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061712-1 Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong has long dogged accusations that he used performance enhancing drugs. They are charges he vehemently denies, and he points out, he has never failed a drug test. Still, speculation persists.

On Tuesday, June 12, 2012, the US Anti-Doping Agency sent a letter to Armstrong. In it, the USADA, the agency responsible for monitoring athletes’ drug use and ensuring drug-free competitions, claimed to have blood samples from 2009 and 2010 that reveal the use of EPO and/or blood transfusions. The USADA declared its intention to investigate the evidence against Armstrong. Lance Armstrong denied the latest allegations, referring to them as a vendetta determined to strip him of his seven Tour de France titles. USADA CEO Travis Tygart stated, “[The] USADA only initiates matters supported by the evidence. We do not choose whether or not we do our job based on outside pressures, intimidation or for any reason other than the evidence." While the investigation unfolds, Armstrong is now banned from competing in triathlon competitions, a sport Armstrong adopted after he retired from cycling.

Blood doping is positively vampire-like; yet, for top athletes, blood doping—or a blood transfusion—is the key to enhanced endurance. How, one might wonder, would a blood transfusion help improve athletic performance? And, how can regulators tell when someone has had a blood transfusion? After all, blood is found naturally in our bodies. A short BBC video explains why blood is the new performance enhancer of choice among top tier athletes, and the methods regulators use to identify cheaters.

This week, sink your teeth into blood, and the circulatory system. Toggling between a few websites will help you learn more about your body’s liquid gold.

 Blood’s Basics

From your first skinned knee, you learn about blood, how it courses through your veins and arteries, slips out a cut and rolls across your skin, deep vibrant red. At your first split lip you learn the metallic taste of blood. But what really is blood? Learn more about the components of blood: red blood cells, white blood cells, plasma, and platelets. Do you know where is blood produced or how blood clots?


Blood travels in three main types of blood vessels. Learn the differences between arteries, capillaries, and veins.  Travel with a red blood cell as itmakes its way on a never-ending loop through the blood vessels.

Most visits to the doctor include taking your blood pressure. What is blood pressure and what does it tell you about your body? Revisit the BBC site to discover more about blood pressure and exercise.  How does this help explain the appeal of blood doping? Check your understanding with two short quizzes, beginner and advanced.

061712-6There are four types of blood. (Do you know your blood type?) What determines what type of blood you have? What in the world does blood type have to do with malaria? Find the answers to questions about blood type. Read more in a short article about blood type. Finish with a quiz about blood types.


Blood is but one important piece of the circulatory system. What structures make up the circulatory system? What is the purpose of this system and what function does each part serve? Take a more in-depth view of the circulatory system.

Test your new-found knowledge with a quiz or two. Demonstrate how much you now know about blood. Then tackle the quiz on blood vessels. Take on a quiz about the circulatory system. Want more? Try a second quiz on the circulatory system. A test of your circulatory knowledge would not be complete without covering the heart; select from one, two, or three quizzes about the heart.

Save a Life 

061712-2Without a rejuvenating supply of healthy blood, you would die. People with compromised bone marrow, and some surgical patients are among the people who rely on blood donations. Learn more about donating blood from PBS’ site Red Gold. (Watch the video in the right margin). What happens when you donate blood? How is blood tested and how do these tests protect patients? Blood banks allow donated blood to be stored until it is needed. (Watch the video in the right margin.) Learn what happens to your blood at a blood bank. Ultimately, your donated blood is used in a blood transfusion.  

What we know about blood has changed a lot over the millennia. Explore the blood history timeline. Focus on the time period that most interests you (and be prepared to share the highlights with your peers.) Much has changed: practices such as bloodletting used to be commonplace; the Nazis tried to protect German blood by demonstrating a connection between race and blood. (A claim that was ultimately debunked.) Finally, meet some of the scientists who changed our understanding of blood.