Blood Doping in Endurance Sports Blood doping has become a consistant part of sports and fair play. Blood doping enhances your performance by increasing red blood cell mass and as a result delivering more oxygen to muscle. This “boost” of energy has sparked major controversy in the sports world for what it can do for an athlete during endurance events such as running. The risks involve putting the cardiovascular system of the athlete being in severe danger because of this procedure.
Still, there are athletes out there that will put themselves at risk just to experience the prestige feeling of being number one, regardless of the circumstances. Fortunately, the last few years’ studies have made great strides and it has been discovered that athletes can increase their blood’s oxygen level without any side effects. Over the course of many years the use of blood doping and substances have been extremely controversial in endurance sports, how is it monitored and should they be allowed, but more importantly what are the risks? Each year, athletes in the endurance sports, increase their performances greatly.
There is always better training, better conditioning tactics, and healthier athletes. Most athletes in the endurance world take one, if not all, of these methods to improve their races. Some of these ways consist of altitude training and the High Altitude Bed which is a bed that stimulates being 10,000 or more feet above which helps endurance athletes increase EPO in their bodies. Both the altitude bed and altitude training are safe and practical ways to achieve what some athletes accomplish through a highly dangerous and somewhat controversial way.
However, there are some athletes that will do anything to find an easy way out, which may hinder their performance rather than help them achieve their goals. Plasma injections or blood doping is a complicated process, which if done right, can give great benefits for the short term. The process is very precise, in that, if done incorrectly, can be deadly to the recipient of the blood. “Blood doping, often called induced erythrocythemia, is the intravenous infusion of blood to produce an increase in the blood’s oxygen carrying capacity” (Smith).
Putting that in black and white, you increase the amount of oxygen in your body, making it easier to race harder. The procedure begins with between 1 to 4 units of a person’s blood (1 unit = 450 ml of blood) being withdrawn. Most athletes go through the drawing of blood several weeks before a key competition so they have time to rebuild their normal level of red blood cells. The blood is then centrifuged and the plasma components are immediately reinfused while the remaining red blood cells are placed in cold storage (McArdle).
The red blood cells are then reinfused back into the body, usually one to seven days before a high endurance event. If done correctly, this process can increase the hemoglobin level and red blood count by up to a staggering twenty percent creating the optimum oxygen levels. That percentage can make an average to slightly above average athlete look great and even make a very successful athlete have a performance of a lifetime. The WADA, the world anti- doping agency, is starting to crack down on endurance athletes trying to hurdle over some of the regulations to get a better time or place in their event.
Athletes will do anything in their power to get the best seed time, place and to finish at a desired time and place when the final competition is held. Seed times can be crucial in endurance sports or faster, shorter races; this seed can determine where they
The purposes of the World Anti-Doping Code and the World Anti-Doping Program which supports it are: to protect the athletes’ fundamental right to participate in doping-free sport and thus promote health, fairness and equality for athletes worldwide, and To ensure harmonized, coordinated and effective anti-doping programs at the international and national level with regard to detection, deterrence and prevention of doping” (USADA). The code is the fundamental and universal document upon which the World Anti-Doping Program in sport is based. The purpose of the Code is to advance the anti-doping effort through universal harmonization of core anti-doping elements. It is intended to be specific enough to achieve complete harmonization on issues where uniformity is required, yet general enough in other areas to permit flexibility on how agreed-upon anti-doping principles are implemented. ” (USADA). Without this code athletes will not fear being tested or fear the risk of being exposed as a “cheater”. This Code implies that at any time a major athlete in a race can be tested if suggested or there is a high possibility the athlete could have used this method to “get ahead”.
The international standards for this Code are to ensure every athlete across the globe understands this is illegal so every athlete in their race has a fair chance. The WADA does not want an athlete to break a world record in another country just because blood doping is legal in that country, therefore the Code applies to all endurance athletes world-wide. There are two ways to decide whether an athlete has used blood doping prior to their race and/or the day of their race. The athlete is either needed to take a blood or urine sample.
