PRAGELATO, Italy (Feb. 10)-- U.S. Ski Team officials anticipate that two U.S. skiers placed on a five-day 'no-start' provision will be able to compete beginning next Tuesday (Feb. 14). The two U.S. skiers were among eight athletes placed on a no-start list by the International Ski Federation after tests Wednesday (Feb. 8) showed slightly elevated hemoglobin levels. The FIS protocol is a health and safety provision.
“Elevated hemoglobin levels can be a natural response to changes in elevation and dehydration,” said Dr. Jim Sterling, chief medical officer for the U.S. Olympic Team. The athletes had traveled to Torino just 36 hours prior to the testing.
According to U.S. Ski Team Nordic Director Luke Bodensteiner, both Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) and Leif Zimmerman (Bozeman, MT) were not anticipated to start in the pursuit event Sunday (Feb. 12), the only event falling within the FIS' five-day window. The athletes will retest Monday (Feb. 13).
"I get tested pretty regularly, especially the last few years with the U.S. Ski Team's sport science department," said Zimmerman. "We have a pretty good passport on my blood levels and I'm routinely around 17 (maximum level) as I've spent almost my entire life living and training at altitude. I also have had a head cold for the past week and that definitely effected my hydration, along with the altitude. Hopefully this won't effect any of my plans at the Olympics. I had never planned on skiing the pursuit (this Sunday) and I expect to be ready for either the sprint or the 50-k."
"I knew that with all the running around we did getting here and into the village earlier this week, that not getting fluid was a problem for me," said Randall. "We did some hemoglobin testing last week in Davos after our travel to Europe. I had high levels there and got it under control with hydration. I'm looking forward to getting hydrated and getting back to competition."
Randall is expected to be competing in the team sprint Tuesday (Feb. 14), while Zimmerman may be in either the men's sprint on Feb. 22 or the 50-km on Feb. 26.
FACTS ON HEMOGLOBIN
Hemoglobin is the part of your blood that carries oxygen, a protein that binds with the oxygen molecule. It’s the carrying agent in red blood cells. Other conditions that cause elevated hemoglobin levels are blood diseases and genetic disorders.
These two situations cause a reduction in blood plasma, the non-cellular part of blood, and it appears that there is a higher level of hemoglobin. Some people just respond better to altitude than others. What happens is that your body responds by making more hemoglobin to saturate your tissues with oxygen.