In an experiment that might prove the most revolutionary in sports history, a Swedish physiologist named Bjorn Ekblom recently tested seven students on a treadmill, determined their maximum "energy capability" and then extracted roughly a fifth of the blood in their systems. The amount withdrawn, about twice that normally taken from a blood donor, was then stored. The students, tested daily on the treadmill, showed lassitude for a while, but after two weeks their bodies had replenished the blood supply and energy capability was back to normal.
Then, a month after the original bloodletting, the stored blood was returned to their bodies, giving them, in effect, an oversupply. A startling rise in energy was immediately evident. "It was a fantastic feeling," one of the students said, "almost as though you were boiling over with energy." Physical performances soared to levels 20% beyond previous maximums. One observer suggested, "perhaps the blood transfusions provide a surplus of red blood cells, which transport oxygen for increased energy." Dr. George Sheehan, an American internist who is also a marathon runner, commented, "It seems like the sea-level answer to high-altitude acclimatization. What he is doing is raising the oxygen-carrying capacity something on the order of 10% to 12%."
In time, as the body readjusted its blood supply to normal, the students' energy returned to normal, too, but the significance of Professor Ekblom's findings remain. "Blood doping," as the process has been erroneously dubbed, is virtually undetectable. The possibility of preparing an athlete—or a racehorse, for that matter—for a super performance on a specific date is obvious.
November 15, 1971
Ekblom insisted, "The aim of the study was to study the oxygen transport system. I am not interested in creating supermen. I am frightened at the possibilities of its use within sport."
Despite his demurrer, the findings are certain to have a shattering impact. The prospect is grisly but the possibilities are limitless: runners aiming at Olympic golds, horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, pro football teams preparing for the Super Bowl.
PEARL AT ANY PRICE
Earl (The Pearl) Monroe's unhappiness with Baltimore—he refused to play for the Bullets this fall for a variety of reasons, a lot having to do with money (SI, Nov. 8)—has led the basketball star to lash out in all directions. One article had him saying of the Bullets' management, "They expect loyalty to the organization, but the organization has no loyalty, to you."
Owner Abe Pollin reacted angrily. He said he had given Monroe a $10,000 bonus after his first year to help his mother buy a house, paid all the legal fees when the player was involved in a lawsuit, loaned him money after a Baltimore bank had turned him down and helped him pay taxes that he owed. "If all this shows disloyalty to Earl Monroe," Pollin said, "then I'm guilty."
TO BUTE OR NOT TO BUTE
The jockey clubs of England, Ireland and France have come out strongly against Butazolidin, the controversial medication that is a continuing focus of dispute in U.S. horse racing. It is the stuff reportedly found in Dancer's Image after he finished first in the 1968 Kentucky Derby. Pro-Bute horsemen point out that it is neither a stimulant nor a depressant but an anti-inflammatory agent that lets a horse run to his true form, and racing states like California and Colorado now permit its use, with minor restrictions. However, in New York and Florida and Illinois, where it can be used as a medication for animals in training, all traces of it must be gone by the time a horse races again.
Anti-Bute people agree with the three European jockey clubs, which hold that its use is an artificial and uncertain means of keeping a horse in racing condition. An apparently sound horse, they argue, is not a sound horse, and racing is based on the premise that all entries are truly fit and ready. The British-Irish-French action is greatly to their liking, since Butazolidin is not supposed to be used on thoroughbreds at any time in those countries. That does not mean it won't be used, particularly in training, since the European jockey clubs have no way of enforcing their edict on horses that are not actually racing.
DON'T TOUCH ME
In the first three weeks of football at Georgia Tech this fall there were 137 injuries, including seven concussions, 19 broken bones and 32 wrenched knees. We hasten to add that this was not varsity football, where things were relatively safe and sane. The wave of injuries came in intramural touch, which is a big thing at Tech. Intramural teams there play the two-handed game, which is rougher than one-hand touch, and they are serious. Almost 2,500 students compete and most of the 84 teams have two nine-man platoons, one offense, one defense.
The injury boom this fall brought about some strict rule changes. Mouthpieces and shoes must now be worn to save wear and tear on teeth and toes. Blocking on kicks is verboten, and "protective" pads on arms and elbows, heretofore a favorite offensive weapon, cannot be worn unless a player has an obvious injury that needs protection.
Since most of the injuries came from open-field blocking or free swinging with padded arms, Intramural Director Jim Culpepper thinks things will simmer down now (and, indeed, there were 50% fewer injuries the first week under the new rules). But, he adds, in a mixture of concern and admiration, "I believe Tech students just play harder than anybody else."
PLAN (WAY) AHEAD
In Denver, folks know inflation when they see it. On Oct. 12, after considerable agonizing over how much Federal aid to ask for to help put on the 1976 Winter Olympics, the committee settled on $14 million. Then, on sober second thought, since '76 is a long time off, they got to projecting costs and such and on Oct. 27 decided to up the ante. Could you bump that about 40%, Washington, to, say, $19.6 million? And never mind waiting until 1976—sure would appreciate it if the money could come through in three installments over the next three years, please.
