Tuesday, November 17, 2009

An open letter:

My Teammate, Aliyah Snyder, has had to call her career to an early end. She explain it best in her blog, here.

Needless to say, I'm beyond bummed that Aliyah won't be there with me at the start house next time. I can't say enough about how amazing of a teammate she is. No one else helped me get over my fear of sliding after my accident in Park City as Aliyah did. She was the only person I could really talk to about skeleton, and all the unique challenges that come along with our sport.

Even when Omri's face is smashed, Aliyah remains positive and happy

Aliyah Pushing

to Aliyah:

Thank you so much for everything you've done for me, for the team, and the way in which you represented our country with pride, confidence, and humility. I am so proud to be able to call you a teammate, a world-class athlete, a fellow Israeli, and a friend. You have an incredible spirit, and with or without skeleton, that's something that will always serve you well. I know that while your involvement with team Israel as an athlete may be over, you will always be part of this team, and this federation. Let's face it, without you, we would not even have T-shirts :). I know I speak for our entire federation when I say that wherever your athletic/professional/personal lives take you, we will always be there to support you, and to cheer you on. I can't thank you enough for being a part of our team, and I can only hope that when new athletes join our federation, they will be even half the person you were, and that I'll be able to have half as much fun doing a track walk at -30°. I promise to learn our special team dance, and get you a video of it once I have it down.

oh, and you'll always have Israel's first Medal

Friday, November 13, 2009

Curcumin: Don't believe the hype

So I've been hearing a lot about a new supplement, curcumin. It came up when I saw that biotest, a company whose products I use. It seems as soon as a new supplement comes out, people jump on the bandwagon and start talking about it like it’s the next big thing.

Let’s dare, even just for a minute, to pretend that maybe supplement companies don’t always have our best interests at heart, and maybe taking your money is more important to them than being honest with you. At the very least, lets dare to question the "research" that goes into supplement creation and advertisement—it’s not exactly the same steps that go into drug development in research hospitals (don't get me started on pharmaceuticals, though). With my crazy assumption, lets explore for a minute the bio-chemical process by which curcumin is used in the body, the potential benefits, and the risks.

The possible benefits of curcumin are currently being explored. It has demonstrated chemopreventive properties in both anti-initiating and anti-promoting activities in several experimental systems (1). Please remember that a couple studies does not mean that you can make statements like “curcumin is a powerful chemopreventive agent.” While it helps sell the product, it’s not honest. Instead, you can only state that curcumin has possible chemopreventive effects, and should be further explored. Unfortunately, people normally just believe the former, and go off and take 1000-2000mg of curcumin a day (dose recommended by Biotest). It constantly shocks me that this happens. If I were to tell you to take enormous doses of an NNRTI (Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor) because it has an anti retroviral effect, you wouldn’t go out and do it. If you did, you’d quickly develop significant hepatoxicity and suffer from numerous other side-effects. That being said, just because curcumin is a derivative of a natural product doesn’t mean that it’s somehow only beneficial. Just as is the truth with just about everything, there is also a potential for negative effects.

The National Toxicology Program Study showed that dietary administration of turmeric with a high curcumin content induced clitoral gland adenomas in female rats (2). Also, there is evidence for carcinogenic activity of turmeric (curcumin) in mice based on an increased incidence of hepatocellular adenoma. There is a demonstrated prooxidant property of curcumin with metabolic activation by CYP enzymes (CYP 2D6, 1A1, 1A2, 2E1) (3). The mechanisms of the double-sided (chemopreventive and carcinogenic) properties of curcumin is a byprodect of in-vivo metabolism within the body.

In a metabolic pathway, curcumin converts via hydrogenation to tetrahydrocurcumin, which is the actual promising chemopreventive agent in curcumin (4). At the same time, curcumin is goes through O-demethylation through the CYP enzymes listed above to O-demethyl curcumin (5). O-demethyl curcumin then oxidizes into O-demethyl curcumin radical, leading to an o-quinone form. NAD(P)H reduces the o-quinone form to a catechol form through doble electron reduction (6). This redox reaction results with the production of 02-, which leads to oxidative DNA damage. In this way, the consumption of curcumin, while producing tetrahydrocurcumin, and therefore having a chemopreventive effect, also continually generates reactive oxygen species (free radicals), and cause continuous DNA damage.
The moral of this story is that when it comes to dietary supplements, worry about what you’re eating, and only then look to supplementation. Then, when looking at supplements, ask yourself “am I getting some of this in my diet?” If the answer is no, ask yourself, “would it be easy enough to?” If the answer is yes, go and do that. Don’t jump to taking some micronutrient in pill form just because we’re constantly led to believe that if a little bit is good for a specific population, more will be better for me. If you can’t get something in your diet and you feel that you would benefit from it, talk to a nutritionist. I’ve said it before, but Brian St-Pierre has helped me balance-out my diet on more than one occasion, and I can’t stress enough how much it has helped me. You can check out his latest post (which can somewhat be related to this one) here. In the end, remember that a balance in diet will do more for you than any amount of supplementation. If you’re not winning the fork and knife battle, you’re never going to win the war.


