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Effects of EPO on Blood Parameters and Running Performance in Kenyan Athletes

HAILE, DIRESIBACHEW W.1,2,3; DURUSSEL, JÉRÔME2; MEKONEN, WONDYEFRAW1; ONGARO, NEFORD3; ANJILA, EDWIN3; MOOSES, MARTIN4; DASKALAKI, EVANGELIA5; MOOSES, KERLI4; MCCLURE, JOHN D.2; SUTEHALL, SHAUN6; PITSILADIS, YANNIS P.7,8

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: February 2019 - Volume 51 - Issue 2 - p 299–307
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001777
APPLIED SCIENCES
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Introduction Recombinant human erythropoietin (rHuEpo) administration enhances oxygen carrying capacity and performance at sea level. It remains unknown whether similar effects would be observed in chronic altitude-adapted endurance runners. The aim of this study was to assess the effects of rHuEpo on hematological and performance parameters in chronic altitude-adapted endurance runners as compared to sea level athletes.

Methods Twenty well-trained Kenyan endurance runners (KEN) living and training at approximately 2150 m received rHuEpo injections of 50 IU·kg−1 body mass every 2 d for 4 wk and responses compared with another cohort (SCO) that underwent an identical protocol at sea level. Blood samples were obtained at baseline, during rHuEpo administration and 4 wk after the final injection. A maximal oxygen uptake (V˙O2max) test and 3000-m time trial was performed before, immediately after and 4 wk after the final rHuEpo injection.

Results Hematocrit (HCT) and hemoglobin concentration (HGB) were higher in KEN compared to SCO before rHuEpo but similar at the end of administration. Before rHuEpo administration, KEN had higher V˙O2max and faster time trial performance compared to SCO. After rHuEpo administration, there was a similar increase in V˙O2max and time trial performance in both cohorts; most effects of rHuEpo were maintained 4 wk after the final rHuEpo injection in both cohorts.

Conclusions Four weeks of rHuEpo increased the HGB and HCT of Kenyan endurance runners to a lesser extent than in SCO (~17% vs ~10%, respectively) and these alterations were associated with similar improvements in running performance immediately after the rHuEpo administration (~5%) and 4 wk after rHuEpo (~3%).

1Department of Physiology, College of Health Sciences, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, ETHIOPIA;

2Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UNITED KINGDOM;

3Department of Medical Physiology, School of Medicine, College of Health Sciences, Moi University, Eldoret, KENYA;

4Faculty of Medicine, University of Tartu, Tartu, ESTONIA;

5Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UNITED KINGDOM;

6Division of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, Department of Human Biology, University of Cape Town, SOUTH AFRICA;

7Collaborating Centre of Sports Medicine, University of Brighton, Brighton, UNITED KINGDOM; and

8Department of Movement, Human and Health Sciences, University of Rome “Foro Italico,” Rome, ITALY

Address for correspondence: Yannis P. Pitsiladis, Ph.D., Collaborating Centre of Sports Medicine, University of Brighton, Brighton, United Kingdom University of Brighton Hillbrow, Denton Road, Eastbourne BN20 7SR United Kingdom; E-mail: Y.Pitsiladis@brighton.ac.uk.

Submitted for publication October 2017.

Accepted for publication July 2018.

© 2019 American College of Sports Medicine