amateur masters doping
I thought this was too interesting and too prickly a conversation to get buried in a thread about participation in racing.
My FTP is about 4.1 w/kg. It was about 3.8 last year. I raised it by working on almost nothing else, and by losing 5 lbs. With similar dedication over the next couple of years I think I could probably get close to 4.5, but I honestly don't think there is any physiologically natural way I could get much higher than that, with any amount of training or weight loss.
That's my race limiter. I know that if I enter a race with a climb longer than about 8 minutes, I'm going to watch guys ride away from me, no matter how tactically smart I am or how well I handle my bike. This year I have dealt with it by just not doing those races, which actually works very well as a strategy to keep me enjoying bike racing.
As far as I know, there's literally nothing I can do naturally to keep up with those guys.
I consider myself a morally grounded person, not a cheater, but I sometimes guiltily read about performance enhancing options, the same way I might occasionally click on a provocative looking youtube link. When I do, I find myself seeking out the downsides and relieved when I read about, for example, the bad things that happen when you withdraw from testosterone supplements. Phew, there's a reason not to do it that doesn't depend entirely on my own moral conscience.
I have riding buddies who I think are probably doping. It's all just speculation, but maybe gsteinb sees less of it, or less obvious signs of it, because he's already at the top of the sport. He doesn't see the guys who go from zero to hero in one off-season because of "training better" (even though I know what physical training they are doing). These guys magically break through physical barriers that are hard ceilings for me.
I have no idea how prevalent doping is in amateur masters racing, but I am willing to believe it's significant. Everybody has their own natural ceiling, and plenty of guys have ceilings that are way higher than mine. The top guys who have a legacy of winning masters races, I have no insight or opinion about whether they are clean, because I didn't know them before they were strong. It's the guys I do know coming up from the lower and middle echelons, whose ceilings seem far too dynamic, that I am more cynical about.
A lot of the cynicism comes from very easily being able to put myself in their shoes. Aging is a slow process of coming to terms with your own changing physiology, and every new concession to age can seem like a tiny defeat.
My goals have changed to health and fitness, with competition being less important and competition being the cherry on top of my effort. So, there is no place for doping as it spoils the "health" objective.
30 years ago, we did not know what FTP was, but we knew what a good VO2 Max was and we knew what a good 40k TT time was. One has to be realistic that 30 years ago, a 40k TT time approaching 50 mins was excellent for a pro, in an era where secret doping proliferated. Today, we have Masters on rare occasions beating 50 minutes?
Due to naturally declining testosterone levels, doping for masters is very effective, compared to doping for the younger riders, where 2% is probably the maximum gain for a young athlete.
It is what it is, nothing we can do about it, but some still get caught. Linky: 62-year-old American busted for doping | road.cc
Looking at it from the UK perspective, the Masters (we call it veterans) scene is probably rather different. There is very little masters racing organised under British Cycling rules, there's a different regulatory body called the LVRC (League of Veteran Racing Cyclists) that does most of the age-related racing on the road. But Gary's comment quoted in the OP remains relevant. The Veterans races I was competing in last year were full of elite riders from 20 years ago, mixed in with a few ex-pros, many of whom who are still training 250 miles a week and have been since they were kids. Compared with a non age-related Cat3/4 race there is no comparison, these old guys are hard as nails and know how to race smart.
How many of them were doping? Well, it depends what you mean by doping. I'm betting the number who are doping systematically with Epo or HGH or whatever is close to zero. On the other hand, I suspect that a lot are less than especially attentive to whether any medication they have to take for genuine reasons contain ingredients that are on the banned list. And to be honest, I don't think that's so terrible. There's no money or olympic medals in it, most of these guys aren't trying to cheat anyone or give themselves a competitive advantage, they're just trying to stay healthy and keep themselves on the bike.
Testosterone supplementation is an interesting one. It isn't as fashionable or heavily marketed over here as it is in the States, and physicians are much more reluctant to prescribe it. I think that's a good thing. Are any ageing cyclists using it to help maintain their performance? Almost certainly there'll be a few. But I can't get too worked up about it.
Over here, there are T adds on television every day, and it is readily available from a lot of family physicians by prescription. A lot of physicians see it as totally reasonable, based on low T levels, the latter which is always questionable.