There are such things as IC testing and OOC testing which refers to in-competition and out-of-competition. Yes, even if an athlete is out of season, blood doping is illegal, at all times, this includes the athlete is not competing in an upcoming race when they are found to have blood doped. In-Competition testing plans are primarily developed by coordinating with each National Governing Body (NGB) and are often in accordance with IF rules. Athletes may be selected for testing by USADA, the US anti- doping agency, based on a criterion that typically includes established rules set forth by each “IF”.
An example of how athletes would be selected for in competition or event testing could be: Placed finishers, such as the top three finishers and randomly selected athletes, such as ninth, twelfth, fourteenth, etc. Out of Competition testing-USADA’s Test Distribution Plan establishes the number of tests per sport based upon the number of athletes in the USADA Registered Testing Pool and in evaluation of the International Standards. USADA also carefully considers selection formulas or requests for target selection of particular Athletes which are proposed by the USOC or a particular NGB.
Tests are then allocated to periods throughout the year when OOC Testing is most effective (USADA). This testing is taken extremely serious; the USADA is determined to make endurance sports as natural as possible, to give everyone in the races a fair advantage, with no exceptions. Not just anyone can perform blood or urine tests for blood doping on the athletes. “The United States Olympic Committee (USOC), National Governing Bodies (NGBs), and the World Anti-doping agency (WADA) Code have authorized USADA to test any athlete, but only under certain circumstances”, (USADA). These circumstances are ostly done in the United States but when there is an international event or team, these also qualify for random testing. Random testing can occur quite often, especially the week before a major competition or after the competition ends. The United States is most determined to catch unfaithful athletes, but it is a constant mission to get all countries to take this as seriously as the United States does. The USADA can test anyone who: Is a member of a license holder of a NGB; Is participating at an Event or Competition sanctioned by the USOC or a NGB or participating at an Event or Competition in the United States sanctioned by an IF.
This rule does not exclude competitors outside of the United States. If the athlete is a foreign athlete who is present in the United States, the athlete can still be tested. If the Athlete has given their consent to testing by USADA or who has submitted a Whereabouts Filing to USADA or an IF within the previous 12 months and has not given their NGB written notice of retirement or been named by the USOC or an NGB to an international team or who is included in the USADA Registered Testing Pool (USADA RTP) or is competing in a qualifying event to represent the USOC or NGB in international competition.
That is one problem as well, out of the country athletes under certain circumstances must agree to be tested, in order to be tested. But there are so many ways the USADA can test an athlete. For most athletes there is still no way around the random testing. Even if a United States Athlete or foreign Athlete present in the United States who is serving a period of ineligibility on account of an anti-doping rule violation and has not given prior written notice of retirement to the their NGB and USADA or the applicable foreign anti-doping agency or foreign sport association, the athlete can still be tested.
Athletes can only be tested by USADA under authorization from the USOC, an NGB, IF, any NADO, WADA, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), International Paralympic Committee, (IPC), or the organizing committee of any Event or Competition (USADA). As said before, this is taken extremely seriously to keep endurance sports clean and natural. There are many substances such as anabolic agents, hormones or steroids, Beta-2 agonists, gene doping, stimulants, narcotics, cannabinnoids, etc.
Blood doping seems to be on the top of the lists because it has the least side effects, hence why athletes resort to blood doping. But the side effects may be few, but they are extremely dangerous to an athlete’s heath and life. The side effects of blood doping include, “increased heart rate, blood clotting, and stroke,” (USADA). Those three side effects may seem like they can only happen to older athletes but they apply to anyone who considers blood doping.
Although, this system is a great prevention of future doping it also causes controversy when an athlete wins an event and is immediately suspected of blood doping or using a substance. These tests and committees let athletes know they are serious about this controversy and are stopping at nothing to make athletes get the performance they want the real way, no cheating, no cutting corners, just hard, hard work. These accusations not only affect the runners ego it also puts an unwanted spotlight on the athlete which make fans and other runners question the athletes character.
