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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

doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001777
Original Investigation: PDF Only

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 haematological 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 ~2,150 m received rHuEpo injections of 50 IU[BULLET OPERATOR]kg-1 body mass every 2 days for 4 weeks and responses compared to another cohort (SCO) that underwent an identical protocol at sea level. Blood samples were obtained at baseline, during rHuEpo administration and 4 weeks after the final injection. A maximal oxygen uptake ( O2max) test and 3,000 m time trial was performed before, immediately after and 4 weeks after the final rHuEpo injection.

Results Haematocrit (HCT) and haemoglobin concentration (HGB) were higher in KEN compared to SCO prior to rHuEpo but similar at the end of administration. Prior to rHuEpo administration, KEN had higher V˙O2max and faster time trial performance compared to SCO. Following rHuEpo administration, there was a similar increase in V˙O2max and time trial performance in both cohorts; most effects of rHuEpo were maintained 4 weeks after the final rHuEpo injection in both cohorts.

Conclusion 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 weeks 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

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

Corresponding Author Professor Yannis P Pitsiladis, Collaborating Centre of Sports Medicine, University of Brighton, Brighton, United Kingdom, University of Brighton, Hillbrow, Denton Road, Eastbourne, BN20 7SR, United Kingdom, email:, Mobile: +44 (0) 7733226682

This study was part of a larger research project supported by grant from the World Anti-doping Agency (08C19YP). A partial grant was also provided by MEPI and the postgraduate office of Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia. The results of the present study does not constitute endorsement by ACSM. Results of this study are presented clearly, honestly, and without fabrication, falsification or inappropriate data manipulation. Conflict of interest: All authors declare no conflict of interest.

© 2018 American College of Sports Medicine