OUT OF THE FRYING PAN
The court has not yet made a decision on the conflict between the National Football League and the seven Baltimore merchants (SCORECARD, NOV. 8) who claim the Colts-Dolphins game that has been transferred to Baltimore on Dec. 11 is going to ruin their biggest shopping Saturday of the Christmas season. The importance of the schedule change—the game was originally supposed to have been played in Miami—was evidenced in remarks made by Jake Gaither, athletic director of Florida A&M, whose prior claim to the Orange Bowl for the annual Orange Blossom Classic brought about the switch to Baltimore. The NFL game in Miami was not slated to start until 4 p.m., to accommodate TV, which meant there was no way the Orange Blossom game could start at its scheduled 8 p.m. The NFL asked Gaither to switch his starting time—to, say, 11 a.m. Gaither said the Orange Blossom Classic could not make the change and thus jeopardize its chances of drawing a good crowd and revenue without reasonable compensation. He asked for $100,000, later reducing that to $75,000. The NFL felt that was not reasonable and countered, according to Gaither, with an offer of $25,000 in cash, $15,000 in radio-TV advertising time, two scholarships worth $1,500 each and 3,000 tickets to the Colts-Dolphins game. But tickets and advertising would not directly benefit Florida A&M, said Gaither, and the offer was declared unacceptable. The harassed NFL finally gave up and switched the game to Baltimore—and ran into the seven angry merchants. No rest for the weary.
Chicken is a slang adjective for fear, timidity or cowardice, and it seems a fair enough term—until you consider the noble rooster, who is, after all, 100% chicken. The other day in southern Ohio a rooster attacked a 17-pound bald eagle that was trying to swipe a hen. Fighting the eagle with beak and spur across 100 feet of barnyard, the rooster raked the eagle's head with his spurs and then broke one of the big bird's wings with another powerful blow. Late reports say the eagle is recovering at a veterinary center, while the rooster is still strutting around his yard, occasionally cocking a defiant eye aloft.
GRRR, KIND OF
The froward philosophy of the Philadelphia Eagles' fiery Tim Rossovich (SI, Sept. 20) has inspired the defensive line of Holy Cross High School in River Grove, Ill. Members of the five-man unit have had their mothers sew "Rossovich" across the backs of their jerseys, and during games rooters chant "Rossovich! Rossovich! Rossovich!"
Defensive End Mike Pianetto says, "We read what an animal he is. It got us all psyched up. He has a mean image, and that's the kind of image we want to project on the football field. We could have named ourselves Butkus, but everyone knows him. Rossovich is new. I don't think our mothers know who he is. Maybe it's just as well."
The inspiration seems to work. Through eight games not one touchdown had been scored by rushing against Holy Cross, and the team was tied for first place in its conference. Holy Cross Coach Frank Mariani says, "If that's what turns them on, it's fine with me. Football is all emotion today. Of course, 15 years ago I would have ripped the name off their backs. The other coaches say I should have done it this year. After all, Rossovich isn't the greatest guy in the world."
And not only that. Yielding to the stern dictum of the Eagles' new coach, Ed Khayat, Rossovich dutifully shaved off his mustache. Now, what kind of animal is that? And where does this leave the Holy Cross defensive line?
Ever since the Balfour Declaration of 1917 guaranteed the existence of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, there has been ambivalence, to say the least, between the British and the Israelis. But the scores of two basketball games played recently in Cyprus could bring about a more polarized attitude: the Israel Air Force beat the Royal Air Force contingent in Cyprus 207-54 and then beat the British Army 179-46.
STEAM CAR 'ROUND THE BEND
Reports persist that Bill Lear (SI, Feb. 3, 1969) is close to road-testing his new steam car. An experimental steam-turbine system was installed in a Chevrolet Monte Carlo last month for indoor tests on a static dynamometer, an instrument that simulates actual driving conditions, taking the car at various speeds and accelerations up and down hills and around curves. The tests were deemed successful, although the system is back in the shops undergoing what a Lear spokesman called "some engineering changes we knew beforehand we would have to make." (A key refinement is making sure the steam car meets Detroit's standards.) An actual working model that can be driven like any other car is supposed to be ready in a few more months.
THEY SAID IT
•Tom Workman, former NBA-ABA basketball player: "They tell you to join the NBA and see all the big cities: New York with all the lights, San Francisco with its night life, San Diego's sunshine. They also say join the ABA and see the U.S.A. Unfortunately, I found this included Steubenville, Ohio, Amarillo, Texas, Elko, Nevada, Cedar City, Utah and Biloxi, Mississippi."
•Jim Sweeney, Washington State football coach, on the delayed running play in which WSU Halfback Bernard Jackson hid the ball between his legs, then pulled it out and ran 46 yards to score: "One of the defensive players came in and actually laid his hand on Bernard's head, just like a bishop. It was as though he were commissioning him, 'Go, my son, into the promised land.' "