Original Article

European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 101, Issue 4, pp 481-486

First online:

Prolonged administration of recombinant human erythropoietin increases submaximal performance more than maximal aerobic capacity

  • J. J. ThomsenAffiliated withCopenhagen Muscle Research Centre, Rigshospitalet
  • , R. L. RentschAffiliated withDepartment of Molecular Biology, University of Copenhagen
  • , P. RobachAffiliated withENSA
  • , J. A. L. CalbetAffiliated withDepartment of Physical Education, University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
  • , R. BoushelAffiliated withDepartment of Exercise Science, Concordia University
  • , P. RasmussenAffiliated withCopenhagen Muscle Research Centre, Department of Anaesthesia, Rigshospitalet
  • , C. JuelAffiliated withDepartment of Molecular Biology, University of Copenhagen
  • , C. LundbyAffiliated withDepartment of Sport Science, University of ÅrhusCopenhagen Muscle Research Centre, Rigshospitalet Email author 

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


The effects of recombinant human erythropoietin (rHuEpo) treatment on aerobic power (VO2max) are well documented, but little is known about the effects of rHuEpo on submaximal exercise performance. The present study investigated the effect on performance (ergometer cycling, 20–30 min at 80% of maximal attainable workload), and for this purpose eight subjects received either 5,000 IU rHuEpo or placebo every second day for 14 days, and subsequently a single dose of 5,000 IU/placebo weekly/10 weeks. Exercise performance was evaluated before treatment and after 4 and 11 weeks of treatment. With rHuEpo treatment VO2max increased (P < 0.05) by 12.6 and 11.6% in week 4 and 11, respectively, and time-to-exhaustion (80% VO2max) was increased by 54.0 and 54.3% (P < 0.05) after 4 and 11 weeks of treatment, respectively. However, when normalizing the workload to the same relative intensity (only done at time point week 11), TTE was decreased by 26.8% as compared to pre rHuEpo administration. In conclusion, in healthy non-athlete subjects rHuEpo administration prolongs submaximal exercise performance by about 54% independently of the approximately 12% increase in VO2max.


rHuEpo Epo Doping Exercise VO2max