Effects of EPO on blood parameters and running performance in Kenyan athletes

Haile, Diresibachew W and Durussel, Jérôme and Mekonen, Wondyefraw and Ongaro, Neford and Anjila, Edwin and Mooses, Martin and Daskalaki, Evangelia and Mooses, Kerli and McClure, John D. and Sutehall, Shaun and Pitsiladis, Yannis P. (2019) Effects of EPO on blood parameters and running performance in Kenyan athletes. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 51 (2). 299–307. ISSN 0195-9131

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    Abstract

    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%).