There are plenty of athletes accused of blood doping such as, “Lasse Viren, the famous Finnish distance runner, (who was tripped and got back up to still win the 10,000m in the Olympics, and won the 5,000m against Prefontaine in 1972 & also won both again in 1976) was suspected of blood doping because he was still running elite even as he got older when most runners started to decline,” (Athletic Runner). Even though Lasse Viren was innocent, unfortunately we have this Code because that is not always the case.
In other races such as the steeplechase even world champion steeplechaser, Marta Dominguez and his doctor have been accused of blood doping. At the center of cycling’s biggest doping investigation were among a reported 14 people detained across Spain by the Spanish Civil Guard in a new investigation. The Spanish news media reported that, “ she was detained along with her trainer, Cesar Perez, and Eufemiano Fuentes, a doctor involved with Operation Puerto, which implicated more than fifty cyclists after raids in May 2006 that netted steroids, blood bags and blood doping equipment.
It led to bans for Alejandro Valverde and Ivan Basso. Dominguez, thirty-five, is skipping the 2011 season because she is pregnant,” (New York Times). The urine sample to find out whether an athlete has violated the blood doping Code was a huge phenomenon in 2009. In recent studies, The World Anti-Doping Agency, found a new method that would allow wider testing of the banned blood-boosting hormone EPO. Arne Ljungqvist, vice president of WADA, said that, “ if the new technique proved successful, it could be used much more widely than the existing system, which is expensive and complicated,” (New York Times).
Before this testing became available it took days to figure out whether an athlete has cheated, but the urine testing has made big strides in speeding up the process for less controversy and stress for the athletes. Athletes like Cyclist Jesus Monzano have had bad experiences with blood doping. Blood doping can be lethal even for a healthy and fit athlete. He nearly died after being injected with poorly stored blood in 2003. It is found that, “an extraordinarily high level of RBCs in the blood can tax athletes’ hearts.
Its hard work for the organ to push sludgy blood through an athlete’s veins” (Kois). Other athletes like Tyler Hamiliton face the loss of Olympic and prestigious medals, “He lost his medal in the cycling time trial because two separate blood tests suggested that he might be guilty of blood doping. Hamilton, who has up to now enjoyed a squeaky-clean image, denies the charge” (Kois). Although this can be done in almost any sport, the USADA’s considerations are consistent with WADA’s international Standards for testing (IST).
These standards at minimum include: Physical demands of the sport and possible performance-enhancing effect that doping may elicit, available doping analysis statistics, available research on doping trends, training periods and competition season, the history of doping in the sport and/or discipline, training periods and the competition calendar, information received on possible doping practices, resources aimed at the detection of doping may be specifically targeted and USADA retains the right to test any athlete at any time.
Currently, blood doping is a controversial issue. With great strides in science and sports medicine, this will probably be a dilemma for years to come. Many present and future athletes will have to use their best judgment when this procedure becomes an issue in their lives. Blood doping is illegal but is also somewhat undetectable. Even though there are ways to catch an athlete blood doping, the USADA still cannot catch everyone, as with any substances or ways to “get ahead”. Their goal is to make athletes realize this is an unfair advantage to athletes not blood doping. The potential risks of such a procedure seem to outweigh any potential benefits, above and beyond the ethical issues involved” (Wilmore). With all the things that can happen to a professional athlete, why risk it? If a distinct advantage is needed in endurance events, altitude training and the altitude sleep chamber seem to have far fewer risks and are currently safe and legal. And, if all else fails, hard work and determination still count for something. Works Cited “Blood Doping. ” USADA, 2011. Web. 19 Mar. 2011. ;. Brien Anthony J, Simon Toby L: The Effects of Red Blood Cell Infusion on 10- K.
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