Former Del Mar Mayor Harvey Shapiro has found a new way to feed his workaholic personality — writing a book.
The 71-year-old, who served as a council member from 1980-84 and mayor for one of those years, recently published “Morphed.” He calls it a “sports thriller,” revolving around the use of DNA doping in sport and the use of human performance enhancement technologies in daily living.
He uses his own experiences — as a physician, a cyclist, a former medical correspondent for NBCSanDiego and a volunteer doping control officer for the 2002 Winter Olympics — to craft the fictional account that asks “How far are athletes or individuals willing to go to win, even to the point of altering their own DNA?”
Eric Heiden, the Olympic gold medalist who is now an orthopedic surgeon, writes in the liner notes that “DNA manipulation — a likely next step in performance enhancement — amps up the health issues for all of us. It pits parents against their kids who emulate their idol athletes and tempts us with prospects of its fountain of youth effects. Shapiro opens the doors on the locker room’s inner sanctum where sports intermingle with big business and science.”
Shapiro’s book goes to places that sound familiar from recent sports news — athletes using steroids, an anti-doping doctor, the Tour de France and a “muscle-altering DNA substance that will not only pass through the anti-doping system but can also reduce the effects of aging.”
One of his characters — and there are many “real characters,” he says — is an aging cyclist who is breaking Lance Armstrong’s records.
Shapiro, who timed the release of his self-published work to coincide with the Summer Olympics in London, says he came up with the concept for the story after volunteering as a doping control officer at the Olympics.
He lives half of the year — summers and winters — in Park City, Utah, which is where he was when a nurse encouraged him to join the anti-doping effort.
“I spent two years training (for the volunteer assignment), sneaking up on people and saying ‘Aha,’ it’s time for your test,” he said. As a physician, he ran a testing station where athletes had to report at the end of their events.
“I started thinking, if somebody wanted to cheat, how would they do it,” he added. “They could try to corrupt me, but that wouldn’t work.”
As the ideas ran through his head, he started researching substance abuse in elite sports.
In 2004, Shapiro was the California Society of Anesthesiologists’ Forrest M. Leffingwell Memorial lecturer and delivered a talk on just that subject.
In introducing him, the editor of the association’s bulletin called him “one of the most prominent patriarchs of neuroanesthesia.” He also noted that he had “ventured well outside its boundaries to lend his creative intellect to more distant and, often, surprisingly adventuresome areas.”
In that lecture, Shaprio said, “I don’t believe that most sport fans are upset enough (about doping) to respond by turning off their TV sets or staying away from the professional stadiums and arenas. Until they do so, fans are simply fanning the fire and doping is here to stay.”