Purpose: This study investigated the effects of repeated subcutaneous injection of rHuEpo (50 IU x kg(-1)) in athletes and proposes a method based on the measurement in blood samples of the sTfR/serum protein ratio to determine if the observed values of this marker are related to rHuEpo abuse.
Methods: Serum erythropoietin concentrations, and hematological and biochemical parameters were evaluated, during treatment and for 25 d posttreatment in nine training athletes. Moreover, the effect of rHuEpo administrations on the maximum oxygen uptake (VO2max) and ventilatory threshold (VT) of these athletes was also studied. Threshold values for sTfr and the sTfr/serum protein ratio were determined from 233 subjects (185 athletes, 15 athletes training at moderately high altitude, and 33 subjects living at >3000 m).
Results: Significant changes in reticulocytes, hemoglobin (Hb) concentration, hematocrit (Hct), sTfr, and sTfr/serum proteins were observed during and after rHuEpo treatment. The maximal heart rate of 177 beats x min(-1) at the beginning of the study was significantly higher than the value of 168 beats x min(-1) after 26 d of rHuEpo administration. Compared with the values measured at baseline, the VT measured after rHuEpo administration occurred at a statistically significant high level of oxygen uptake.
Conclusions: When oxygen uptake measured at the VT was expressed as a percentage of V02 max, the values obtained were also significantly higher. The increased values of Tfr and sTfr/serum proteins, respectively, above 10 microg x mL(-1) and 153, indicated the probable intake of rHuEpo.