Cyclists' 'blood doping' associated with cerebral blood clots

ST. PAUL, Minn. A recent case study has associated cerebral sinus thrombosis, a condition that may lead to tissue death in the brain, with the practice of "blood doping." Blood doping is the use of human growth hormones to increase the proportion of oxygen-carrying red blood cells in an athletes blood. Thrombosis is a blood clot within a blood vessel. This method of performance enhancement is widely practiced because it is not readily detected through urine testing.

In a study published in the February 26 issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology, researchers in Pamplona, Spain, describe the case of a cyclist who was treated for severe headache, diagnosed as cerebral sinus thrombosis, caused by increased cerebrospinal fluid pressure on the brain.

When the cyclists condition did not improve with standard treatment, and after an extensive battery of laboratory tests, CT scan, and MRI, the cause was determined to be his use of erythropoietin (EPO) and growth hormone, coupled with high dose consumption of vitamin A.

"While we cannot attribute the appearance of the thrombosis to a single doping agent, the combination of drugs and high dosing of vitamins likely produced this athletes condition," says study author Eduardo Rocha, MD, Ph.D., of Clinica Universitaria de Navarra. "With the practice of blood doping among athletes becoming more popular, more research is necessary to devise new methods of detection, as well as more thorough evaluation of competitive athletes seeking treatment for potential doping complications," concludes Rocha. "Educating athletes about the potential health hazards of performance enhancing drugs would also be beneficial."


Contact: Cheryl Alementi
American Academy of Neurology

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