One of the challenges you're going to face, in that environment, is the increasing medicalisation of ordinary life. If people think they have some sort of right to maintain their youthful prowess (or, as a proxy, their youthful testosterone levels) they aren't going to see that as doping. In my view, most of the middle-aged Americans taking testosterone had nothing wrong with them in the first place, but they've been persuaded they have a "condition".
Whenever I go for medical (Checkup, dentist, eye doctor) and the question comes "What medications are you on" there is surprise when my answer is "None!"
slight humor - when I was on a training ride and took my pull at the front I got accused of doping that day... a double shot of the old persons drug Geritol ;)
Since I started racing USAC 10 or so years ago I've raced against about a dozen people that were popped for doping and can say unequivocally that at least a half dozen more were using and either never got tested or caught. I have my suspicions about more than a few others and generally that's panned out.
All of the guys that fit into the category above were at the pointy end of the race. Can't comment on how many people might be using to get from the bottom to the the middle of the pile.
And I've heard whispers that people have thought I was doping, and that others I knew to be clean were doping.
I stopped caring about this stuff a while back. Masters doping is dumb, but no dumber than worrying about other masters doping. I won at Nats 3x without a 5w/kg FTP. Some courses I won't ever win. So it goes.
I never suspected some of my former teammates in Arc En Ciel doping. One is a pilot, another is a doctor, others are successful business entrepreneurs, nope, these guys reflected their cycling goals on the same level as their career and family goals. They just aimed for being successful.
If you don't train, have a viable systematic plan that equals the field you race against, you will get shelled, time and time again. It's not rocket science. If you are only riding 100 to 150 miles a week and you are racing against guy's that are averaging 250+. No way do you have the resources to race at full gas when they dial it up. It has nothing to do with doping but rather the quality and intensity of training.
That and having your life in order counts crucially for success on the weekend.
To assume that most of the field is doping because you got dropped is just ridiculous. Prioratize your life so that racing can be from an optimal base. It's not for everyone or for that matter everyone is not capable of prioritizing cycling as they once did 10, 15, 20 years ago.
Just enjoy the journey and never mind what other's are doing. Focus on how to maximize your results from training...
I actually cannot believe this is really a topic. The percentage who may dope and I say that with a healthy dose of skepticism is too small to be concerned about. Let the governing bodies figure it out.
I think this is an interesting conversation even if it generates some impatience among those who have had the conversation many times before.
I train plenty, and systematically. I train enough to understand that there are some guys who are simply stronger than I will ever be, and some courses where that kind of strength is required to be competitive. I can only speak from my own perspective. From this particular point in my training and development, I have enough knowledge to know how to maximize my own strengths, and also enough to understand what my functional limitations are and always will be.
Everybody has a ceiling. You can continue to train more and better and smarter, but once you hit that ceiling, improvement becomes a very slow process. That's not a complaint, it's just a statement of fact, and I think that is the context from which some people make the decision to start enhancing themselves in small or big ways.
I do not think anyone who is stronger than me is doping. I really don't have any idea how many people are doping. I don't know anyone personally who's been caught doping, though there are some who make me wonder, more than others. My primary interest in starting this discussion was to get more perspectives on how many of my racing peers may or may not be doing so.
This isn't something I obsess over, or get frustrated about. It's something I wonder about. It never gets discussed among my real-life cycling peers. Of course I acknowledge that "Why bother worrying about it" is a totally valid conversation point.
There are too many variables as to why someone who is apparently close to your own power parameters is still dropping you.
One of these is the pain threshold and the amount of time one can endure once in that threshold. So is also the recovery time and the amount of times one can repeat the effort. Just these two factors will make it seem that this rider is so far beyond your limits that there may be performance enhancements in the mix. Add to this equipment, nutritional differences, rest and recuperation plan, physiological differences and ability to read a race and react accordingly..
In the 4's, 3's and 2's, there can be a wide-ranging percentage, whereas in the Pro's most are within a 5% ratio of fitness levels.
What one person calls doping may not be the same for another. Buying OTC performance enhancements are technically not doping although in all fairness, it is relying on a synthetic method to increase performance.
I'm only trying to point out that in the amateur ranks, especially in the lower ranks, there are too many factors contributing to results from one rider versus another. I seriously doubt the funding is in place to require each and every rider to submit to a test. That and the fact that when detected, banned substances are not clarified as to at what dosage they may be detrimental to the rider's performance.
