Thursday, September 30, 2010

EPO 101: Crash Course in Pro Cheating

Pro Cycling and dirty racing again made headlines yesterday with Alberto Contador, 3 time Tour de France winner testing positive for Clenbuterol.  It seems it's never ending.  No one really seemed surprised.  It seems cycling has been dirty longer then it has been clean.  Back in the day, the drug of choice was Erythropoieiten  (EPO).  It was very common in the 80's and 90's.  A test came out in 2000 to check for some forms of EPO, but as recently as 2007 some big name pro cyclists have been caught using EPO.  Chances are there will always be new versions and new ways of using it.  Recently they were micro cycling EPO, small amounts that wouldn't be picked up in a urine test, but gradually, very slowly brings the levels up.

EPO is a chemical form of blood doping that increases the number of red blood cells.  Our kidneys make the natural erythropoieten, a hormone that makes red blood cells.  If you have more red blood cells, you will pick up more oxygen from your lungs to transport from the blood into the muscles.  The more oxygen you have, the longer, harder your workouts can be.   You can see the appeal.

Anemics would have low levels of this hormone.  When you take the synthetic drug, since your red blood cells go up, your blood is thicker.  This could be dangerous as it could lead to strokes and heart attacks.

There is a short synopsis of what EPO is, so the next time you hear someone got busted for EPO, and you will, you will know exactly what they risked their life and reputation for.

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