EPO and Bicycling

News & Results

06/27/2003| 0 comments
by Chad Asplund, MD

EPO and Bicycling

A discussion of EPO and the future of doping in cycling.

has been banned by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI).   As EPO is a natural body substance it is very hard to detect by conventional (direct) testing methods.   Levels of synthetic EPO can be detected, but the half-life is so short, that r-EPO is out of the system within 6-12 hours.   Other detection methods have been focused on abnormally high hematocrit levels.   In <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /?>
in 1997, the UCI implemented an upper level of normal for hematocrit of 50%, and 2.4 for the reticulocyte count.   Those cyclists testing higher than these levels are then subjected to the more accurate French urine test, which is an indirect test that looks for specific biomechanical properties of synthetic EPO using sophisticated laboratory techniques (gel electrophoresis).  


What is next for cycling?   Medical technology, in its wisdom to discover new methods to increase the oxygen carrying capacity for patients with chronic diseases, has given rise to several potentially new performance enhancers.   Blood substitutes such as perfluorocarbon emulsions, stabilized hemoglobin, and recombinant hemoglobin can improve performance by increasing oxygen carrying capacity, without yielding false results in current blood tests.   Other performance enhancers being used are steroids and growth hormone, which allow for greater lean muscle mass and a faster recovery from maximal effort. On the horizon, genetic engineering may profoundly alter the course of competitive sport by allowing scientists to inject genes directly into the athlete to enhance performance.


Please note that this article is intended to provide information regarding supplement use in recent news, to include previous
.  Use of illegal supplements is not endorsed by Roadcycling.com or by me.   At the present time, the long-term effects of EPO and other performance enhancers are not known.   I believe that it is best to be safe and clean in the long run, rather than victorious now and possibly dead or disabled in the future.   It is my hope that the UCI and other governing bodies will arrive at a solution to this emerging problem, and that cycling will return to a fair playing field.


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