What is there to know about Blood Doping and Erythropoietin? Can it extend endurance? If so, is this why athletes use these methods?
Yes, blood doping and using Erythropoietin can improve exercise endurance and yes, this is clearly why athletes use these methods.
Blood doping enhances performance by increasing red blood cell (RBC) mass and thereby delivering more oxygen to muscle. This practice is especially significant to athletes during endurance events.
The athlete usually has 1 to 4 units of blood withdrawn several weeks before a key competition. The blood is centrifuged and the plasma components are immediately re-infused while the remaining RBC's are placed in cold storage. The RBC's are then re-infused usually 1 to 7 days before a high endurance event. When done correctly, the process can increase hemoglobin and RBC levels by 20%.
Erythropoietin is a naturally occurring hormone, produced by the kidneys, which stimulates the body to produce more RBC's. We can now make synthetic Erythropoietin which is given as an injection under the skin one to three times a week to patients with cancer or patients undergoing chemotherapy for cancer. The injections keep the body's RBC production at a maximum level to counteract the anemia frequently experienced by these patients. Athletes use the Erythropoietin to produce increased RBC mass to provide better oxygen delivery to muscle.
Scientists can now detect the presence of the synthetic Erythropoietin in the blood. We also can now determine how old existing RBC's are. This makes using these practices very risky for world class athletes.
Dr. John Mamana