Sport Conventions

Declaration on the use of altitude rooms/hyperbaric chambers

adopted by the Monitoring Group at its 11th Meeting on 30 – 31 March 2000 in Strasbourg

As forbidding these techniques is probably not the best solution, the Group suggests warning those concerned on the risks of these processes:

High-altitude training is permitted for athletes, and it cannot be banned for natural reasons: some nations/athletes are normally located at high altitudes. Artificial environments mimicking the main consequence of high altitude (lowering of the partial pressure of oxygen, that means the percentage of oxygen in the inspired air) could theoretically be banned, because they are unnatural, and they could be controlled.

Contrary to natural high altitude, artificial means (hypoxic chambers) are not limited to conditions corresponding to several thousand meters above sea level: their pressure or oxygen content can theoretically be expanded to quite unnatural, dangerous or even lethal measures.

On the other hand, the real benefit in performance enhancement will certainly depend on further conditions: while enhanced performances have been observed under specific circumstances, they may lack under other ones.

Different technical concepts play probably an additional role: hypobaric chambers similar to high geographical altitude provide low air pressure and lower oxygen content per inhaled volume simultaneously, whereas other chambers lower only the oxygen content (lower percentage than the normal 20%). The physiological consequences or risks of those different conditions as well as the influence on performance can differ.

In general, these considerations have to assume technical perfection. Serious risks would be introduced, if the predetermined, physiologically justified parameters could not be technically guarantized.

But the possibility to obtain similar effects by natural (although more expensive and more time-consuming) means should be discouraged for at least unreasonably extended use, but not to prohibit these methods for the time being.