dogman wrote:No doubt, they will do everything they can that there is no testing for. Also it has to be very figured out, just how much EPO or whatever can be taken, then metabolized completely during the stage. At that point, it becomes a question of is the drug effective, or is it just giving the athlete a placebo effect.
Landis showed how to beat the blood passport system. He moderated his own reticulocyte (immature red blood cell) levels at first with a monitoring device and later with a microscope. If the count was low he would boost it with small doses of EPO - traces of which would be gone a day or two later. Of course it helped that the cyclists always knew when they were going to be tested but that is the UCI for you.
The blood passport system works by using two main key indicators reticulocyte and haemoglobin levels. If a cyclist withdraws blood (roughly half a litre) the lost erythrocytes (red blood cells) need to be replaced and so Erythropoiesis begins producing reticulocytes to replenish the system from the bone marrow. If the cyclist receives blood (no doubt boosted by EPO) the reticulocyte levels would be lower than normal as the transfusion would have mature erthrocytes. Blood withdrawals and transfusions have the opposite effect on haemoglobin which drops after a withdrawal and increases with a transfusion.
The testers work off a baseline obtained from continual testing and note any deviations from the previous blood samples. If a threshold is breached (probably more than once as there is a 1000-in-one chance of a false positive) the cyclist has been doping.
The model Landis used - no doubt the same one that Armstrong would have employed (if the allegations by Landis are correct) - beat the system. Landis was caught for testosterone not EPO.
EPO is incredibly effective at increasing performance. A normal adult male will have a hematrocrit level (red blood cells percentage) of about 45 per cent. An elite athletic with extensive altitude training might reach 50 per cent for a short period of time. Normally the hematrocit level falls under intensive exercise such as doing a tour. The dead cyclist Marco Pantani reached 64 per cent and I am pretty sure that was during a tour. In other words, he had almost 35 per cent more oxygen-carrying red blood cells than an elite non-doping athlete (48 per cent hematrocrit level). That's a massive advantage and it showed in his times.
Armstrong has been accused of taking androgen hormones by a former bike mechanic who worked for him at his home. In a research paper published 15 years ago a great insight into the effectiveness of these drugs was provided. An East German female shot put thrower improved by over 20 per cent taking her from being average to a world record holder after being given an androgen hormone. This was after having put in over a decade of training with results of the ordinary variety.
In terms of the Tour de France this year - the cyclists are roughly nearly a minute slower than the times of the known EPO-dopers in previous years during ascents. The top EPO users where putting out 6.4 to 6.5 watts per kilogramme on the hors categorie
climbs for 40 minutes and more. Now no one is hitting even 6 watts per kilogramme for those durations. To put that in perspective the lead EPO-user was achieving a performance that was over ten per cent better than what the leaders now can achieve. At these elite levels that is an astounding difference.
I don't know if the Tour is clean or not. Certainly the performances have dropped off and are at least physiologically possible now.
Nevertheless, as Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas mention they could have repositioned the bar to recovery-enhancing drugs. You only have to cast your mind back to the Balco scandal to realise that if a garage-run chemistry lab could create 'The Clear' what can professional laboratories in China achieve?
Anyway, it is all here: http://www.sportsscientists.com/