On Dec. 22, 2022, the International Testing Agency (ITA) announced that it notified three-time Olympic weightlifting gold medalist Lu Xiaojun of China of an apparent anti-doping rule violation.
According to the press release, “the ITA reports that a sample collected during an out-of-competition testing mission on Oct. 30, 2022, from Lu Xiaojun, a weightlifter from China, has returned an Adverse Analytical Finding (AAF) for the prohibited peptide hormone erythropoietin (EPO).”
EPO is listed as a peptide hormone, prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in and out of competition at all times. Xiaojun has been provisionally suspended pending “resolution of the matter.” Details about what that resolution entails were not mentioned in the ITA’s press release.
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According to StatPearls, EPO “stimulates the division and differentiation of erythroid progenitor cells. The binding of endogenous EPO…creates a cellular signaling cascade, activating genes that promote cell proliferation and prevent apoptosis. The result is stimulating an increase in total body hemoglobin and hematocrit.” (1)
In Layman’s terms, EPO stimulates red blood cell production, which can be advantageous for an athlete. Red blood cells are “responsible for the transportation of gases and nutrients throughout the human body,” such as oxygen. The ITA mentioned that EPO can “increase stamina and performance.” (2)
EPO is used medically to treat anemia — a reduction in red blood cell count — due to conditions such as chronic kidney disease and chemotherapy for cancer treatment. (3)(4)
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Xiaojun won gold at three consecutive Olympic Games. He competed at 77 kilograms at the 2012 London Games and the 2016 Rio Games and at 81 kilograms at the 2020 Tokyo Games in 2021. Xiaojun was awarded gold for his performance at the 2016 Rio Games after Nijat Rahimov of Azerbaijan was stripped of his gold medal for an anti-doping rule violation.
Xiaojun holds the current world record total of 378 kilograms in the 81-kilogram weight category, scored at the 2019 World Weightlifting Championships in Pattaya, Thailand.
BarBend will update this article with more details regarding Xiaojun’s apparent anti-doping rule violation if and when they are made available.
- Schoener B, Borger J. Erythropoietin Stimulating Agents. [Updated 2022 Dec 5]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK536997/
Barbalato, L., & Pillarisetty, L. S. (2022). Histology, Red Blood Cell. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing.
Jelkmann W. (2013). Physiology and pharmacology of erythropoietin. Transfusion medicine and hemotherapy : offizielles Organ der Deutschen Gesellschaft fur Transfusionsmedizin und Immunhamatologie, 40(5), 302–309. https://doi.org/10.1159/000356193
Turner J, Parsi M, Badireddy M. Anemia. [Updated 2022 Aug 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499994/
Featured image: @luxiaojunbarbell on Instagram