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 Post subject: EPO as a pre-race
PostPosted: Sun Jul 12, 2015 10:24 pm 
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Erythropoietin (EPO) abuse in the race horse is beginning to float to the top in many racing jurisdictions. Erthropoietin is a synthetic hormone that increases the number of oxygen-carrying red blood cells in the human. This drug has been tried on the horse as a possible race enhancer.

My take on EPO and the red blood cell (RBC) is just a bit different than many race horse trainers. Though I fully acknowledge the superiority of months of exercise conditioning in producing the best equine racing animal with corresponding blood structure. I don't agree with the masses that tweaking only one aspect of the race horse's stamina mechanism, chemically with EPO, would necessarily produce enhancing results on that animal. Quite the opposite, I see many pitfalls and resulting harm. Perhaps, our UK counterparts who have recently been raided have found the right dosage, but I think they are playing with the devil when trying to tamper with such an intricate and complex mechanism as oxygen transport.

First let me define a few hematologic terms for those who may not know or have forgotten:

Hb.....measurement of hemoglobin. gm/100ml.

PCV....packed cell volume. It is the function of erythrocyte (RBC) size and number of cells per unit volume. Basically, this measure is obtained by spinning down blood in a centrifuge and reading the packed cell height in the tube. The higher the PCV the larger concentrations of cellular components present.

MCHC....mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration. This tells how much hemoglobin is in the RBC. It ranges from 30-37% in most all animals with good health.

Irvine's study of a group of thoroughbreds from the 1960s is very interesting. Irvine found that of one group of racing thoroughbreds tested, the best performing sub-group had the below values:

Hb of 12.0
PCV of 35
MCHC of 34

this is compared to the whole group averages of

Hb of 11.4
PCV of 36
MCHC of 31.7

Presuming that collection procedures were carefully observed and that the exercised-released RBCs were at a similar rate in the entire group, these values seem to suggest that those race horses with a slightly less, resting PCV had an edge on the average group which was slightly more. It seems to me that the faster race horse sub-group possessed a more efficient red blood cell (RBC), hence the MCHC value of 34. These RBCs of the faster group, contained more hemoglobin which could more easily transport oxygen to needy tissue. We have in this "elite" group a very efficient RBC that could easily be moved through the veins, even after the spleen contracted, increasing RBC numbers. Common sense will tell you, no matter how efficient a cell may be, if it is impeded by other cells, it will not be able to deliver its oxygen as swiftly. I am fully aware this is only one study with one group of horses and may not necessarily prove anything, but it was one of the earliest hematological studies ever performed on thoroughbreds and is suggestive.

The main problem, I have with all of this is that we are only discussing one little link in a very complex process of oxygen/carbon dioxide transport. It is really MEANINGLESS. Life is never very simple and no matter how much humans may strive to simplify the processes of life, it will be of little overall significance to a meaningful analysis. The old cliché that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link holds very true in the chain of oxygen transport.

If the amount of red blood cells were all that was needed to produce an efficient, winning race horse, then EPO and other hematinics may well be of significant affect in enhancing a race horse. Unfortunately, RBC numbers proves little in the overall scheme of things to my way of thinking. For instance, it is just as important to the oxygen transport system, to have a high hemoglobin content in the RBC. Increase the RBC numbers all you want with EPO, if that cell lacks a superior concentration of hemoglobin, it will be inferior to another animal with higher hemoglobin levels, though fewer cells. Also, look at the hemoglobin molecule which can combine with up to four molecules of oxygen. You could well find individual race horses out there that have been treated with EPO, yet their hemoglobin is not fully saturated with oxygen and, thus, inferior to another race horse with less RBC numbers, yet with a fully saturated Hemoglobin molecule. Another point, the amount of oxygen combined with hemoglobin is directly proportional to the PO2 (oxygen partial pressure) of the cellular water in the RBC. If the RBC water has a low oxygen pressure, then no amount of hemoglobin efficiency is going to help in overall oxygen uptake. This type of complexity goes on and on. It is seldom remembered in the performance sports that red blood cells are only one small aspect in a very complex physiological transport system. Not only does this transport system involve the chemical and physical reactions of the inhaled oxygen to various blood components, but it also involves the delivery of that oxygenated blood to the appropriate tissues. It is the combination of all of the processes that produce an efficient race horse and if all are exceptionally efficient, a champion. If only a few are efficient, an average racehorse or a dud.

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 Post subject: Re: EPO as a pre-race
PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2017 11:36 pm 
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Joined: Wed May 27, 2015 10:20 am
Posts: 345
For those of you with an interest in sports doping, aka performance enhancers, I highly recommend a documentary I just saw on netflix, ICARUS. I have long held the opinion counter to most everyone I know, that performance enhancing drugs are a myth. I have used them during the early part of my racing career on my horses and found them to be a farce. This 2017 Sundance documentary sensation sort of backs my view in that the film maker who was a top amateur cyclist and who competed in a prestigious amateur European event clean, then again the next year on an intensive doping program of EPO, HGH, Testosterone, etc, actually did WORSE on the stuff! Unfortunately most of the reviews of this film are centered on his adviser, the one time head of the Russian anti-doping program, but it should really be on his personal experiment of riding clean and then doping. Watch it!

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