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Blood doping, sweat and tears

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July 31, 2012

Blood doping, sweat and tears

What really makes me laugh about those who test positive for banned substances is their reaction to being found out. Statements like “how did that get there?” and “I’m baffled by the result, I’ve no idea how 14 horse tranquilizers found their way into my Coco Pops” are priceless.

This year’s Tour De France was labelled as one of the cleanest in years, however Luxembourg's Frank Schleck, sitting in 12th place at the time, was pulled by his team from the competition after he tested positive for a banned diuretic.

Schleck’s defence was cynical at best: “I categorically deny taking any banned substance — I insist that the B sample be tested. If this analysis confirms the initial result, I will argue that I have been the victim of poisoning.”

Poisoned?? Really Frank?

[B]XXX Olympiad[/B]

The 2012 Games have barely begun and already several athletes have been tested positive for banned drugs.
Athletes who refuse to be tested can be sent home, as Hungarian discus thrower Zoltan Kovago found out last week.

A weightlifter, Hysen Pulaku, became the first athlete to be ejected from London 2012 after testing positive for a testosterone boosting drug and now faces a possible two-year sanction by the International Weightlifting Federation.

Both Pulaku and his coach (and Uncle) Sami Pulaku said they could not understand how the drug ended up in the athlete's body, but they accepted the result and said they would not be contesting the decision.

Maybe they could pin it on Thames Water, Londoners say that the tap water they drink has been through 10 people before it gets to them. Maybe the water passed through 10 pro-bodybuilders before it got to Pulaku?!

20 year old Galiulina, of Uzbekistan, tested positive for the banned diuretic furosemide on Wednesday 25th July. She told the hearing she did not know how the substance had entered her body. Furosemide is prescribed to induce urination and lower blood pressure but it can also act as a masking agent for other drugs.

The International Olympics Committee (IOC) said on Saturday that 1001 drugs tests have been conducted since the start of the London 2012 Olympic period on July 16. Of these, 715 were urine tests and 286 were tests on blood. IOC President Jacques Rogge says a crackdown on doping cheats in the run-up to the London Olympics has been a success, with testers catching more than 100 athletes using performance-enhancing drugs.

[B]What’s it worth?[/B]

Contrary to its name, there's actually not that much gold in a gold medal. While the medal's design is different for every Games, it must adhere to guidelines set by the Olympic Charter. One of those guidelines states that at least 6 grams of gold must be used in each gold medal.

This year's Olympic gold medal is comprised of 92.5% silver, just 1.34% gold, and the remainder 6.16% is made up of copper. The gold and silver medals weigh 412 grams, while the bronze weighs 357 grams. Each medal is 85mm in diameter and 8-10mm thick. These are the biggest and heaviest medals ever produced for the Summer Olympic Games.

So today’s medal is worth around $650 or £413, not a lot I guess. After all, an athlete may pour his whole life, make countless sacrifices for their fitness programs and live like a monk for the chance of winning gold at the Olympics!

And while winning a medal might in itself not be much of a financial reward, high-profile (and savvy) athletes can get lucrative endorsement deals to sponsor certain products and exercise classes. According to Forbes, three-time Beijing medal winner Usain Bolt made about $20-million (£12.7 million) of his $20.3-million in the past 12 months from sponsorship agreements he has with brands, including Puma, Hublot and Gatorade.

Some countries, including South Africa, Armenia, Thailand, Russia, Slovenia and the US, offer financial incentives for their competitors to make it to the podium. Thailand is offering $314,000 (£200,000) for a gold medal, while South Africa has pledged R400,000 (£31,000) for a gold. Coaches will win R100,000 (£8,000) for training a gold medallist.

There’s a lot to gain financially from stepping up on to the podium and this is why some athletes are prepared to risk their careers and their health.

[B]Weapons and Tactics of Games Domination[/B]

The following is a list of the most widely used and abused drugs and methods to gain a competitive advantage.

