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  • Writer's pictureAnatomy Of Fitness


Updated: Nov 5, 2021

Both professional and recreational athletes are obsessed with performance. High performing professional athletes get sponsorships, become brand ambassadors, and earn lots of money. However, their careers are short-lived, so they must achieve a lot in a short time before retiring. All competitive athletes play to win and can go to any extent to win. Most athletes routinely risk their careers and lives to uptake their performance. In addition to training and nutrition, athletes give particular importance to performance-enhancing drugs or steroids and techniques to perform better. One such method is called Blood Doping. This article will help understand what blood doping is, how it works, why athletes practice it, and its side effects. So, let's interpret the science of Blood Doping.

WHAT is Blood Doping, and HOW does it WORK?

Blood doping is a popular technique to increase aerobic capacity and endurance by increasing the red blood corpuscles (RBC) in blood to increase oxygen uptake. Increased oxygen uptake ensures a boost in VO2 max. The red blood corpuscles carry oxygen from the lungs to the working muscles. Therefore, if more RBCs are present, the body can transport more oxygen to the active muscles, increasing performance. Most sports governing bodies have banned blood doping, but that does not keep athletes from practising it.

HOW do Athletes PRACTICE Blood Doping?

Athletes practice blood doping using the following four ways:

#1 Blood transfusion from self:

Blood transfusion begins by withdrawing blood from the athlete's body a few weeks before the competition. Once the blood is drawn, it is immediately centrifuged, and the separated red blood cells are extracted & stored at around -80 degrees Celsius. Freezing at such low temperatures decelerates the ageing of the red blood cells. Then, generally, one to seven days before the competition, the red blood cells are injected back into the athlete's body.

#2 Blood transfusion from another person:

Blood transfusion from another person is very similar to a blood transfusion from self. The only difference being blood is transfused from one or more individuals to the athlete. The process of withdrawing, centrifuging, storing, and reinfusing blood remains the same.

#3 Drugs:

Misuse of certain drugs like Myo-inositol trispyrophosphate (ITPP), Erythropoietin, and Hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) stabiliser increase the red blood cells. These drugs are clinically administered when the body cannot naturally produce the required number of red blood corpuscles.

#4 Blood substitutes:

Blood substitutes are nothing but a form of engineered O2 carriers. As the name suggests, blood substitutes can be used as a substitute for blood. The currently available blood substitutes are haemoglobin-based oxygen carriers (HBOCs) and perfluorocarbons (PFCs).

WHAT are the SIDE EFFECTS of Blood Doping?

There are several side effects of blood doping using any of the four methods mentioned above. Some of them are as follows:

  1. Increased cholesterol levels.

  2. Reduced liver function leading to liver failure and pituitary issues.

  3. Increased blood viscosity leading to decreased cardiac function and reduced blood flow velocity.

  4. High blood viscosity triggering a heart attack/ stroke.

Key takeaways:

  1. Blood doping is a technique to increase the red blood cells in the blood to increase performance.

  2. Several sports governing bodies have permanently banned the practice of blood doping.

  3. Blood doping can be done by blood transfusion from oneself or another person(s), using drugs or blood substitutes.

  4. There are several life-threatening side effects of blood doping, including liver failure, stroke, heart attack etc.

Now we understand what blood doping is, how it works, why athletes practice it, and its side effects.

#blooddoping #doping #drugs #steroids #erythropoietin #oxygenuptake #rbc #redbloodcells #athletes #illegal #bannedsubstance

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