This is a companion post to DCG’s post this morning on U.S. gold medalist runner Sanya Richards-Ross’ confession that she had an abortion one day before she left for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and her even more startling admission that every female athlete she knows has had abortions — “I literally don’t know another female track-and-field athlete who hasn’t had an abortion”.
That “every” female athlete has had abortions strains credulity in our age of widespread knowledge of birth control and availability of contraceptives.
What Richards-Ross doesn’t tell you in her autobiographical book that she’s hawking, Chasing Grace, is that female athletes deliberately get pregnant (and then abort) in order to boost their athletic performance. The practice is called blood doping.
WebMD explains that blood doping is an illicit method of improving athletic performance by artificially boosting the blood’s ability to bring more oxygen to muscles via increasing the amount of hemoglobin — an oxygen-carrying protein — in the bloodstream. The increase in hemoglobin allows higher amounts of oxygen to reach and fuel an athlete’s muscles, thereby improving stamina and performance, particularly in long-distance events such as running and cycling.
Blood doping is banned by the International Olympic Committee and other sports organizations.
WebMD lists three widely-used types of blood doping:
- Blood transfusions: autologous (a transfusion of the athlete’s own blood that had been drawn and stored) or homologous (a transfusion of the blood of someone else with the same blood type as the athlete’s).
- Injections of erythropoietin (EPO): EPO is a hormone produced by the kidney which regulates the body’s production of red blood cells. Illicit injections of EPO encourage athletes’ bodies to produce higher than normal amounts of red blood cells to enhance performance.
- Injections of synthetic oxygen carriers: These are chemicals that have the ability to carry oxygen, such as HBOCs (hemoglobin-based oxygen carriers) and PFCs (perfluorocarbons).
Pregnancy enhances athletic performance in two ways (Wikipedia):
- By increasing blood volume and, thus, hemoglobin: In the first three months of pregnancy, a woman’s body produces a natural surplus of red blood cells that are well supplied with oxygen-carrying hemoglobin, in order to support the growing fetus. A study of athletes before and after pregnancy by Professor James Pivarnik at the Human Energy Research laboratory in Michigan State University found that pregnancy increases a woman’s blood volume by as much as 60%, resulting in a 30% increase in her body’s ability to carry oxygen to muscles.
- By increasing hormones that have positive effects on a woman’s athletic performance: progesterone and estrogen increase aerobic capacity; testosterone increases a woman’s muscle strength; relaxin, which loosens the hip joints to prepare for childbirth, enhances joint mobility.
In fact, several world records have been set by female athletes shortly after giving birth to their first child.
Wikipedia recounts that rumors of abortion doping first arose in the 1970s and 1980s about East German female athletes. The rumors are believed to be true by:
- Former IOC Vice President Prince Alexandre de Merode, who said he knew a Swiss doctor who performed abortion doping.
- Greg Whyte, a professor of applied sport and exercise science at Liverpool John Moores University, stated that “It is certainly viable that pregnancies were enforced and then terminated as part of the old East German regime, some doctors have claimed they know that is the case.”
While abortion doping is officially banned under U.S. Olympic rules, there is no ban on getting pregnant. If an athlete is accused of abortion doping, she can simply argue that she didn’t get pregnant to enhance her athletic performance. All of which renders abortion doping undetectable and unprovable. And so it remains unknown how common the procedure is. Opinions vary greatly: it is regarded as completely unfounded by some and is accepted as a worldwide athletic phenomenon by others.
Below is a video on abortion and blood doping.
Beginning at the 5:34 mark of the video, Mark Crutcher, a pro-life activist and founder/president of Life Dynamics Inc., gets to the heart of the issue:
“When you legalize abortion as a culture, you have to be willing to take all the things that come along with it. All the stuff that we see: the selling baby parts, the pedophile protection racket . . . you got to be willing to take. That’s part of the deal, that’s what you get . . . . If there’s nothing wrong with abortion, what’s wrong with what these women [athletes] are doing? What’s wrong with a woman getting pregnant on purpose . . . to make more money and get more [athletic] scholarships, get more whatever it might be? What’s wrong with it if there’s nothing wrong with abortion?”