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Paralympian Sophie Pascoe speaks out: 'Doping is everywhere'

Rio-bound Paralympic star Sophie Pascoe says drug use probably goes on in her sport.

Sport is undergoing a brutal baptism of truth with the systemic Russian doping scandal, but that's not deterring two of the country's Paralympic champions from defending their titles at Rio.

New Zealand will send a 29-strong team (27 athletes and two sighted cycling pilots) to contest the 15th summer Paralympics from September 7-18.

Swimmers Sophie Pascoe (six gold and four silver medals across all strokes) and Cameron Leslie (two medley gold medals) triumphed at the Beijing and London Games.

Pascoe, 23, competes with one leg after losing the second in a childhood accident; Leslie, 26, races with a congenital quadruple limb deficiency.

"I believe doping is happening in the Paralympics, just like the Olympics, because there are the same benefits," Pascoe said.

"We've seen how it can take a moment of glory away from another person through a prime example of one of our own, Valerie Adams [when cheating Belarusian Nadzheya Ostapchuk was originally awarded the Olympic shot put gold at London].

All that hard work can be taken away by one person.

"We've got to place our full trust in the respective committees to make sure we're on a fair playing field."

"It's a hot topic," Leslie added. "There are definite benefits to using banned drugs for Paralympians. You like to think it's not going on in your sport but let's be honest - it probably is.

"[With Russia] you never know whether it's a completely state-funded doping system, but it begs the question, is it crossing into para sport?"

The increasing profile of the Paralympics has brought more commercial interest and, inevitably, the movement has been forced to adhere to the World Anti-Doping Agency's code of practice.

The first positive results came in the 1992 Barcelona Games with five athletes using banned substances. Out of competition testing began before the 2000 Sydney Games and 14 athletes returned positive tests, including nine powerlifters before competition.

The practice known as "boosting" is also banned. It tends to be used, often through self-inflicted pain, by athletes with spinal cord injuries to create high blood pressure and enhance heart rate. That makes the body use more oxygen and can improve performance.

Pascoe says she is drug tested almost 10 times a year. She paid tribute to the proactive stance of Drug Free Sport New Zealand for the limited number of positive Kiwi tests.

- NZ Herald

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