It is Not Our Game, Just our Science
Blood Doping—-You’ve heard this term recently in the news and perhaps wondered what it means, Google the term and find a many number of sites sensationalizing the topic. We’ll let the controversy angle up to other so-called experts.
As the leading voice on transfusion medicine in Indiana, ours is a mission of saving the lives of patients through blood component therapy. That means our science is the same discipline though far removed from its application in the big business of sports performance.
What is blood doping? How does it work?
Simply put, it’s a way to cheat the system, quite literally the circulatory system. Either by drug or transfusion, blood doping increases the oxygen carrying capability in your body.
When you breathe in, the body’s red blood cells in the heart soak up all of the oxygen they can and distribute it to different parts of the body. This oxygen-rich blood fuels your entire body for high functioning, reacting and extended performance. More oxygen carrying capacity in your body means advanced execution, less fatigue and most importantly, more endurance.
This is precisely why blood doping is so alluring to endurance athletes such as swimmers, runners, cyclists, and ultra-marathoners.
There are three main ways people can blood dope.
- Erythropoietin (EPO)-A hormone made naturally in your kidneys that tells your bone marrow to produce more red blood cells. This is a drug commonly given to patients with kidney failure to help signal their bone marrow. More of the hormone in your body means more red blood cell production which in turn, creates more oxygen for superior performance.
- Transfusion of donor blood- Donor blood is accumulated, often illegally, to be transfused into the body of the athlete. With extra blood being pumped into the body, a person has more red blood cells and more oxygen carrying capacity which could facilitate heightened endurance.
- Transfusion of your own blood- This is done by removing some of your own blood weeks in advance to be refrigerated or even frozen. The blood is then transfused back into the athlete’s veins before an athletic event. In this way, additional red blood cells creates more oxygen carrying capacity and we know by now, more oxygen equals more stamina.
Intrigued by the controversy surrounding blood doping? That’s the business of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency among other groups internationally.
For our part, we’ll continue to connect healthy volunteer blood donors to patients in need at Indiana hospitals through life-saving transfusions.
Learn more about the importance of blood and blood utilization.