Athletes praise blood tests before races

2011-08-27 19:45

Local athletes and the South African Institute for Drug-Free Sports (Saids) have given the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) the thumbs up for its Tour de France-style blood tests.

The method is being used at the IAAF World Athletics Championships that kicked off in Korea yesterday.

The IAAF announced prior to the week-long event that blood samples will be collected from the 1?945 athletes from 202 nations ­participating in the event.

Chairperson of Saids, Shuaib Manjra, said: “The amount of blood taken from athletes is small compared to the circulating volume of blood and therefore has no ­effect on ­performance.”

Dr Ross Tucker of the Cape Town Sports Science Institute added that athletes who refuse blood testing “often have something to hide”.

“It is an excellent process but it is too expensive. It doesn’t impact on the performance of athletes because the amount is too small compared to the more than 500ml drawn from blood donors. It is about 5 to 10ml.”

Manjra, who was Team South Africa’s chief medical officer at the 2008 Beijing ­Olympics, said blood tests were commonplace in modern sport.

“Our marathon runners were subject to blood testing in Beijing. We do blood testing routinely on our athletes in South Africa as well.”

He said this was done “because some substances and methods can only be detected via blood – for example, blood doping or human growth ­hormone.

“Blood is also used to develop and compare athletes’ samples against their blood profiles in what is commonly called the biological passport.”

South Africa’s legendary road runner Hendrick ­Ramaala said: “I believe the system levels the playing fields. Unlike some athletes who are uncomfortable having their blood samples taken before competition, I didn’t have a problem with it.”

Mid-distance runner Mapaseka Makhanya said she also prefers blood to urine tests. “I found it to be a quicker method because it is efficient.”

The IAAF said: “It will be the first time that a heterogeneous population of nearly 2?000 elite athletes competing in a major sports event will have blood tests under the same optimal conditions, within the same time period.”

The IAAF said the samples will be analysed on-site in Daegu for a first haematological screening analysis, and further scrutiny will take place in Switzerland after the event.

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