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Doping and Detection in Professional Sport

©2008 Studienarbeit 25 Seiten


Im Jahr 2006 und 2007 wurde die Radsportwelt von unzähligen Dopingfällen erschüttert, die vor allem durch das Beschuldigen mehrerer Top-Fahrer, wie Jan Ulrich, Ivan Basso oder Floyd Landis, flächendeckendes Ausmaß annahm. Die damit verbunden notwendige Analyse des Dopings im Radsport und im speziellen der Tour de France, befasst sich mit den gegebenen Dopingmethoden, wie EPO- und Blutdoping blickt aber auch auf neuartige Dopingmethoden und möglicher Aufdeckungsmethoden. Zudem beschreibe ich in meiner Arbeit auch die biochemischen Vorgänge des Doping, deren Effekt und Folgen.



1 Introduction

2 The use of performance enhancing substances
2.1 EPO-Doping
2.2 Blood-doping
2.3 Types of blood-doping
2.4 Performance enhancing tests
2.5 Health risks of doping

3. Detection of doping

4. Testosterone doping

5. New doping methods in professional sport
5.1 Detection of gene doping and health risks

6 Doping and detection – Policies of the WADA and professional
cycling organizations


1 Introduction

Sports with an emphasis on endurance have changed over the past few years. Not only the way of training individuals for competitions such as the Olympics, the Tour de France or the Ironman has improved but also the possibilities of cheating.

After the cases of Marion Jones or the disasters of the Tour de France in 2006 and 2007 it is now known that there is a professional doping market between dealers and sports people intended to improve and influence the sporting performance.

One of the most influenced sports by doping is professional cycling. The reputation and support by the media, sponsors and supporters decreased massively after the confessions of several well known Tour de France riders during and after the 2007 tour. It is a sad fact that the doping and detection system of the Tour de France organization failed strongly over the past decades and it was a usual habit for riders to dope especially in the mountain stages of big cycling events.[1]

It is now important to investigate the different types of doping in cycling such as EPO-doping, blood-doping and testosterone-doping. The investigation includes certain processes inside the body and its physiological effects on the rider.

Moreover, it is necessary to underline doping-cases in the Tour de France and its impact on the event and the changes of WADA-policies, domestic organizations and the Tour de France anti-doping system.

Due to the fact that a lot of blood-doping users have been detected during and after the Tour de France, it is furthermore important, to point out if there are new doping techniques on the way which may cause new issues for major sporting events. This includes the question of how the sport can actually “clean” itself to get back its fascination and support.

2 The use of performance enhancing substances

There are certain reasons why sports athletes use drugs to enhance their performance. The pressure to succeed which mostly comes from the media, the public, coaches and family is one aspect for athletes to get an illegal advantage by using doping. Nevertheless, an athlete is responsible for what he does. It is the decision of the rider to refuse any use of performance enhancing substances.[2]

Regrettably, a sport such as cycling deals with drugs for a very long time and more and more the public and the media is getting more information and uncovers more than just the “tip of the iceberg”.

There are two main types of doping in cycling. The first is EPO, known as the “cycling drug”, blood doping which massively affected the Tour de France 2006 and 2007 and testosterone doping, a masculine sex hormone, which has an effect on the aggressiveness and the enhanced muscle formation of a rider.[3] Accordingly, the focus will be on these mentioned types of doping and its purpose.

2.1 EPO-Doping

Due to the improvement of the illegal doping industry there are several possibilities to use performance enhancing drugs in professional sports.

General speaking it is a huge problem for anti-doping organizations and the science to fight doping in advanced. Especially in cycling the use of EPO-doping was common over decades and its detection experienced success just over the past few years.

Erythropoietin, EPO, is a protein hormone produced by the body. The production process starts in the kidney. From the kidney EPO will be transported to the bone marrow via blood vessels. In the red bone marrow the production of red and white blood cells takes place.[4] The bone marrow fills gaps in the bones with red blood cells and platelets.[5] Statistically the bone marrow contains about 10% of the blood inside the body. The size of a red blood cell is about 6-8 micrometres and the platelets range from 2-4 micrometres.[6]

The red blood cells are decisive for the performance in endurance sports because the red blood cells transport the oxygen inside the body. The reason for the oxygen transport is the haemoglobin which is part of the red blood cells.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Picture 1.1 Red Blood Cells.

Haemoglobin is able to bind oxygen which is required for the oxygen transportation. From the alveoli the oxygen will be transported to the body tissues. That means the more red blood cells the body produces the more oxygen will be transported to the muscles. The amount of oxygen in the muscles is decisive for the performance of the athlete.

The artificial production and injection of EPO (exogenous) was originally presented to help people with kidney problems, such as kidney failure.[7] The mass red cell production is also medically necessary in cases of anaemia.

In endurance sports EPO is used to increase the red blood cell production inside the body to multiple the oxygen transport to the body tissues.

