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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.

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