Blood Doping/Blood Packing
Blood doping or blood packing, is the process of improving the amount of oxygen carrying components in the circulation of the body, namely the red blood cells. These cells are responsible for ensuring the tissues are well perfused with oxygen, which is needed in the muscles in order to function and work harder for longer.
What Are The Methods Of Blood Doping?There are several ways of increasing the amount of red blood cells, or haemoglobin, in the body, these include using hormones, blood transfusions or by using man-made oxygen carrying substances.
Erythropoietin (EPO)Hormone abuse for this reason includes the use of erythropoietin, or EPO, which is naturally excreted by the kidneys and is important for red blood cells manufacture in the bone marrow.EPO, which can be synthetically created, can be used for treating many medical complaints such as anaemia, but is can be abused by athletes who wish to improve the oxygen levels in their muscles and taken supplementary. As it occurs naturally in the body, screening for abuse can be very difficult to ascertain, so instead of detecting the substance, the density of the red blood cells present in the blood is checked against the averages of an athletic person.
Blood TransfusionsFairly self explanatory, blood transfusion of packed red blood cells can be administered to increase the amount of red blood cells in the body, allowing for more oxygen carrying cells to act on the muscles.Many of those who have been found to use this method have had their own blood harvested and then infused back into their own systems before a competition.The practice of removing the persons own blood is safer than using a donor, but it is often impractical as the person must recover from the removal of blood which can interfere with training schedules.Blood transfusions are becoming slightly old fashioned now due to the rise in the amount of manufactured substances that can have the same effect.This can be a very dangerous method of blood packing as if the transfusions are not obtained, stored and administered safely there is a big risk of developing infections some of which may cause serious health problems or even death.
Oxygen Carrying SubstancesThese are synthetic substances that are made from chemicals and proteins that increase the number of cells able to transfer oxygen to the tissues in the blood stream. They act as artificial haemoglobin and are used for a number of medical disorders. Their long term risks in athletes are not yet fully understood, but it is thought they might have a negative effect on the immune system and the kidneys.They are easily detectable and banned for use in top level sports.
Blood doping can be extremely dangerous and can put life at risk. It should only be used under medical supervision by those who are trained in the administration of the products.It is often used by athletes prior to competitions to increase the oxygen levels in the muscles.The use of blood doping or injecting any substances that aim to increase the amount of red blood cells in the circulation is banned in most professional sports.