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Blood transfusion confusion

Homologous, autologous, heterologous - the tongue-twisting medical terms that have become a part of sport are not just hard to read because of the all-too-frequent depressing doping news, but because they cause confusion over what exactly these riders are alleged to have done to themselves. News of Alexander Vinokourov's positve test for blood transfusion carried the term 'homologous' along with it, causing some confusion over whether he is alleged to have infused blood taken from another person or if he'd stored up his own blood and re-infused it along the way.

It's the same confusion we encountered after news of Tyler Hamilton's positive result in the same type of analysis back in 2004. Homologous transfusions are the transfer of blood from another individual of the same species. Autologous transfusions refer to the transfer of one's own blood, while heterologous transfusions would refer to transfer of blood from another species.

While homologous transfusions have been detectable by antidoping testers since 2004, autologous transfusions are much harder to spot. Last year's Operación Puerto scandal made it clear that autologous doping is a widespread practice in the sport when hundreds of bags of banked blood were discovered in a Madrid clinic. Blood transfusion is believed to have gained a resurgence in the sport after WADA put in place enhanced tests to detect the banned blood booster EPO.

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