It's a fascinating topic but it is also one where we can only suspect, and the answer is not very credible since it cannot be based on irrefutable data.
Time to Ride.
also, unless it is something like a straight hill climb ITT, there is the other stuff like conservation of energy, tactics, aerodynamics , handling that can translate to being more fresh later in a race and can accentuate small differences. hell, even on something like a hill climb tactics and dosing power at the right times can result in quite different results.
sounds like gc has observed some "zero to hero" tales which can legitimately make one raise an eyebrow, but just because one has plateaued doesn't mean the same performance curves apply to others. this is particularly true when people have lots and lots of experience. (i know that isn't what gc was referring to.)
not sure if you guys know who mark twight is, but i know him from my mountaineering days. he now runs a gym and trains, among others, military types. he's an opinionated guy, but he also says some interesting stuff (IMO).
this comes to mind: Gym Jones / 300 Opinions (not in direct response to anything that has been said by members of this forum/in this thread--but it comes to mind whenever i hear talk of doping.)
"Even in the small world of mountain climbing a few guys were convinced that their betters were using EPO, "because there's no way they could be that much faster than me." Ski mountaineering racing is the same. Cycling is the same; the best guy in the country goes to an international level race, finishes below the 50th percentile and before checking into his own training/diet/recovery/stress-management/genetics/etc the ego goes into self-preservation overdrive and imagines all sorts of doping practices to be responsible. This is a natural consequence of having been told from childhood, "you are a unique snowflake."
"Well you're not and I'm not. If you weren't given the gift you can't get the gift so the best you can do - if your goal is important - is work as hard as you possibly can, pay attention every hour of every day and then maybe, maybe if you've done enough and been smart enough you'll emerge from the muck of mediocrity to shine a bit brighter than you shone before. Then, upon reflection you might decide your goal is a bit more important so you'll start paying attention every minute of every hour of every day. You'll find people who are better than you and you'll take an empty cup when you meet them. Their example will destroy or inspire you and if it's the latter you may stay and learn. You might imitate, doing as they do because you've already accepted that you do not know best - if you did you'd be leading the group they were trying to join. Perhaps being exposed to their superior ability will drive you to work harder than you thought possible, or necessary. Maybe you'll overcome your self-imposed (or worse, society-imposed) limitations and shine even more brightly. Wow, you're getting it: positive reinforcement for hard work and suffering. So maybe you give your goal even more significance and you begin cutting away the ideas and the expectations and the people who you believe prevent you from achieving it. Now you become a real selfish prick, and you begin paying attention every second of every minute of every hour of every day, and you sustain your awareness for weeks and months at a time. You no longer think yourself a unique snowflake, you're a steel-edged blade shaped like a snowflake and you're spinning at warp speed. You're the biggest fish in the pond. You're a badass. Now you have options."
"And if that limited practice has convinced you anyone better than you is so because of drugs or because they won the genetic lottery or they have better equipment, you may be right. But it's a lot more likely they are better than you precisely because of your cop-out opinion, because you are lazy, or confused about the meaning of hard work and diet control. Maybe you think self-discipline means drinking two beers instead of six. Maybe you think (OTC) supplements can end-run a bad diet and inadequate recovery. Maybe you think 3x8 of something, anything, is the apogee of training theory. Or maybe you think intelligent training means competing in the gym or on an Internet forum where people are as fit and capable and talented as they anonymously pretend to be."
Good Point, for me it brings to mind this prevalent mindset where young athletes are continuously fed an unrealistic assessment.
The pep talk of the parents or coach who continuously repeat the theme " You are more talented than the other's, you're better than they are. "
I ran across this daily when I coached Juniors in ski racing and cycling. It just isn't the reality.
Wimbledon is ending this weekend and I should have been in Newport Yesterday for the ATP tournament. So let's take Federer, there isn't another player close to his level of achievements. Perhaps Nadal, but even if you include the other ( Djokovic ) it is still 3 or 4 out of the top 100. Those 100 were the best out of a 1000, then from about 10,000 and so on. Multiply that in global terms and it becomes readily apparent that those athletes at the very top are really playing on a separate and higher plane than the rest of us. It has nothing to do with doping.
It has to do with a work ethic that approaches OCD syndrome combined with natural abilities.
