Hemoconcentration and Oxygen Carrying Capacity Alteration in

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Hemoconcentration and Oxygen Carrying Capacity Alteration in Race Horses
Following Administration of Furosemide Prior to Speed Work
Dr. Sheila Lyons, ACVSMR
ABSTRACT: The measurement of packed red blood cell volume (PCV, Hct or hematocrit) and
plasma osmolality immediately preceding and then four hours after intravenous administration of
250mg furosemide in 12 race horses was performed in order to assess the level of dehydration
caused by this diuretic. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has established blood testing
parameters for the indication of performance enhancement due to the artificially enhanced
oxygen carrying capacity secondary to hemoconcentration in human athletes. Diuretics such as
furosemide are banned by the WADA but artificial hemoconcentration has been achieved
through the illegal use of EPO, the practice of blood doping, and other banned methods and
practices. Since horse racing permits the use of furosemide, this pilot study was conducted to
test the theory that the horse racing performance enhancement effect, which has been evidenced
in the scientific literature for this drug, may be due to dehydration and improved oxygen carrying
capacity achieved through hemoconcentration. The results were an increase in PCV of 6-18%
with a nonlinear increase in plasma osmolality in each of the 12 horses tested in this pilot study.
The WADA has established the hemoconcentration effect of EPO to be in the range of 6-11%
which is considered performance enhancement in human athletics. Therefore, it appears through
this pilot study that the administration of furosemide at the dosages used for horse racing,
supports a theory of performance enhancement through artificially enhanced oxygen carrying
capacity due to hemoconcentration. A further study involving the testing of several thousand
race horses entered in races in multiple racing jurisdictions is planned by this investigator and
warranted in the interest of fairness in horse racing.
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