The concept of doping in sports for use in body stimulation is not a new concept. However, recent years show an increased record of doping activities among sports persons. There may be many reasons attributed to this increase, though advances in technology are a good example of these reasons since an increase in technology means stimulants that are more effective and much harder to trace in the body. One such stimulant is Erythropoietin (EPO), which has been adversely used in cycling and other sports to ensure an unfair advantage over other cyclers. Despite the good results obtained from any kind of doping, it still holds the risk of endangering the user such as the increase in chances of a heart attack. Therefore, putting in place legislation for anti-doping activities such as routine testing would not only level the playing field, but also enable the saving of lives. Thus, this case study shall support the need for the implementation of a bill on universal testing of EPO.
Blood doping is a big problem in sports and athletics. Blood doping is the practice of illicitly improving an individuals athletic performance by using artificial means that increase the amount of oxygen carrying capacity by the blood (Harris, 2004, Web source). Blood doping works in different ways, but the most common involves the increase of hemoglobin levels in the blood. There are three ways through which athletes carry out blood doping, which are through; blood transfusion, injection of erythropoietin and the injection of synthetic oxygen carriers (Seppa, 2000).
Erythropoietin (EPO) refers to a synthetic protein hormone that mimics the erythropoietin hormone naturally produced in the kidneys. It is produced in controlled levels in the body naturally. Once produced in the kidneys, erythropoietin binds itself to receptors that are found in the bone marrow to begin the production of red blood cells. Therefore, it plays the role of activating red blood cells production in the body (Harris, 2004). Extra red blood cells are health wise useful for people who suffer from anemia and anemic related diseases such as kidney problems. However, in athletics extra red blood cells increase the stimuli of the individual by increasing the amount of oxygen their bodies can carry, therefore increasing endurance and improve recovery (Harris, 2004).
Despite the fact that EPO occurs naturally in the body, it is considered highly dangerous for use in doping activities. The important aspect to understand here is the fact that the body produces only as much as the amount of red blood cells needed in the body, ensuring there are minimal excesses. However, with the use of synthetic EPO, there are chances of the blood thickening excessively. Thicker blood requires stronger pumping by the heart, which increases the chances of blood clotting. The outcomes of blood clots in the circulatory system include clots in the lung, heart attacks and strokes (Harris, 2004). In the sporting fraternity, just as in many other shared human experiences, there usually exists a code of silence. These are forms of rules majoring on the upholding of team members secrets. Such rules would prevent an individual from sharing with officials in case they noticed one of the teammates doping due to ignorance that exists in relation to the negative effects of doping.
There is concrete evidence to show that athletes, including cyclers and both short and long distance runners constantly undergo drug testing. This ensures that all the participants in any competition have a fair opportunity to participate in the race. Officials should maintain such forms of testing and even increase these testing to other forms of sporting activities. This would ensure that all sports activities were fair, as well as ensure the wellbeing of the athletes. Indeed, universal testing could save the lives of athletes since it would even the playing field to levels that provide fair competition, reduce the intake of blood doping substances and thus reduce the chances of catastrophic outcomes such as the risk of heart attacks (Harris, 2004).
Since the routine testing of athletes for drugs such as EPO are an expensive undertaking, it is well advised that such activities are cost shared. Three major sources could provide the revenue necessary to make this activity a norm in the sporting world. The most obvious are the taxpayers. A particular proportion of the money set aside for sporting activities both from the State and the Federal governments should go towards ensuring constant testing for EPO doping. The second source should be the sporting world itself. Since sports are mainly a private entity, the bodies involved in their administration should also provide a particular sum of money to go towards doping testing. The third source of money is from the fines charged to athletes accountable for doping. Before 1998, there was no way of differentiating involving natural and synthetic EPO. However, tests carried out that year by scientists not only provided a way of testing EPO doping, but also revealed high levels of doping in that years Tour de France (Cycling News, 2013). It would be fair to throw out the results of that years Tour de France since making such a move would show the seriousness and consequences of doping, even if the results come up years later.
In conclusion, Erythropoietin (EPO) is an important hormone of the correct working of all body systems. However, the use of its synthetic version for blood doping is a growing habit in athletics. There are proved dangers of using EPO for doping purposes, which may have dire consequences such as the increased risk of suffering a heart attack. Therefore, there is the need to increase anti-doping activities universally by increasing drug testing among athletes. Such a bill would be important in saving the lives of athletes and ensuring fairness in all forms of sports competitions.
Cycling News, (2013, July 24). French Senate releases positive EPO cases from 1998 Tour
de France. Retrieved from
Harris, N. (2004, October 8). The dangers of taking EPO. Retrieved from
Seppa, N. (2000). New tests may catch bicyclers on dope. Science News, 157, 395.
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