1. Deshpande SS, Ingle AD, and Maru GB. Chemopreventive efficacy of curcumin-free aqueous turmeric extract in 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene-induced rat mammary tumorigenesis. Cancer Lett123: 35–40, 1998.
2. National Toxicology Program. NTP toxicology and carcinogenesis studies of turmeric oleoresin (CAS No. 8024-37-1) (major component 79%–85% curcumin, CAS No. 458-37-7) in F344/N rats and B6C3F1 mice (Feed Studies). Natl Toxicol Program Tech Rep Ser427: 1–275, 1993.
3. Sakano K and Kawanishi S. Metal-mediated DNA dam-age induced by curcumin in the presence of human cytochrome P450 isozymes. Arch Biochem Biophys 405:223–230, 2002.
4. Okada K, Wangpoengtrakul C, Tanaka T, Toyokuni S, Uchida K, and Osawa T. Curcumin and especially tetrahy-drocurcumin ameliorate oxidative stress-induced renal injury in mice. J Nutr131: 2090–2095, 2001
5. Ireson CR, Jones DJ, Orr S, Coughtrie MW, Boocock DJ, Williams ML, Farmer PB, Steward WP, and Gescher AJ. Metabolism of the cancer chemopreventive agent curcumin in human and rat intestine. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev11: 105–111, 2002.
6. Hirakawa K, Oikawa S, Hiraku Y, Hirosawa I, and Kawanishi S. Catechol and hydroquinone have different redox properties responsible for their differential DNA-damaging ability. Chem Res Toxicol15: 76–82, 2002.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


So yesterday was the first day that I was able to sprint pain free in over 9 months. Whatever was up with my ankle, it's all gone and although I felt sluggish and extremely sloppy in my mechanics, It was great to finally feel pain free. I am going to start incorporating sprinting back into my training regimen once a week, and then more often from there. I'm hoping to be sub- 3.5 30m by the new year.

Today, I had a bit of a rough training session, 5x5 GCB squats, a whole bunch of single leg movements, and finished off with a circuit of sled pushes and sledgehammer swings. I'm exhausted, but I'm feeling great about my training and the results are certainly coming in. Weight is still an issue, but I am confident that will come, along with further gains in speed, power, and strength.

On another note, I've found that incorporating a bit of lateral slide-board work in my warmup is a nice addition to get my heart going, and also a bit of potentiation work for the glutes. I tried it today, and I felt a lot better going into my squats. i did 5x15 seconds (at about 1 slide per second), with 45 seconds rest. It also got the blood in my legs moving and some of the lactic acid buildup that I had there dissipated.

In any case, this was just a quick training update. Hopefully I'll get photos and videos up soon.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Good day at training

So let me start off by admitting that I need to write more. A combination of being busy and procrastination has made me largely avoid blogging... but no more (I hope!)

Today was a great day at training. Although I haven't slept nearly enough the past two nights and arrived at training exhausted, I managed to get a new personal best in my front squat (345lbs at 172lbs bodyweight). As exciting as it is, I'm thinking of it as little more than a stepping stone towards my later goals. In any event, a big thank you has to go out to Brian St. Pierre, who has been doing my programming as of late. Brian is a great dietitian and hopefully soon I'll get to sit down with him and fine tune my diet. In any case, if you haven't already, it's definitely worthwhile to check out his blog- www.brianstpierretraining.com

More to come...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Online T-Shirts Available

So we have finally set up a Paypal account for online ordering. If you are interested in purchasing one of our shirts, please add your size to the shopping cart and become a proud supporter of the IBSF and me. If you think your friends or family would be interested, please send the information along, because we need all the help we can get. Cost online is $20 plus shipping. Thanks so much!


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Israeli athletic discrimination

I realized that this blog won't be updated often enough if it only focuses on my training, so I figured I'd expand my repertoire a bit. Sorry-- It's a long one.

When I was young, I used to believe in the ideal that sports were separate from politics. Indeed, even today, one of my favorite people and closest friends in skeleton is Faisal Faisal, a slider from Iraq. Still, I understand that apart from these unique occurrences, politics mixes in sports all too often. It is for this reason that I find it even more important to represent my country with both dignity and excellence.

This mix of politics and sports often goes unpunished (or not dealt with (even close to) harshly enough) when it has to do with the World's go-to punching bag, Israel. Lets ignore the fact that the Nazi Olympics were even allowed to happen-- That was before the founding of the State. Instead, lets skip forward a few years to 1972.

Eleven Jewish athletes are taken hostage and killed during the 1972 Olympics in Munich. Why were the games allowed to continue? Even worse, why is there, to this date, no official recognition by the IOC of the event in any official ceremonies? If it were American or Russian athletes, would the result be the same? I doubt it.

