Blood transfusion in sports

Handb Exp Pharmacol. 2010;(195):295-304. doi: 10.1007/978-3-540-79088-4_13.


Blood transfusion is an effective and unmediated means of increasing the number of red blood cells in the circulation in order to enhance athletic performance. Blood transfusion became popular in the 1970s among elite endurance athletes and declined at the end of the 1980s with the introduction of recombinant erythropoietin. The successive implementation in 2001 of a direct test to detect exogenous erythropoietin and in 2004 of a test to detect allogeneic blood transfusion forced cheating athletes to reinfuse fully immunologically compatible blood. The implementation of indirect markers of blood doping stored in an Athlete's Biological Passport provides a powerful means to deter any form of blood transfusion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Performance
  • Blood Transfusion*
  • Blood Transfusion, Autologous
  • Doping in Sports / methods*
  • Erythropoietin / blood
  • Humans


  • Erythropoietin