The blood doping is a method to artificially increase the hemoglobin concentration in the blood of an athlete by transfusion of blood products , elevated levels of red blood cells contain ( packed red blood cells ). Higher hemoglobin concentrations improve the oxygen uptake and oxygen transport capacity of the blood, which enable the blood-doped athlete to increase his endurance performance. The blood reserves required for the transfusions can be created beforehand by donating one's own blood (autologous blood transfusion) or donating blood from one or more suitable strangers (homologous blood transfusion).
For autologous blood doping, about 1 liter of blood is taken from the athlete a few weeks before the competition. The athlete has already increased the number of erythrocytes (red blood cells) in their blood by completing high-altitude training or using erythropoietin (EPO). In a centrifuge, the red blood cells are separated from the remaining blood components, which are immediately returned to the donor's bloodstream. The obtained blood reserve of concentrated red blood cells is mixed with an anticoagulant / stabilizer and stored refrigerated. Shortly before the competition (because the blood circulation has then normalized again), the athlete is given the blood reserve by transfusion. Due to the increased number of red blood cells, more oxygen is transported, so that the athlete can achieve a higher level of endurance. In the case of foreign blood doping, you need a donor with the same blood group and identical Rhesus factor , who can also be a non-athlete, which has the "advantage" that he is not subject to any controls.
History of blood doping
The technique of blood doping has been known since the 1970s and is primarily used in endurance sports. With the possibility of genetic engineering production of EPO, which has existed since 1987, blood doping, which is more complex and less effective in handling, lost its importance in the following years, while EPO abuse developed into the dominant doping method in the endurance area in the 1990s. However, with the introduction of an EPO detection procedure in 2000, EPO suddenly lost its attractiveness among doping athletes and there was a comeback of blood doping, which (in the form of autologous blood doping) has so far been difficult to detect using individual tests. However, the discovery of blood doping paraphernalia at the 2006 Winter Olympics or stored blood with appropriate proof of donor identity could lead to the ban of doping athletes or their helpers, as in the Fuentes doping scandal .
- increased maximum oxygen uptake
- increased hemoglobin concentration
- increased total hemoglobin mass
- Increase in the "water reserve" in the blood (improved thermoregulation)
- Increase in the buffer capacity of the blood (via an increased amount of blood)
With blood doping, performance increases of up to approx. 5% can be achieved.
- septic shocks from transfusion of infected blood units
- Transmission of diseases through infected blood, HIV , hepatitis B and C (in the case of foreign blood donations), lower risk in the case of autologous blood donations
- Lack of blood
- Anxiety and abdominal pain
- Risk of cardiovascular death
- increased risk of thrombosis and embolism due to thickened blood
- Risk of central vein thrombosis in the eye
Detectability and its limits
Blood doping by means of EPO has also been detected in urine in low concentrations since 2000 using a multi-stage process developed by Françoise Lasne and Jaques de Ceaurriz from the Laboratoire national de détection du dopage (LNDD) - but only for a short time (approx . two days). Robin Parisotto from the Australian Institute of Sport and his research team developed an EPO blood test in 2000, which can be used for detection up to six weeks after absorption into the body, as he did in an interview for the ARD television documentary "Blood and Games" from August 2007 stated.
At the end of 2003, an Australian research group led by doping expert Michael Ashenden succeeded in developing a detection method for foreign blood doping. The method is based on the high probability of finding different antigen groups in the blood of two different people. In this way, foreign blood portions of less than 5% can be recognized.
The procedure has been used since 2004 in laboratories accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in Sydney , Athens and Lausanne for use in doping controls. A scientific examination is still pending.
Autologous blood doping has not yet been proven. However, traces of ethylene glycol , which is often used as a stabilizer, in the blood can provide an indication of autologous blood doping. In addition, the proportion of red blood cells in the blood can be determined by measuring the hematocrit value . These are then increasingly present, as the body brings the number of red blood cells back to the old value after the blood has been drawn and the later supply of the drawn blood increases the number of red blood cells significantly. However, this does not serve as concrete evidence.
Another sign can be traces of plasticizers in the person's blood. This is released from the plastic blood bags.
In cycling, athletes with a hematocrit value of over 50% have been banned for safety reasons since 1997. However, using this value as a criterion for sanctioning measures is problematic. On the one hand, athletes who practice blood doping can temporarily reduce their excessive hematocrit value below 50% by adding fluids, serums or liquefying agents before the control measurement, thus masking the blood doping. On the other hand, genetic predisposition or legal training methods (such as altitude training) can achieve a hematocrit value that is anti-competitive in cycling. So the value is by no means a clear indicator of doping. The limit value in cycling is considered a politically defined value. B. is exceeded by long-distance runners from Kenya , so that there are no comparable limit values in athletics .
According to research at the University of Bayreuth , the absolute amount of hemoglobin changes naturally only to a limited extent. Through long-term measurements so evidence of tampering indicate whether they are caused by autologous blood or EPO.
Known blood doping cases
- Kaarlo Maaninka , a successful Finnish cross-country skier, admitted in 1981 that he had received blood transfusions before the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow.
- The professional cyclist Tyler Hamilton was convicted of foreign blood doping on September 11, 2004 during the Tour of Spain. He was the first athlete who could be proven to have doped blood.
- Hamilton's team-mate Santiago Pérez also tested positive for foreign blood doping a short time later at the Vuelta 2004.
- After investigations in the vicinity of the Spanish doctor Fuentes, during which the authorities confiscated extensive stocks of blood, various top riders were excluded from the 2006 Tour de France (see Fuentes doping scandal ).
- The Austrian biathletes Wolfgang Perner and Wolfgang Rottmann were convicted of blood doping by the IOC. During the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin , both fled to Austria from Italian doping investigators. They were later suspended.
- When Alexander Vinokourov in is 2007 Tour de France homologous blood doping have been found. A and B samples were positive.
- A forbidden blood transfusion was detected in the Kazakhs Andrei Kaschetschkin of the Astana team after a training check on August 1, 2007 in Turkey. He was immediately suspended and the following analysis of the B sample was also positive for him.
- Former professional cyclist Jan Ullrich has admitted blood doping to Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes.
- At the Nordic World Ski Championships in 2019 in Seefeld , six cross-country skiers, Johannes Dürr, Dominik Baldauf , Max Hauke (both AUT), Karel Tammjärv , Andreas Veerpalu (both EST) and Alexei Poltoranin (KAZ), were arrested on suspicion of doping and were arrested by the ÖADR and FIS temporarily suspended. A preliminary investigation is still ongoing. The German sports doctor Mark Schmidt , who was involved in the doping scandal and who also counted cyclists among his customers, was sentenced to a long prison term by the Munich II district court in January 2021 .
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