[B]EPO - Erythropoietin[/B]

EPO is a peptide hormone that is produced naturally by the human body. EPO is released from the kidneys and acts on the bone marrow to stimulate red blood cell production. By injecting EPO, athletes aim to increase the concentration of red blood cells and consequently their aerobic capacity during fitness programs.

EPO abuse can lead to serious health risks for athletes. It is well known that EPO, by thickening the blood, leads to an increased risk of several deadly diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, and cerebral or pulmonary embolism. EPO has been implicated in the deaths of several athletes.

[B]Anabolic Steroids[/B]

Anabolic steroids are drugs that resemble testosterone, a hormone which is produced in the testes of males and to a much lesser extent, in the ovaries of females.

Because testosterone and related drugs affect muscle growth, raising their levels in the blood can help athletes to increase muscle size and strength. Athletes who use anabolic steroids also claim they reduce body fat and recovery time after injury. Anabolic steroids can cause high blood pressure, acne, abnormalities in liver function, alterations in the menstrual cycle, decline in sperm production and impotence in men, kidney failure and heart disease. They can also make people more aggressive. Examples of anabolic steroids include testosterone, stanozolol, boldenone, nandrolone, clostebol and Stella Artois, OK maybe not Stella Artois!

[B]Human Growth Hormone[/B]

Human growth hormone (hGH), also called somatotrophin or somatotrophic hormone - is a hormone that is naturally produced by the body. It is synthesised and secreted by cells in the anterior pituitary gland located at the base of the brain.

The major role of hGH in body growth is to stimulate the liver and other tissues to secrete insulin-like growth factor IGF-1. IGF-1 stimulates production of cartilage cells, resulting in bone growth and also plays a key role in muscle and organ growth. All of these can boost sporting performance and outdoor training.

Commonly reported side effects for hGH abuse are diabetes in prone individuals, worsening of heart diseases, muscle, joint and bone pain, hypertension and cardiac deficiency, abnormal growth of organs and accelerated osteoarthritis.


Diuretics can be used in a sport as a masking agent to prevent the detection of another banned substance.
As well as masking other drugs, diuretics can also help athletes lose weight, which they could use to their advantage in sports where they need to qualify in a particular exercise classes and weight category, such as boxing or weightlifting. Examples of commonly used diuretics include furosemide, bendroflumethiazide and metolazone.


Synthetic oxygen carriers, such as haemoglobin-based oxygen carriers (HBOCs) or perflurocarbons (PFCs), are purified proteins or chemicals that have the ability to carry oxygen. They are useful for emergency therapeutic purposes when human blood is not available, the risk of blood infection is high or when there is not enough time to properly cross-match donated blood with a recipient.

The misuse of synthetic oxygen carriers for doping purposes carries the risk of cardiovascular disease in addition to serious side effects such as strokes, heart attacks and embolisms.

[B]Blood Doping[/B]

There are two forms of blood doping; Autologous blood doping is the transfusion of one's own blood, which has been stored, refrigerated or frozen, until needed and Homologous blood doping is the transfusion of blood that has been taken from another person with the same blood type.

Although the use of blood transfusions for blood doping dates back several decades, experts say its recent resurgence is probably due to the introduction of efficient EPO detection methods. A test for homologous blood transfusions was implemented at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) says it is funding research into developing a test for autologous transfusions and it is also leading the development of so-called "biological passports" which keep a record of an athlete's blood and biological variables over time.


[B]The stuff of Dr. Frankenstein![/B]

Advancements in gene therapy for medical reasons mean potential cheats might seek to undergo procedures to modify their genes to enhance their physical capabilities and fitness programs. While it is not yet known whether it has ever been done in practice, gene doping could in theory be used to increase muscle growth, blood production, endurance, oxygen dispersal and pain perception. Gene doping is defined by WADA as the transfer for nucleic acids or nucleic acid sequences and the use of normal or genetically modified cells. There are currently no testing methods capable of detecting gene doping.

So there you have it…

If blood doping is so widespread in the sporting world, should we then allow it to happen or should we create a level playing field and make it fair? That’s another topic for another day I guess.

In the meantime enjoy the Olympics but keep an open mind whenever you see an athlete create a ‘special’ performance.

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