Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Breathless

In a report in Spanish daily ABC earlier this week, it was revealed that Real Madrid captain Raúl has been making use of a hypoxic chamber to simulate atmospheric conditions at altitude to improve his stamina. Scientific studies show that reducing the concentration of oxygen in the air breathed stimulates the number of red blood cells produced by the body, which in turn improve athletic performance after returning to normal oxygen levels, as more of the oxygen is made available to working muscles.

According to the paper, Raúl now sleeps (or spends up to eight hours a day) in one such chamber in his house. One wonders whether his wife is inclined to join him in the experiment.

Three years ago, Florentino Pérez's then sporting director, Emilio Butragueño brought the idea of using such chambers for the first team players from his time in the USA, where they are more commonly used for athletes. The club looked at acquiring several but discarded the idea as too costly (around 20,000 euros each) and too hard to properly monitor their use.

The idea seems to have stayed with Raúl who has apparently been using one for the past year, possibly explaining his much improved recent level of fitness (and perhaps related to why Schuster has been reluctant to include him in his rotations very frequently). Raúl's also improved form, on the other hand, probably owes more to the fact that he's been played in his more natural position for the first time in several years. The fact that he also no longer features in Luis Aragonés's plans in the national side has reduced his playing (and travelling) commitments somewhat.

The ethics of using device such as hypoxic tents or chambers to simulate altitude training have been discussed by the World Doping Agency, who, in 2006 decided not to prohibit their use citing medical evidence, although it has been suggested it may have also had something to do with the logistics of testing and enforcing a ban. They are however banned in both Italy and France.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Do you really believe this?

Marca and Real Madrid have been fighting their war of words for quite awhile due to Calderon pissing off the press.

Elisa from La Liga Talk

estoverao said...

even if its true, it doesn't seem to be working, in spite of not having any international duty, Raul did next to nothing against Murcia, he was completely a non-factor. Schuster should have given Saviola or Baptista a chance.

Gonzalo said...

@Elisa: Raúl himself confirmed that he was using some piece of apparatus that the club had given him in a recent prize giving ceremony from the As newspaper. Marca do seem to be stirring the pot recently; for instance, the news about Diarra just sounded completely made up (who else do they have in his position?), which is why I mostly ignore transfer speculation.

@Estoverao:

As I said, the equipment is only responsible for Raúl's fitness, not his form, which is subject to multiple other factors. Though, to be fair, it has been significantly better over the past 9 months or so than over the previuos 3-4 years.

estoverao said...

all things considered Raul is definitely in better form recently. I hope the Diarra rumor isn't true, I still have nightmares about Makelele leaving us.