Aerobic sport performance may be strongly influenced by the number of red blood cells available for transport and delivery of oxygen from lungs to muscles. Often, athletes search for an acute increase in red blood cells by means of blood transfusions. This paper reviews the possibilities for detecting such prohibited practice. Flow cytometry methods are able to detect a double population of red blood cell membrane surface antigens, thus revealing an allogeneic transfusion. Other ingenious approaches for total hemoglobin mass measurements or to test for the metabolites of blood bag plasticizers in urine are new trends for facing the detection of autologous transfusions. Steady increase of red blood cell number may be obtained also by erythropoietic stimulant agents such as erythropoietin, analogs and mimetics. The challenge of detecting those substances has stimulated the development of indirect markers of altered erythropoiesis, leading to the consequent development of the hematological blood passport approach, which is gaining legal acceptance.
Copyright Â© 2011 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.