If too little oxygen will be transported to the muscles the body is not able to perform in endurance sports. The issue in that case is that the body produces lactate which decreases the performance.[8] More lactate makes the athlete feel exhausted and tired because the lactate has an influence on the musculature. The pH/H+-value interrupts the production of energy.

Accordingly, the more EPO is (artificially) inside the body the more red blood cells are able to be produced which is decisive for the oxygen transport to the muscles. Furthermore, EPO and a higher number of red blood cells produced increase the “healing process of the muscles.”[9]

In terms of the Tour de France, the oxygen transport inside the body has a special meaning and probably a bigger meaning than in other endurance sports. The reason for that is that beside the flat stages and time trials the most important parts for a rider in the Tour de France are the mountain stages. The best riders need to perform outstanding in the stages of the Alps and Pyrenees. In biochemical terms the higher the region and place of the performance, the lower the oxygen level and delivery to the body. Therefore, the difficulty is not only to ride up the mountains but also the lack of oxygen delivery. Areas who are located up in the mountains deliver a smaller amount of oxygen in the blood (pO2) for riders. To solve the issue of less oxygen the body starts to produce more red blood cells. This is why “altitude training” in mountain regions improves the performance in flat areas due to the red cell production of the body because it enhances the capacity for oxygen transport.[10] Sport in hilly areas requires more oxygen supply to the muscles due to the profile of mountain stages and the smaller amount of oxygen in altitude areas.

Riders, like Lance Armstrong, who genetically produce less lactate and more red blood cells have an advantage in mountain stages.[11] The special issue in the mountains is a very important reason for EPO-doping and its oxygen transport inside the body and the red blood cell production in blood doping.

Altitude training and, of course, endurance training improves the performance because the higher the demand of oxygen in the body the more red blood cells will be produced.[12] The WADA doesn’t categorize altitude training as doping or forbidden but it restricts the level of red blood cells inside the body. The hematocrit defines the level of red blood cells. To differentiate which level of red blood cells is legal or illegal the WADA set a criterion of an allowed hematocrit level. The usual hematocrit level including the amount of red blood cells of male is between “42mL-46mL per 100mL of blood”.[13] An illegal level is more than 50%[14] which is determined of the WADA after the “Festina-scandal” of the Tour de France in 1998.

The hematocrit level is essentially important in the detection of doped athletes. EPO, however, is defined as a “prohibited substance” in the WADA-Code under “hormones and related substances”.[15] EPO-doping also implements a very fast reaction of the body. An analysis showed that the red blood cell production and the oxygen delivery to the muscles increase within two hours after the injection.[16]

2.2 Blood-doping

The issue of blood-doping in professional cycling became heightened especially during the Tour de France in 2007. It is not known when the first riders used the possibility of blood-doping but the use increased.


[1] Annotation: During the Tour de France 2006 and 2007 riders, such as Floyd Landis or Alexander Vinokourov, have been detected to use performance enhancing substances in the mountain stages.

[2] Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (2007, p 9). Anti-Doping Handbook. Curtin: Commonwealth of Australia, Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority

[3] The dope on testosterone doping. Retrieved on March 17th from

[4] Limmat Sharks Zurich (Switzerland). The function of EPO-doping (Published in German language).


[6] Farhi, Diane C. (2004, p 16). Pathology of Bone Marrow and Blood Cells. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins

[7] Gmuender, Felix (2002). How does EPO-doping work? (Published in German language). Retrieved on February 26th, 2008 from, Zurich, Switzerland

[8] Scheett, Tim Dr. (School of Human Performance, University of Southern Mississippi). Higher (muscle) density (Published in German language) Retrieved on March 18th from

[9] National Drug Strategy of the Australian Government (2007). Performance and Image Enhancing Drugs – EPO. Canberra: Australian Government

[10] Wikipedia.

[11] Coyle, Edward F. (2005). Improved muscular efficiency displayed as Tour de France champion matures. Retrieved on March 18th from

[12] Kamber, Matthias Dr. (2007). The blood formation hormone EPO (Published in German language).

Winterthur, Switzerland:

[13] Biology-Online. Haematocrit.

[14] Kamber, Matthias Dr. (2007). The blood formation hormone EPO (Published in German language).

Winterthur, Switzerland:

[15] The World-Anti-Doping-Code (2008). The 2008 Prohibited List – International Standard. Lausanne, Switzerland: World Anti-Doping Agency

[16] Kamber, Matthias Dr. (2007). The blood formation hormone EPO (Published in German language).

Winterthur, Switzerland:


ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Paperback)
613 KB
Institution / Hochschule
Bond University Australia – Faculty of Health, Science & Medicine
2009 (Oktober)
93% (High Distinction)
Doping Detection Professional Sport Distinction)

Titel: Doping and Detection in Professional Sport