This fact reenforced itself too me many times over the years, in surfing when Mez would bring up ozzies ranked in the top 20 world wide for a surf photo shoot. ( I also had the great fortune of growing up on an island which had some of the best consistent surf on the eastern seaboard ) or skiing and being coached by former Olympic medalists and cycling with former Pro's in France.
The immediate observation of all those elite athletes is ( for lack of a better description ) they flow like water. Their movements are so fluid, there isn't wasted moves. Some of it is a natural ability to visualize themselves, but hard work and attention to the most minute details is also key. Combined with an unrelenting desire to succeed and achieve perfection.
If anyone close to Newport R.I. has the chance all week, I would highly suggest going to the Newport Hall of Fame and watch the ATP Tennis tournament, it is played on grass and you can be as close as 15 feet away from the players. That and the $10 entry fee is worth it..
As a 3.5-4.0 tennis player I find it pretty inspiring to watch these guys as they play on a surface that is slippery and unpredictable.
There's plenty of data. It's on USADA's website. The number of amateur master's racers tested and the number of positives. It's a pretty bad ratio, especially considering how crappy the testing is, both in numbers and procedure.
They probably tested 3 people in the 700+ races I've been in. Now go count how many convicted dopers I have raced against. There's more than just a few bad apples. And I've stood on a half dozen podiums at Nats and never been tested. Ever.
I race because I enjoy the process. Racing is fun. Training can be fun. Winning is pretty rare for most people. I've competed in 3 sports at a National level. Winning is rare at that level in anything.
The drug use doesn't bother me. It's the BS and justifications around doping . Don't piss on my head and tell me it's raining. STFU. Sorry, ain't buying that you're faster at 60 than you were in your 20''s when you were a domestic pro because of your great new training program. And your Fresca had traces of testosterone in it.
For me, I assume a percentage of people are doping in some fashion. I would actually guess that most don't even know it/consider it, but would likely fail a test for some super vitamin pack and/or cold meds, etc. Some might be on testosterone from their doctors because they are actually low, or the give me a break 99% of of athletes who seem to have a mysterious inhaler for asthma ... who are you guys fooling? And then there are your basic cheats who think they can manage their own doping program, and they are likely faster because of it, but they likely have other flaws that bring them down just as far as the drugs brought the up.
I figure there are far to many other things for me to worry about than is the guy sprinting me for the $10 prime doping or not. At nationals, sure I care, but hopefully they test there and at least scare away some of the more serious cheats, and catch some of the others. What about all the guys spending loads of cash on pretty bike parts and cool coaches that are likely far more valuable than any doping program for masters? Those are the guys I have to beat.
I am going to have a harder time beating the guy who out spends me on equipment and out trains me via better coaching program than I will with the guy who dopes ... I think. So I choose to try and spend my time out training and finding deals on ebay, and then hope that my green peppers and dr pepper ... oops I guess I do like my caffeine ... get me to the finish first.
I have raced in well over 1,000 bike races, and have never been tested. I was tested twice for other reasons ... once for work and once when I tried to walk onto my college cross country team. I am hoping to get tested this year, but still nervous about it just the same.
Of course they dope.
It is a HUGE advantage for an oldster-and the Testosterone is so widely available,and legal-of course they do.
And of course you won't suspect them-doctor pilot etc- duh safe bet they won't brag about it-smart enough to not get caught.
Testosterone has a double benefit
1)More and stronger muscles-sprint climbing
2)Allows you to train harder recover more quickly-(giving an endurance advantage) a BIG advantage for an oldster
Those former PROs-doped then-dop now.
Of course the best guys are physically gifted-train hard-but there are plenty of gifted guys who train hard-the PEDs-separate them
And the EPO- right to the edge- 50 hct or so-so obvious and advantage-why wouldn't they-
compulsive bunch-ride 'till they puke-drive to win-
Sorry but It isn't that rampant, most of us would not only lose out in being able to compete but our businesses would become forfeited with a doping confirmation. A drug positive for a pilot is an instant grounding from the FAA and it is imposed for such a long period that it basically will blow up your entire world. In the medical field that is also a removal from practice. As for my business, I would be unable to drive which basically would also destroy what is in this economy a challenge to stay ahead of it all.
