Haemoglobin mass and running time trial performance after recombinant human erythropoietin administration in trained men

Jérôme Durussel, Evangelia Daskalaki, Martin Anderson, Tushar Chatterji, Diresibachew H. Wondimu, Neal Padmanabhan, Rajan K. Patel, John D. McClure, Yannis P. Pitsiladis

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Recombinant human erythropoietin (rHuEpo) increases haemoglobin mass (Hbmass) and maximal oxygen uptake (v̇ O2 max). Purpose: This study defined the time course of changes in Hbmass, v̇ O2 max as well as running time trial performance following 4 weeks of rHuEpo administration to determine whether the laboratory observations would translate into actual improvements in running performance in the field. Methods: 19 trained men received rHuEpo injections of 50 IU•kg-1 body mass every two days for 4 weeks. Hbmass was determined weekly using the optimized carbon monoxide rebreathing method until 4 weeks after administration. v̇ O2 max and 3,000 m time trial performance were measured pre, post administration and at the end of the study. Results: Relative to baseline, running performance significantly improved by ~6% after administration (10:30±1:07 min:sec vs. 11:08±1:15 min:sec, p<0.001) and remained significantly enhanced by ~3% 4 weeks after administration (10:46±1:13 min:sec, p<0.001), while v̇ O2 max was also significantly increased post administration (60.7±5.8 mL•min-1•kg-1 vs. 56.0±6.2 mL•min-1•kg-1, p<0.001) and remained significantly increased 4 weeks after rHuEpo (58.0±5.6 mL•min-1•kg-1, p = 0.021). Hbmass was significantly increased at the end of administration compared to baseline (15.2±1.5 g•kg-1 vs. 12.7±1.2 g•kg-1, p<0.001). The rate of decrease in Hbmass toward baseline values post rHuEpo was similar to that of the increase during administration (-0.53 g•kg-1•wk-1, 95% confidence interval (CI) (-0.68, -0.38) vs. 0.54 g•kg-1•wk-1, CI (0.46, 0.63)) but Hbmass was still significantly elevated 4 weeks after administration compared to baseline (13.7±1.1 g•kg-1, p<0.001). Conclusion: Running performance was improved following 4 weeks of rHuEpo and remained elevated 4 weeks after administration compared to baseline. These field performance effects coincided with rHuEpo-induced elevated v̇ O2 max and Hbmass.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere56151
Number of pages8
JournalPLOS One
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 13 Feb 2013


  • red blood cells
  • running
  • plasma volume
  • oxygen
  • blood volume
  • haemoglobin
  • blood


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