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Controversial 'blood doping' revisited.

Controversial "blood doping' revisited

Injecting red blood cells to enhance aerobic capacity hasbeen both accepted and rejected in various studies as a viable way to improve athletic performance. But admissions by world-class athletes--including members of the victorious U.S. bicycling team in the 1984 Olympics--that they used the so-called "blood doping' to shave seconds or minutes off race times continue to stimulate questions about both sports ethics and whether the procedure actually works. In the May 22/29 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION, researchers from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque report that 400-milliliter infusions of red blood cells prior to running a 10-kilometer race can significantly increase performance.

The researchers tested six male, long-distance runners,using the runners' own red blood cells that had been drawn and frozen 11 weeks before the exercise study. Subjects ran three races: before the blood cells were injected, after a 100-ml saline infusion as a placebo, and after infusion of the 400 ml of blood cells. In addition to the races, treadmill tests and blood chemistry analyses were done. The authors of the report say the time to run the race (approximately 33 minutes before treatment) was shortened by about one minute, an improvement that persisted for at least 13 days. Also, the relative concentration of red blood cells, which carry oxygen, increased by more than 5 percent after infusion of cells and remained elevated during the test period.

According to Harvey Klein, chief of transfusion medicine atthe National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., the collective evidence from a number of studies is "very convincing' that blood doping really does improve performance in endurance events. But, he cautions, that does not eliminate questions of ethics or of possible negative effects on an athlete's health.
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Title Annotation:research on whether injecting red blood cells improves athletic performance
Publication:Science News
Date:May 30, 1987
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