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September 4, 1987

'Blood Doping'

JAMA. 1987;258(9):1175. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03400090059024

To the Editor.—  Drs Brien and Simon1 have misinterpreted my editorial concerning the practice of "blood doping" in athletics.2 As I stated, careful scientific studies indicate that infusion of red blood cells can improve the performance of trained endurance athletes, although the improvement appears to be a slight one. These studies confirm earlier findings concerning changes in physiology and performance.My points concerning the medical and ethical issues bear repeating. Homologous blood transfusion should never be used to enhance athletic performance because it places healthy subjects at unnecessary risk; one of our Olympic medalists in cycling reportedly developed chronic hepatitis after blood doping during the Olympics. Even autologous transfusion may be hazardous if not carried out under careful medical supervision. Blood is not a recreational drug. Its use to provide athletes with an unfair competitive advantage epitomizes the philosophy of "win at any cost." It should be condemned.