s because “central obesity”—a pad of fat around the belly—converts men’s testosterone into estrogen. He also writes in The Testosterone Factor that getting drunk wipes out about a quarter of the testosterone in the bloodstream, and that alcohol irritates the testes.
“I think that especially in the February-March blahs, a good shot of testosterone is what the country needed,” Qaadri quipped.
How do you think that the 2010 Winter Olympics compare with Vancouver’s Expo 86 world’s fair?
“I think both of those events were transformational for the city of Vancouver. What Expo did was it brought the city on the world stage. After that, the city always liked to call itself a world-class city. That expression always sounded to me like a clanger. I think we are a world-leading city, and the Olympics have demonstrated that. The expo was more at the Expo site, whereas the Olympics covered the whole of downtown Vancouver, Granville Island, Richmond, Surrey, and Whistler. It really engaged anybody who wouldn’t even remotely [have] thought they might be engaged.”
“Expo 86 put us on the world map. But that kind of faded, receded into our memory. These Olympics would have put us back on the international stage in the way we are. Vancouver was a big village when I came to Canada in 1968. It became a big city in a sense in 1986. And now, I think, it has become a very, very prominent metropolis but with still the amenities and the quality of life of a small city but with the influence of a metropolis. It made Vancouver so much bigger on the international stage. This has been a unique experience in my Canadian life.”
“The real scandal of Expo was land that was sold for rock-bottom price on False Creek. And I think that legacy is still living out, ironically. I think that’s Concord Pacific. They [government] basically gave them land and they’ve made billions in condos. The need for housing is now worse than ever. In terms of social justice and some of the struggles that went on at the Downtown Eastside at that time, I remember the fuss that was made about [retired logger Olaf] Solheim dying when he was kicked out of that Patricia [hotel on East Hastings Street].”
“If you’re talking about a quarter of a century ago, Vancouver was less diverse. The whole country was less diverse. So this Olympics event is actually the coming together of the country in terms of how we view ourselves. It united the country and the people. Expo 86 was a strictly local affair. It was a six-month affair. This time it was different, because the party is on the streets. We had a lot of arts and cultural events in the live sites, and that made the difference because not many could buy or afford tickets to see these competitions.”