The Swedish Blood Pass project


Corresponding author: Bo Berglund, MD, PhD, Department of Medicine, Karolinska University Hospital, S-171 76 Stockholm, Sweden. Tel: +46 8 5177 2237, E-mail:


Manipulation of the blood's oxygen carrying capacity (CaO2) through reinfusion of red blood cells, injections of recombinant erythropoietin or by other means results in an increased maximal oxygen uptake and concomitantly enhanced endurance performance. Therefore, there is a need to establish a system –“A Blood Pass”– through which such illegal and unethical methods can be detected. Venous blood samples were taken under standardized conditions from 47 male and female Swedish national and international elite endurance athletes four times during the athletic year of the individual sport (beginning and end of the preparation period and at the beginning and during peak performance in the competition period). In these samples, different hematological values were determined. ONhes and OFFhre values were calculated according to the formula of Gore et al. A questionnaire regarding training at altitude, alcohol use and other important factors for hematological status was answered by the athletes. There were some individual variations comparing hematological values obtained at different times of the athletic year or at the same time in the athletic year but in different years. However, the median values of all individual hematological, ONhes and OFFhre, values taken at the beginning and the end of the preparation or at the beginning and the end of the competition period, respectively, as well as median values for the preparation and competition periods in the respective sport, were all within the 95% confidence limit (CI) of each comparison. It must be mentioned that there was no gender difference in this respect. This study shows that even if there are some individual variations in different hematological values between different sampling times in the athletic year, median values of important hematological factors are stable over time. It must be emphasized that for each blood sample, the 95% CI in each athlete will be increasingly narrower. The conclusion is that there is a physiological basis for establishing an individual-based “Blood Pass” system, mainly for athletes competing at the international level. On indications of manipulations of hemoglobin concentration and red cell mass by deviations from established “Blood Pass” data, more specific methods can be applied.