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Yes, Lance is being investigated for blood doping but what is blood doping? The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) defines it as, “the use of products that enhance the uptake, transport, or delivery of oxygen to the blood.”

The term “blood doping” refers to a specific procedure that requires medical support. In a blood doping transaction the athlete’s own blood is extracted, stored and then re-infused before or during the competition.

There are no illegal substances involved. Why is this process banned? It increases an athlete’s red blood cell count. Red blood cells carry oxygen to the muscles. By raising the level of red blood cells, an athlete increases not just performance but recovery as well.

Blood doping can also involve the use of Erythropoietin (EPO). Injection of this hormone has the same effect as the transfusion approach.

The USADA says this process carries “substantial health risks”. It is the health risks that appear to make the transfusions illegal.

One of the risks is infection from athletes sharing equipment.

Other risks are related to the body handling the extra red blood cell volume. When the blood carries extra red blood cells, it becomes thicker and there is a risk of stroke, heart attack, and blood clots in the lungs.

I have not been able to find any incidents of athletes suffering stroke, heart attack or infection from the practice of blood doping.

Red blood cell counts go up significantly if an athlete lives above 6,000 feet of elevation. So far living in Boulder, Colorado or Mammoth Lakes, California is not considered an unfair advantage.

Perhaps living in higher altitudes should be banned. This would take care of Kenya and Ethiopia. No one from these countries should be allowed to compete because they were born in an area that increased their red blood cell count.

Sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber also increases red blood cell production. Hyperbaric chambers are not illegal--yet. An average hyperbaric chamber costs $10,000. That is too expensive for many athletes so they should be banned.

Some athletes have their bedrooms pressurized to mimic 10,000 feet of altitude while they sleep. This increases red blood cell count. Ban it. It's unfair. It's blood doping according to the WADA definition.

It appears that having a higher red blood cell count isn’t against the spirit of sports. The way you achieve it is the issue.

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