Saturday, February 11, 2006

Blood doping

Who uses it: Sports physiologists and endurance athletes
What it means: The process of extracting, then replacing one's own blood before an endurance competition. The theory is that artificially increasing your red blood cells will boost the oxygen available to your muscles in a long-distance event, such as a marathon or bike race. A drug called synthetic erythropoetin (EPO) does the same thing.
How you can use it: When you're giving yourself an unfair advantage.

The tests for blood doping can't prove wrongdoing; they only show that an athlete has more red blood cells than ordinary people do. Athletes who train at high altitude -- which, for obvious reasons, would include most skiers -- often do have unusually high red blood cell counts. Two U.S. skiers have been suspended for flunking the blood-doping tests, and both say it's because of the altitude factor.

I like the Winter Olympics, if you haven't already figured it out. It's not just the skating, either; I love to watch the bobsled and the luge, and I think curling is hilarious. I admitted to Jen yesterday that I watch the downhill slalom mainly to see the wipeouts. I'm not proud of that, but come on; isn't that why anyone watches it? (I steadfastly maintain that the only reason anyone watches NASCAR is to see the accidents. Don't e-mail me about this, I won't believe you. Look deep into your secret hearts, NASCAR fans, and don't lie to me.)

It bugs me to death that NBC is showing all the Olympic events on tape-delay. Fortunately, I live close enough to the border to get Canadian television, and their coverage is live. It doesn't really matter if I can't understand most of the Quebecois commentary.

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