Moving forward...
2003- World Table Tennis Championships: Saudi and Yemeni players refuse to face Israeli opponent. There is no repercussion for this blatant violation of the "sanctity" of the separation of politics from sports.

2004- Athens Olympics- Judo: An Iranian athlete does not make weight and then says he would have refused to compete against an Israeli athlete anyway. Instead of so much as a statement of protest to the Iranian National Olympic Committee, the IOC remains silent. The Iranian athlete is awarded an $115,000 prize from the Iranian government.

A similar situation occurred in 2008, when Iranian swimmer Mohammad Alirezaei claimed that he was too ill to swim in a heat that included an Israeli swimmer. Iran’s refusal to compete against Israelis even extended to the 2008 Paralympics; its wheelchair basketball team forfeited a game against the United States because it could have faced Israel if it won.

Libya, in their bid for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, were not reprimanded for the fact that their bid explicitly stated that all qualified nations would be invited, except Israel.

The Israeli soccer federation was expelled from the Asian Football Confederation in 1974 because many member countries, most of them in the Middle East, had refused to play against the Israelis. Israel currently plays in the European confederation, with little chance of it returning to the AFC soon.

So why bring this up now? It's not really new news. Well, to my utter shock and surprise (note the sarcasm), it's happened again.

Last year, Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram were denied entry into Dubai for one of the largest tennis tournaments of the year. The UAE cited "security" and was warned by the international tennis federation that if this "issue" was not resolved by this year, it would be grounds to ban Dubai from hosting international tennis events.

Nevertheless, the UAE again announced this year that Shahar Peer, an Israeli player, would not be allowed entry. Surprise!!! The international federation for tennis made the same empty threat it did last year, and didn't follow on its promise to reprimand the UAE (I am still waiting for them to issue an official statement about the future of the UAE as a tournament host). To their credit, the Tennis channel (and probably only because a Jew is its president) has refused to cover the event in protest. Also to their credit, the Wall St. Journal removed themselves as a sponsor for the event. Sadly, these are the only acts of protest that I have seen. An Israeli athlete has been unfairly discriminated against again and the world has largely remained silent. Oh sure, other players say that they "sympathize" with Shahar and "condemn" this move on the part of the UAE, but none have even threatened to boycott. Moreover, Shahar could unfairly lose her world ranking to another athlete who was allowed entrance. I sincerely hope that the tennis federation will do something about this, but I am not holding my breathe. As history suggests, there will be some empty words thrown around and the whole thing will be brushed under the rug.

Here's the part that really gets me, though. Israel has over a million Arab citizens--people who live in Israel, and carry full citizenship to the State of Israel with equal in legality to that of any Jewish citizen. We even have Arab members of parliment. The thing that bothers me about this situation is that if Shahar was an Israeli Arab, would she have been banned from the tournament? I am willing to garuntee that she would not have been.

Jim Litke of The Associated Press criticizes the WTA for failing to take decisive action against the Dubai tournament, writing that it is part of a larger failure by sporting organizers to defend Israeli athletes against discrimination.

“Every time a team or athlete from a neighboring Middle East state refuses to meet their Israeli counterparts on a playing field, the people who sanction the event … pretend to be shocked,” he writes. “Then they promise the next time it happens, they’ll bite the hand that feeds them. Then they do what they always do: take the money and kick the Israelis down the road.”

Michael Freund argues in the Jerusalem Post that the WTA should have cancelled the tournament. “Indeed, what is truly ‘regrettable’ is that both the WTA and the players themselves did not put principle before prize money,” he writes. “Dubai essentially hung a large ‘No Jews Allowed’ sign over center court, but that didn't seem to bother anyone enough to cancel the tournament.”

With the UAE gunning to be the world's next major sporting hub, it should be interesting to see whether the world decides to force the UAE to change its policies, or simply standy by idly while this blatnet discrimination continues.

Fortunately for me, there are no bobsled tracks in the UAE, and it's far too warm there to ever build one... although they do want to build an indoor ski/winter wonderland... let's hope they dont have room for a track!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Why do we lift heavy weights?

A: To get better at our sport of choice.

I did heavy cleans and speed squats today. I felt pretty spent after the squats but I tested my vert (along with basically everyone at CP) and jumped a couple 33's before a couple 34's and a 34.8''. Not too great but pretty awesome considering all the work I had done before. I finished it up with some heavier (225lb) sled pushes. I am working mainly on the initial push and first couple steps, as my top end speed is pretty good but I need to learn how to accelerate more powerfully.

My weight is up a bit again, but I just need to keep eating more. Tomorrow is a day off, and I'm back in for training on Monday again.

So remember, your squat, deadlift, or bench don't matter unless you can use that strength to your advantage in your sport (unless you're a powerlifter in which case it works out anyway--you're welcome, Dan). On the other hand, if used properly in a smart training program, there is nothing that can help you get faster and more powerful than strength training.