Blood Doping in Sports to Improve Performance
A main controversial issue in today’s sports world is ways in which athletes improve their performance. The use of steroids and supplements have been heavily discussed and argued but the method of blood doping is now a major problem. Blood Doping or red blood cell infusion is another example of the ingenious ways in which athletes attempt to improve performance without running into trouble with drug tests. Blood doping has become an integral part of sports and fair play. It enhances your performance by increasing red blood cell mass and thereby delivering more oxygen to the muscles. This manipulation has gained notoriety in the sports world for what it can do for an athlete during endurance events.
Blood doping, often called induced erythrocythemia, is the intravenous infusion of blood to produce an increase in the blood’s oxygen carrying capacity.. In order for our muscles to perform, they need a ready supply of oxygen. During high intensity exercise, oxygen becomes depleted and the body cannot get enough oxygen to the muscles in order for them to perform at their optimal potential. This lack of ability to get oxygen to the muscles is called oxygen debt and results in lactic acid being formed. Lactic acid is a waste product of anaerobic cellular respiration within the muscle tissue, which can cause muscle soreness that is usually felt after a hard or long workout. Fatigue usually sets in with the onset of lactic acid production.
Blood doping is a procedure that begins with between 1 to 4 units of a person’s blood being withdrawn, usually several weeks before a key competition. The blood is then centrifuged and the plasma components are immediately reinfused while the remaining red blood cells are placed in cold storage. Over the next several weeks, the athlete’s bone marrow, stimulated by the loss of the blood, forms more red blood cells and returns the athlete’s blood volume to normal. The red blood cells are then reinfused back into the body, usually 1 to 7 days before a high endurance event. Creating a surplus of red blood cells. If done correctly, this process can increase the hemoglobin level and red blood cell count by up to 20%. With these extra blood cells, the athlete’s blood can carry more oxygen to the muscles. This could theoretically result in more efficient functioning of the muscles and increase performance.
Blood doping does have its drawbacks. If the blood used is not from the athlete but from a donor, there is the risk of transmission of hepatitis, AIDS, and other blood-borne diseases. Even if the athlete’s own blood is used, the risk of infection from the re-infusion procedure is always present. In addition, a large infusion of red blood cells (and resulting increase in cellular concentration) could increase blood viscosity and bring about a decrease in cardiac output, a decrease in blood flow velocity, and a reduction in peripheral oxygen content – all of which would...