For professional athletes, the difference between a silver or gold medal can be a matter of milliseconds. When the human brain is under that much pressure, we can develop tunnel vision. So, even though top athletes might know doping is dangerous, people can become blinded by their goals.
What is Blood Doping?
Blood doping is the misuse of specific techniques and substances to increase a person’s red blood cell count. Red blood cells carry oxygen from our lungs to our muscles. This means a higher concentration in the blood would improve an athlete’s aerobic capacity and endurance.
Blood doping is the most widespread PED abused in the athletic world. The practice is illegal not only because it ruins sportsmanship but also because it is highly dangerous. For example, if the number of red blood cells increases to an abnormal amount, it causes our blood to thicken. Our heart then has to work harder than normal to pump that blood around the body. As a result, our cardiovascular system is put under enormous pressure, which can lead to:
- Heart disease
- Blood clots
- Cerebral or Pulmonary Embolism
- Autoimmune Diseases
What are Common Blood Doping Techniques?
Erythropoietin (EPO) is the most pervasive type of blood doping. EPO is a peptide hormone that is released from our kidneys and acts on the bone to stimulate red blood cell production. It can help to treat anaemia or kidney disease, but its misuse can lead to health risks. For example, EPOs stimulate tumour growth and greatly increase an athlete’s risk of their heart stopping while sleeping.
Homologous Transfusions involve drawing out your own blood and storing it for a few months while your body replenishes its red-blood-cell supplies. Then, before the competition, the athlete would re-inject the blood back into their body. The outcome is like that of EPO, a bump in red blood cells.
Synthetic Oxygen Carriers: are purified chemicals designed to carry oxygen around the body. SOCs are designed for use in a crisis when blood transfusions are necessary but not possible. However, the health risks are the same as with EPO.
Are Blood Doping Techniques Addictive?
Some experts argue that EPO can create neurochemical changes in the brain, such as heightened motivation and happiness, which would make it like addictive substances. But more than this, anyone who feels that they are in a position where they need to risk their health to achieve their goals is struggling with stress and pain.
While we recognise that top athletes are under an unimaginable amount of pressure, doping will bring more harm than good. If you have begun engaging in the practice or are thinking about starting, seek support as soon as possible.
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