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Steroids & Blood Doping on Steroids

Blood Boosting

One of the ways athletes can improve their performance is by blood boosting. Blood boosting has been around for about 40 years and has been widely abused by athletes. But because of the secrecy surrounding it, not many people are aware of it. Unlike anabolic steroids which are eaten or injected, blood boosting entails a lot more. The technique of blood doping requires the help of health care professionals.

Blood boosting is essentially the administration of blood or blood products to an athlete to boost performance. Alternative names for blood boosting are blood doping or blood packing. In the world of sports, blood boosting is illegal and is banned. Many athletes in the past have used this technique to boost their performance. The technique is extremely hard to detect but the Sporting agencies are developing newer methods to screen for this practice.


How it is done

The process of blood boosting involves removing blood from the athlete. The blood is then stored for 6-8 weeks. The athlete continues to train with the decreased amount of blood in the body. Over the coming 2-3 weeks, the athlete then rebuilds the blood which was removed. Just before a sports event, the removed blood is hyper oxygenated and given back to the athlete. The athlete is now hyper loaded with fresh red blood cells. This increased in red blood cells results in more oxygen and a greater ability to perform. A variant of this procedure is to receive a blood transfusion from an unknown donor just before a sporting event. However, donated blood also possesses risk of infections and allergic reactions.Blood Doping Picture 

The amount of blood removed from the athlete varies from 1-3 units (each unit is about 450 cc). The blood is spun and the plasma is separated from the red blood cells. The red blood cells are stored in the cold and then reinfused back in the body just a few days before a sporting event. When done in a proper way, this can increase the red cell count by another 20%.


Problems with Blood Doping


The process of blood doping has to be carried out in a medical facility to maintain sterility. Blood transfusion can be done at home but the risks of infection are very high.


Many athletes believe that the more the red blood cells, the better it is. However, this is not how the body works. Definitely, more blood is better but only to a certain degree. The majority of medical problems associated with blood doping are related to the increased viscosity due to the increased number of red blood cells. What the athletes forget is that during exercise, one dehydrates and thus the extra red blood cells now start to plug up all the blood vessels. This can be dangerous and there have been many reports of strokes.


The other medical problems include:


Side Effects of Blood Doping

  • Phlebitis
  • blood clots
  • heart attacks
  • allergic reactions
  • Infections like Hepatiis, AIDS and CMV have also been reported

Because of these side effects and complications, blood doping is not encouraged.


Blood doping and sports


There is no doubt that blood doping can increase athletic performance. Today, the Olympic and sporting agencies discourage blood doping and consider it unfair. As of today, trying to detect blood doping has not been fruitful. There are no fool proof tests to check an athlete for blood doping. Athletic Performance & Blood Boosting


A recent variation along the same lines of blood doping has been developed at the University of Colorado. Igor Gamow has developed a sleep chamber that mimics reduced air pressure seen at high altitude and thus, the body stimulates the production of red blood cells. This enables the athlete to train at sea level and have the same fitness advantage as an athlete that is living at high altitude. Work from Colorado indicates that if one sleeps in the chamber 6-8 hours a day for 2-3 weeks, the hemoglobin concentration can increase by more than 23%. This type of holistic Doping is considered legal safe and natural.




For the time being blood doping remains controversial in sports medicine. While illegal, blood doping still is not detectable by any tests that we have so far. While the procedure does provide benefit to the athletes, there are also some dangerous risks associated with the procedure. However, with the no win attitude and the lure of big money in sports, most athletes will go to any extreme to increase their performance.




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