Physiological Effects of Blood Doping

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It is a hot day in August for the 1984 Olympic games in Los Angeles, California, as United States cycling head coach (Eddy Borysewicz) prepares his team for excellence. Keep in mind, the United States cycling team has not won an Olympic medal in the last 72 years, but seemingly have a shot to turn things around after they swept six of the seven events in last summer’s Pan Am Games in Venezuela. As viewers tune into the Olympic games on national television, they do not even realize the impact this team and coach are about to leave on sports history for years to come. This year, not only did the United States cycling team claim one medal, but rather nine of them, including four golds. Following the games, Coach Eddy received a large amount of praise and was even awarded the title “Man of the Year” by the United States Cycling Federation (USCF). To the world’s surprise, a scandal was about to be unveiled. Robert Lea, president of USCF, sent a letter to members of the board, in which he stated his resignation from his position as president because investigation showed that the United States coaching staff “blood doped” some of the Olympic cyclists. But what was blood doping, and why was it such an issue? Blood doping is the practice of increasing the number of red blood cells (by artificial means) in the bloodstream. With an increase of red blood cells, more oxygen can be carried from the lungs to the muscles, which can improve aerobic capacity. This blood doping procedure gained notoriety in the sports world because of what it can do for athletes during endurance events and the jeopardizing effects it could have on the cardiovascular system.

Basically, in order for muscles to perform they need a need a ready supply of oxygen. This is especially true in endurance sports. For example—Jake, a non blood doper is a marathon runner. During high intensity runs, his oxygen…...

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