Unfortunately most of the OTC supplements we use will flag us on the doping checks, mainly because they are not quantitive but react on any amount detected. Half of the foods we consume contain natural ingredients that'll ring the alarms.
This is the problem where an enforcement agency wants to clean it up but employs a one size fits all methodology.
Testosterone Replacement Therapy-is LEGAL!
Not sure how your racing organization deals with it
But it is legal-pilots MDs at no licensure risk at all from it.
And in general athletes-really committed ones-will do anything they can reasonably get away with to win.
Of course most "testosterone deficiency" certainly isn't a disease
but well heeled folks have the $$ to pay for it-so....
You know your buddies,but......
Bike racing- horrendously hard training anything that improves recovery is a big advantage.
Plenty of gifted athletes in masters sports-
Most are extremely competitive folks-well heeled-so they can afford a a good PED program-or perhaps just occasional auto blood doping to the limit(if your racing organization tests Hct levels-usually about 50 rings a bell)
Athletes want to win-that is what drives them
Maybe your buddies play it straight-
But master's bike racing-there isn't any sport where PED use could benefit you more-
It requires horrendous training- high sustained peak strength and extreme endurance-
TRT to the edge and auto blood doping would do the trick(maybe EPO-depends)
Today as a Master what keeps me going is excellent health, something money cannot buy. Winning comes second and the way the body adapts to naturally producing less T after doping and the recovery from that is not even a consideration.
It is a great feeling though, when you win a couple of very good friends in a race, or you kick their butt in a training ride while you know you are clean and they are not.
In short, at this stage of our lives it really is not worth it. My health is better than most 25 year olds and I plan to keep it that way for as long as possible.
For Masters who dope, I really don't care, their egos are surpassing better judgement. Racing is fun, winning is not everything, it is just an added bonus.
Ever been tested after a race because a few riders 20 years younger complained about getting dropped? Great feeling when you know you are clean.
A couple thoughts. First is the one where "if you train hard you'll get the resulting fitness". The thing about doping is that it allows you to train harder. Tyler Hamilton doesn't say "I doped and watched TV all day". He talks about just how incredibly hard he rode, partially because he could due to the doping. In the Outside Magazine "Drug Test" the author (who doped for the article) talks about how he did a hard 200km ride, just killing himself, and then the next day woke up ready to do it again. The idea that someone is good only because of "hard training" doesn't cut it simply because doping allows one to train harder.
Another. Genetic limits are real. I see two extremes of it regularly, from a self point of view. I have a pretty low FTP and a pretty decent jump. I recently did a (relatively poor) 20 min test. Resulting FTP is 202w. I DNFed the last three races I did, averaging in the low 200w range until I got shelled. Many of my races I average about 160-180w. At the same time I've won a number of field sprints. The last one I won by enough that I soft pedaled and coasted for 11 seconds because I didn't want to be sprinting on my own (and I also thought maybe I sprinted on the wrong lap and no one else was sprinting). I could train as hard as possible and I won't be averaging 490w for 33 min like one of the Tues Night Crit regulars did recently. I don't think I could do that for 2 minutes and I know that even for one minute it would be an insane effort for me to do 490w. At the same time I can always sprint about the same.
(And as an aside I race against the Arc En Ciel guys somewhat regularly at Ninigret so you can ask about how I do there and what they do to deal with me.)
The year I upgraded to Cat 2 my FTP was about 220w. I upgraded through careful sniping, placing in crits only, on less challenging courses (most challenging was the new New London Crit). My sprint wasn't much different as it is now (which to me shows that a rider's jump is about what it is, regardless of fitness).
Caveat for all of the above - the rider in question is reasonably trained. In other words a brand new rider (less than 3 years riding) shouldn't look at their numbers and write off potential improvements. However for someone that's been racing for 10-20-30 years it's pretty clear what they can and can't do. It doesn't take that long, of course - you don't see Cavendish contesting Liege Bastogne Liege or Froome going for Ghent Wevelgem.
Interesting that now supposedly racing "clean", Froome, Contador, Martin, Wiggins and others post the same performance as top riders did during the dark days.
