Blood doping has been one of the most publicized issues that hit the sporting industry over the years. Blood doping is a process whereby an athlete or competitor uses additional red blood cells to improve their performance. There are two methods of blood doping namely autologous and homologous transfusion. The deaths of several athletes in both the Olympics and other international sporting events have put into question the effectivity of blood doping practice. This paper will investigate the problem, background, and risks involved in blood doping.
An Overview of Blood Doping Engaging in competitive sports can take a lot out of the body of an athlete. To be competitive, the athlete would require a lot of stamina. In order to maintain their endurance and drive for competition, red blood cells would have to be injected in the muscles of the athlete. By doing so, they would have a huge advantage over their rivals. This has paved the way for the birth of an illegal method called blood doping or blood packing. The Meaning and Rationale For Blood Doping Doping is usually conducted prior to the start of competition.
The blood of the athlete will be collected and then processed so it will accumulate concentrated blood cells. Afterwards, the collected sample will be kept in a freezer so it will be re-injected into the athlete or matched with the sample of a donor before their scheduled event(Pollick, n. d). Blood doping is resorted to by athletes because they believe that getting additional red blood cells will provide more oxygen as well as other vital components to their muscle system which can pave the way for improved endurance and better stamina.
For an athlete who is competing in events such as cycling or running, condition is more important than skills and strategies(Pollick, n. d). It is worth noting that another kind of practice known as “downstream” is a good method designed to maintain the physiological and biological balance of the body. This can be used to compensate for the undesirable effects of “upstream” doping(CNRS, 1998). Blood Doping Methods There are two ways of injecting blood into the body of an athlete.
Autologous doping involves the transfer of the sportman’s own blood which has been frozen until required. Homologous doping, on the other hand, is the transmission of blood from a donor which matches the blood type of the athelete(Pollick, n. d). The History of Blood Doping Ancient Greece was the sight of the first doping attempts by sportsmen. They were believed to have utilized special food and stimulated ingredients to provide them strength. During the 19th century, Greek cyclists used caffeine, strychnine, alcohol, and cocaine(WADA, n.
d). In 1904, Thomas Hicks won the gold medal in Olympics by consuming brandy and raw egg, and injecting himself with strychnine shots. By the 1920s, prohibitions on drug use was being put in place(WADA, n. d). The International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) in 1928 pioneered the bannig of performance-enhancing drugs among international sports federations. However, they proved futile due to the absence of testing methods. The problem becam worse with the introduction of synthetic hormones in the 1930s.
It was only during the 1960 Rome Olympic Games when Knud Enemark Jensen, a Dutch cyclist, died as a result of amphetamine, did sports authorities made attempts in testing drug use among athletes(WADA, n. d). Cycling and football were the first sports events that conducted drug testing among their athletes. In 1967, the IOC instructed its Medical Commission to come up with an initial listing of prohibited drugs(WADA, n. d. ). By the 1970s, majority of the international sports federations were engaged in drug testing among their athletes.
By this time, anabolic steroids were becoming popular particularly among athletes competing in strength competitions. The substance was added to the IOC list in 1976 which resulted to several disqualifications in the latter part of the 1970s(WADA, n. d. ). Drug testing became mandatory in the Olympics beginning at the Winter Olympics and at the Olympics in 1968. Anti-doping measures became even more dire with the death of Tom Simpson at the Tour de France(WADA, n. d. ). Successful Drug Testing Efforts
The ten years covering the 1970s to the 1980s became even more complicated after suspicions of some countries engaging in blood doping were aroused. This was proven by the case of the German Democratic Republic. The most notable disqualification of the Olympic Games happened in 1988 when Ben Johnson, who was then the reigning world champion in the 100-meter event, was found positive for using anabolic steroids(WADA, n. d). In 1998, huge stacks of illegal medical drugs were discovered during a raid in the Tour de France.
This was quite ironic since France was among the leading countries that enacted anti-doping laws since 1963(WADA, n. d). The scandal that tainted the reputation of the Tour de France as an annual sporting competition made the need for a separate anti-doping agency became even more urgent. A year later, the World Conference on Doping in Sports was initiated by the IOC in Lausanne, Switzerland. During that convention, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was born(WADA, n. d) Over the years, blood doping has been a banned practice in the Olympic Games as well as in other international sporting events.
A major dilemma that the Olympic Games experienced is the use of anabolic steroids, the human growth hormone, and other performance-enhancing substances. While considered illegal, athletes felt that in order for them to stay in a competitive level, they have no choice but to use them(CCES, n. d). With the crumbling of the Berlin Wall and the unification of East and West Germany in the 1990s, evidence surfaced proving that East Germany has been injecting performance-enhancing substances to their atheletes for over 20 years(Guttman, n. d).
In order to combat the problem of doping, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) established the World Anti-Doping Agency in 1999. The aim of the agency was to monitor the use of drug in international sports events. As their contribution to this effort, each participating state established their in-house enforcement agencies to conduct monitoring and testing of their own athletes. Mandatory drug testing has become a requirement for competing in the Olympics. During the 2004 Olympic Games hosted by Athens, a record number of 20 athletes faced disqualification for drug penalties(WADA, n. d).