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Tottenham is using blood spinning treatment on its players, and nobody seems to know if it’s doping

Dec 12, 2013, 9:04 PM EDT

vlad_chiriches AP

There are two ways to look at this, and where you fall in the debate will undoubtedly determine whether you feel Tottenham Hotspur are in the right. Regardless, as of right now, Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy (PRP) isn’t illegal in professional sports, something the Premier League could reconsider next year.

PRP, which involves treating removed blood from a subject before re-injecting it, has been used by Tiger Woods and Rafael Nadal to aid in recovery. Now Tottenham are using the process to help players like defender Vlad Chiriches, whose swollen knee has been treated with the method ahead of Sunday’s match against Liverpool.

The practice involves removing blood from a subject, spinning it in a centrifuge to separate the cells, platelets and serum, then re-injecting the mixture back into the subject. The procedure helps compression injuries heal more quickly but has prompted fears that it’s too similar to traditional blood doping, a practice that has been outlawed by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

On the one hand, how can something be labeled doping when not adding anything to the blood? On the other hand, the process of spinning the blood can be seen as providing unnatural benefits akin to cyclists’ removing and re-injecting blood after the storage of which has boosted its red blood cell count.

If it seems like doping, functions like doping, and benefits like doping, is it doping? When you’re taking something out of your body, treating it, then putting it back in, it sure seems like it. At least, it sure seems like the process that world cycling has tried to curtail. Regardless, PRP is becoming a much more pervasive practice, one that’s raised the Premier League’s attention.

Next year, when the Premier League’s doctors meet for their annual conference, PRP is likely to be on the agenda, with the league set to decide how comfortable they are with a process that may be too close  to doping to tolerate.

  1. dreadpirate82 - Dec 12, 2013 at 9:48 PM

    Does this practice harm anything? At all? If it’s not, I can’t see a single reason it should be illegal.

  2. valiantdraws - Dec 12, 2013 at 10:08 PM

    I’m not seeing how this is any different than surgery.

  3. dfstell - Dec 12, 2013 at 10:14 PM

    There are a LOT of differences between the two techniques. I won’t bore you with the details, but the reason why I think classic “blood doping” (which the cyclists were all doing) should be illegal and platelet rich plasma should be permitted is because “blood doping” is dangerous. “Blood doping” that increases an athlete’s red blood count WAY beyond normal limits thickens your blood and can kill you if you don’t know what you’re doing.

    Platelet rich plasma is not dangerous at all. The only real risk is that you might get an infection, but that’s a risk anytime people start poking needles in your body. I guess its a new technique and “we don’t know all the risks”, but I can’t IMAGINE what risks could come of this. Lots of physicians I talk to are very excited about platelet rich plasma therapy to help their patients heal faster. I’ve NEVER heard a physician advocate infusing a patient with their own red blood cells to raise their hematocrit to 60%. One is dangerous. One is a better way to heal.

    Plus, the main use of platelet rich plasma therapy is to help older athletes heal. I guess we could be purists and say, “I want to go back to the days when men broke down at the age of 27!” But, I kinda like a world where we get to watch the worlds best soccer players continue to play into their 30s. I guarantee you that LOTS of them are using PRP therapy. I also guarantee you that LOTS of them are using steroids in mild amounts.

    In short, PRP therapy goes in the same category as ACL surgery, ibuprofen, ice, vitamins, nutrition, yoga, etc.

  4. mianfr - Dec 12, 2013 at 11:05 PM

    This is exactly blood doping, and I support Tottenham.

    For the record, reinjecting blood builds up endurance beyond natural levels–there’s a lot of extra oxygen in your body all of the sudden. I think there are health risks associated with it but that may be for synthetic treatments.

    • dfstell - Dec 13, 2013 at 5:47 AM

      No….this is wrong. They are no reinjecting “blood”. They are taking a tube of blood and spinning it in a centrifuge. All the red blood cells go to the bottom of the tube because they are heavy and the top half of the tube is comprised of serum that looks like clear amber liquid. The red blood cells get thrown away and the serum is reinjected. The serum has nothing to do with allowing your body to carry extra oxygen.

      The way they increase your body’s oxygen carrying capacity is to take a lot of blood out of you just like when you donate blood at the red cross. They stick that in the refrigerator and wait for your body to make enough new red blood cells to get you back to your normal level (it probably takes a week or so). Then they give you all the red blood cells back intraveneously. So….now you suddenly have more RBCs than is normal. And the thing is that your body doesn’t want to have that many RBCs….it’ll try to bring you back to a “normal” level, so you have to keep reinfusing RBCs over and over, so those cyclist who were doing it were basically on a very strict program of when they were donating blood for later use and when they were using that blood to compete. Sometimes they would even use other people’s blood. Tyler Hamilton (the cyclist) got busted for having someone else’s blood in his body and tried to say that he was genetically a chimera.

  5. balfe13 - Dec 13, 2013 at 1:17 AM

    “What you meant to say was ‘… A practice that has bern outlawed BY the World Ant-Doping Agency (WADA).'”
    That awkward moment when you call someone out for a lack of proof reading and make a mistake yourself.
    *pretentious voice*: ahem, I think you meant “been outlawed”.
    I know it’s different because he’s a paid writer and you’re a bitter commenter, but it’s still funny. If you think that’s bad, you should see Kurt Helin over at Pro Basketball Talk.

  6. lawson1974 - Dec 13, 2013 at 1:42 AM

    I didnt realize you had to “admit” to doing something that is oerfectly legal.

    Ok, I admit that i ate a cheeseburger today.

  7. jblfc8 - Dec 13, 2013 at 9:54 AM

    I hope Sturridge & Gerrard are following this process… need to get back on field!

  8. mikeevergreen - Dec 13, 2013 at 10:22 AM

    If all this does is get injured players back on the field, it ISN’T doping, ASADA be damned.

  9. elyasm - Dec 13, 2013 at 10:48 AM

    Using an appropriate medical technique to accelerate healing is not doping. Using a medical treatment on a perfectly healthy individual to improve performance and/or endurance is doping. If a procedure would normally be used to help a non-athlete to recover from an injury, it should not be considered doping when that same treatment is applied to an injured athlete. What justification is there to prevent athletes from receiving the best medical care available?

  10. lyleoross - Dec 13, 2013 at 12:54 PM

    I am a Tottenham fan. The technique improves healing right? If the argument is taht it should be eliminated because it provides an advantage, on those lines, we should eliminate antibiotics, bandages, antiseptics, physical therapy, casts etc.

    It is is a hard line to set. Some of the steriods provide healing properties. The question becomes, at least in my mind, would you apply this technique sans injury? If the answer is yes, then it should be illegal. If the answer is that it only provides a benefit in the case of injury relief, then I’m probably going to think it’s okay. If you can inject the same material and gain an athletic benefit even in the absence of an injury, then my feeling is that it crosses the line.

  11. johnsonray84 - Dec 13, 2013 at 2:08 PM

    Blood spinning has more in common with HGH use than blood doping, because the serum is just concentrated growth hormones. I’m all for anything that helps the athletes get back on the pitch/field/court/whatever else and dont really understand the outrage when new medical procedures come about, even though this procedure isnt new at all. Isn’t that what medical advances are for? Besides, as a Chelsea fan, where do think AVB learned this from? Mou has been using it since his first stint with the Blues.

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