Regenokine Injections Give Athletes Unfair Advantage
Published: Thursday, March 1, 2012
Updated: Friday, March 2, 2012 01:03
What if I told you that there's a way to remove an athlete's blood and manipulate it before injecting it back into the same athlete so that it is much more effective in fighting arthritis in joints? Is this blood doping? Or is it just a natural solution to aging in sports?
While not condoned by the FDA, the process known as the Regenokine injection procedure by the well-known doctor Peter Wehling has taken off in Germany. Athletes such as Alex Rodriguez, Kobe Bryant and marathon world-record holder Paula Radcliffe have all benefited from the injection.
In his procedure, Wehling, a former physician for Pope John Paul II, boosts the proteins in a patient's blood to increase his or her ability to fight certain agents that cause joint damage. The results of being injected with the boosted proteins back into the body are described as "miraculous" and can add years to an athlete's career.
But even though this procedure, dubbed "the end of pain," is miraculous, is it right?
In an era of heightened restrictions on what athletes may put into their bodies, there is a gray area when it comes to injections. On the one hand, cortisone shots are widely accepted in sports as a medical treatment. However, blood doping (adding oxygen-rich blood to an athlete before an event) is, unequivocally, cheating.
Many of the lines drawn in sports seem arbitrary. Athletes are allowed to wear contact lenses or braces, while Oscar Pistorius is not allowed to run in the Olympics with a prosthetic leg.
The sporting world has yet to rule on whether Wehling's procedure is ethical. But while the Regenokine procedure is dismissed as a facelift for older athletes, it should be ruled as an unethical advantage, along the same lines as the sporting world's view on blood doping.
For starters, since the FDA doesn't allow this procedure to take place in the United States, athletes like Kobe and A-Rod must go to Germany to seek help from Wehling. As a general rule of thumb, if the procedure isn't allowed in the United States, it shouldn't be allowed in American sports.
Further, the incubation of the blood samples for an entire day before being turned into serum and injected back into the athlete's body goes further than any natural process — it artificially boosts the performance of the athlete's blood. This treatment is not similar in any way to an athlete working harder to strengthen his body. Instead, it employs outside mechanisms to increase performance.
I recognize that I'm a traditionalist when it comes to sports. I'll never agree with instant replay and I despise the shootout in hockey. However, when it comes to treating an athlete's blood, the majority of the population would agree that Wehling's process sounds like an advanced form of doping.
Unfortunately, the conversation concerning the German procedure is not around whether the treatment should be allowed in sports, but rather the miraculous qualities of his work. In an era where many are quick to cry foul on issues like recruiting violations and steroids, the public remains ignorant — and leagues have remained silent — on a blatant case of blood doping.
Of the athletes who have visited Wehling, 90 percent have experienced a decreased level of pain in their joints, making this a pretty remarkable procedure. The medical advances made in the German lab may hold promise in a cure for arthritis in the future, but for now, the sporting world must view the procedure the same way it disdains human growth hormone usage or the use of any other sort of banned substance.
Rather than reacting to the problem later, Major League Baseball and the other three major sports should act quickly to prevent the procedure from becoming commonplace among older athletes looking to gain a competitive edge. If the lessons of the steroid era in baseball have taught sports anything, it is that passively allowing doping problems to escalate is the worst possible strategy.
Now that A-Rod has undergone this procedure, we can only expect more athletes to follow his lead. It is up to the governing bodies of each sport to act quickly before the next generation of unfair advantages becomes an epidemic.
Corey Blaine is a junior in the McDonough School of Business. THE BLEACHER SEATS appears every Friday.