Blood doping is done to heighten a person's red blood cell mass. It involves the use of specific substances and/or techniques. As cell mass is increased, performance and stamina are increased via more oxygen being transported to the muscles.
Blood Doping Methods
All blood doping is prohibited in cycling. The most common include synthetic oxygen carriers, erythropoietin (EPO) and blood transfusions.
EPO is already present in the human body. The kidneys release this peptide hormone and it stimulates the production of red blood cells by acting on the bone marrow. This may help in increasing the buffering of lactic acid. It is also known to increase how much oxygen is sent to the muscles by increasing red blood cell counts.
A synthetic oxygen carrier is a purified chemical or protein that is able to carry oxygen. Perflurocarbons (PFCs) and hemoglobin-based oxygen carriers (HBOCs) are common examples. These are often used in a medical setting in place of a blood transfusion. They work very much like real blood products in increasing blood cell counts.
Blood transfusions used in doping can be either homologous or autologous. Homologous means that the recipient is using another person's blood in which the blood types match. Autologous means that the recipient is using his or her own blood that has been stored. This results in an increase in blood cells.
What are the Potential Side Effects of Blood Doping?
In medicine, this is actually a very beneficial practice for those with kidney disease-related anemia. However, misusing this technique can have a variety of health risks. This can lead to the blood becoming more thick than it should be, which may result in stroke, pulmonary embolism, cerebral embolism and heart disease. Autoimmune diseases are also possible when recombinant human EPO is used.
When using homologous blood transfusion, there is always the risk of contracting a virus present in the donor blood. If autologous blood is not stored properly, or if the procedure is done wrong, health consequences are possible.
Detecting Blood Doping
During the 2000 Summer Olympic Games, a test was validated based on urine and blood matrices. This was used to detect potential EPO. Now, urine testing and blood testing are done to look at the levels of EPO. A new blood test has been developed to look for the newer erythropoiesis stimulating agents. A test specific to synthetic oxygen carriers was put into action in 2004.
During the 2004 Summer Olympics a test that is able to detect homologous blood transfusions was put into place. At this time, a test for autologous blood transfusions is still being researched.
R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen is a former athlete and current coach. She has a background in nursing, fitness and nutrition and sports nutrition. Follow Rose on Twitter @Rose_Kitchen
- Disease & Medical Conditions
- red blood cell
- blood transfusions
- Blood doping