European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 111, Issue 9, pp 2307–2314 | Cite as

Current markers of the Athlete Blood Passport do not flag microdose EPO doping

  • Michael AshendenEmail author
  • Clare E. Gough
  • Andrew Garnham
  • Christopher J. Gore
  • Ken Sharpe
Original Article


The Athlete Blood Passport is the most recent tool adopted by anti-doping authorities to detect athletes using performance-enhancing drugs such as recombinant human erythropoietin (rhEPO). This strategy relies on detecting abnormal variations in haematological variables caused by doping, against a background of biological and analytical variability. Ten subjects were given twice weekly intravenous injections of rhEPO for up to 12 weeks. Full blood counts were measured using a Sysmex XE-2100 automated haematology analyser, and total haemoglobin mass via a carbon monoxide rebreathing test. The sensitivity of the passport to flag abnormal deviations in blood values was evaluated using dedicated Athlete Blood Passport software. Our treatment regimen elicited a 10% increase in total haemoglobin mass equivalent to approximately two bags of reinfused blood. The passport software did not flag any subjects as being suspicious of doping whilst they were receiving rhEPO. We conclude that it is possible for athletes to use rhEPO without eliciting abnormal changes in the blood variables currently monitored by the Athlete Blood Passport.


Blood doping Reticulocytes Sysmex Erythropoietin 



We sincerely thank the subjects for their participation and adherence to this extended research protocol. We are grateful for the professional expertise demonstrated by Dr Melissa Arkinstall and Ms Kiara Johnson at Exercise Research Australia. The assistance of Andrew McKechnie, Juanita Mac, Shaun Kinna and Leigh Branagan was integral to the outcome of this project. This research was supported by the Australian Government through the Anti-Doping Research Programme of the Department of Health and Ageing. This study complied with the current laws of the country in which they were performed.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Ashenden
    • 1
    Email author
  • Clare E. Gough
    • 2
    • 3
  • Andrew Garnham
    • 4
  • Christopher J. Gore
    • 2
    • 5
  • Ken Sharpe
    • 6
  1. 1.SIAB Research ConsortiumGold CoastAustralia
  2. 2.Department of PhysiologyAustralian Institute of SportBelconnenAustralia
  3. 3.Faculty of HealthUniversity of CanberraCanberraAustralia
  4. 4.School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin UniversityBurwoodAustralia
  5. 5.Exercise Physiology LaboratoryFlinders UniversityAdelaideAustralia
  6. 6.Statistical Consulting Centre, Department of Mathematics and StatisticsUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

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