PRP decision frustrates Kreitzburg
Kreitzburg does have one thing in common with Woods though: He, too, wanted platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy, the recuperative treatment that Woods reportedly received from
Kreitzburg, with driver
In PRP therapy, some of the patient's blood is withdrawn and the platelets are separated from the plasma. The platelets are then reinjected to promote healing. The technique has grown increasingly common among athletes looking for quick recovery. Its rapid ascent into the elite echelon of sports forced the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to consider this year whether it should be allowed -- and finding that PRP therapy is not performance enhancing, WADA added it to the list of acceptable procedures. In 2009, though, if any athlete wanted PRP therapy, they were required to get a "therapeutic use exemption," explaining a legitimate medical need for the treatment. With the new WADA decision, as of Jan. 1, 2010, athletes in Olympic sports will be allowed to use PRP therapy so long as the platelets are injected into a ligament or tendon, not into muscle. The reason for the distinction is concern that an injection into muscle could enhance muscle growth -- though that theory has yet to be proved.
When Kreitzburg wanted the therapy last spring, his request for a therapeutic use exemption went to the FIBT, the world governing body for bobsled. On May 19, he got a letter denying his request. The reason given was that "there are alternative medicine on the market and it is not standard care."
For Kreitzburg, the inability to receive PRP therapy meant he had to have nine cortisone shots over four months this year to cope with pain so that he could attempt to qualify for the U.S. national bobsled team (he made the team in October). Philippon says that the pace of Kreitzburg's recovery was startling, but that he was very disappointed that Kreitzburg was denied the PRP treatment, and says he likes to use it on patients-though he says he does not do so with Olympic athletes for fear of their getting suspended. "Any time you manipulate the blood, I think they're worried about blood-doping," says Philippon. "I understand the worry, because you're always going to find people who manipulate it for an illegal advantage."
PRP therapy, however, is not blood doping.
Athletes in non-Olympic sports, and thus not overseen by WADA, have been using PRP therapy in muscle tissue. In September, the New York Daily News reported that
Kreitzburg was left frustrated that his surgeries came just about a year before the approval of PRP therapy by WADA. When he heard that PRP therapy has been deemed appropriate by WADA for 2010, Kreitzburg said in an e-mail from Germany that "I can't tell you how frustrated I am right now."