I might look slightly lighter (only slightly!) but even the nurse at the doctor's office expresses surprise at my weight. I tell her that I'm just very dense :)
After 3 years of racing I was 103 lbs (18 years old). At 21 I was 112 lbs. I could always, always sprint. I could never, ever climb or TT. I spent a good 15 years of my life living and breathing bike racing, the picture below was in the middle of that. I was on my way to 4th place, I was a good sprinter, and I was about 120-125 lbs. In that picture I'm skinny, I can't bench much more than 90-100 lbs, but I could do a good jump, typically gapping others by a length or two almost immediately, top speed much higher than it is now.
Reading Basson's book right now. He talks about how nobody bothered with marginal gain things in equipment and training because most folks were chasing the best pharma. There was fruit to be picked but why bother when you get more from a needle?
For some of the current riders it's interesting that when Xenon and Argon got on the radar screens (and subsequently banned) they seem to have slowed up. As Ferrari said, "if it's not banned then it's OK".
That said it's encouraging to see people have bad days, fall off the bike at the end of a stage, Etc. Lance did pushups after some stages.
Unfortunately I think there's more nonsense in master's racing than ever before.
PEDs-work,and are "sorta'" legal Low T etc.
And many senior riders are probably affluent enough to get a diagnosis of Low T
Now Low T is a "made up diagnosis"
It is just normal aging-and the replacement therapy will make men feel and look younger-probably with just a modest health risk
so Many Masters Dope-
They are the guys who were 2nd-3rd tier in their prime,but want to win.
Yeah competitors want to win.
They are smarter than they were in their prime-so they sure as hell won't get caught.
Look at Usain Bolt- ZERO chance he is clean- but passes all his drug tests.(6 inches or so taller than the average height of Gold Medalist 100 meter-no he isn't a once in a life time genetic freak-they all are)
Look at Dara Torres(41 yo Silver Medalist in the 100 meter(swimming)-a sprint!!)-never failed a test despite the average age of olympic medalists that year being 25)
You really don't need a test to know who is doping- if they are waaay out of range-they are doping
Suddenly get better when they are older-Clemons Bonds the tall thin red haired guy who became HUGE
As other say once you are a mature athlete-you DON'T suddenly get better-naturally
Lance coming back FASTER- after an EXTREMELY debilitating Chemo regimen- better climber better endurance(explaining it by saying he "lost" useless
upper body mass-pure BS)
Now I don't blame Lance one bit-not for any of it(except his smearing of that poor woman-that was CS)
ALL of the winners were doing it.
If you wanted to win-you had to PED
Bike racing-long endurance events that require sudden but long high output bursts-
PEDs benefit bike racing more than any other sport-
Wrestled in college-1960's-1970's-we all used amphetamines to lose weight-unfortunately this made them useless as a BOOSTER for matches
Now if you ran out(and we did)-you would be inexplicably to your coach " a bit off" that match/tournament
Plenty of my fellow competitors MUST have used anabolics(all wrestlers are just muscle bone-some short some tall)-but some were freakishly knotty-
now it MIGHT not have been a pure advantage to be shorter-more muscle means higher weight class-
but it certainly would have allowed than to train harder-big advantage.
If I could have gotten my hands on anabolics-I sure as hell would have used them
Yeah hotshot athletes-will do anything to win-simple as that
always has been that way
Poor Flo Jo-still has the 100 meter record-died because of heavy PED use-obvious to EVERYONE-
One look at her face head(she was gorgeous and suddenly developed a "big head block face")
But she still holds the world -something like 10.45- .2 faster than anyone else-ever!
Trying to compare numbers?? Fair sprinter here, fair climber, fast on a flat or rolling hills circuit.
I ride either Masters, or category 3 with the youngsters, since getting back into this after may years away. Masters 50+ I'm OK with some chances, cat 3 with the youngsters I have to hang on for dear life to stay in the peleton. Making good progress though. In comparison, my numbers are very different though and closer to Coggins table?
175 lbs, FTP is around 280 watts, close comparison on the road with a PowerTap and on my Cycleops 420 indoor bike. Within about 5% comparing the two. On our Saturday morning spirited training rides, I pull around 300 watts when pacing in the front. Average for the ride once we are warmed up around 240 watts, we normally do 60 miles, 10 easy at the start, 10 easy at the end. The 40 in the middle we rotate and go pretty hard, averaging around 40 - 42 km/h.
There is no way I will feature with the young cat 2 riders at this stage of my form, here in NC at 3.52 w/kg. The Masters 35+ I still get dropped often as well.
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