False positive EPO
Reprinted from Dr. Gabe Mirkin's website:
Dr. Gabe Mirkin's Fitness and Health E-Zine
July 16, 2006
Did Lance Armstrong Cheat?
This month, some of the favorites to win the Tour de
France endurance bicycle race were prevented from entering
because of suspicion that they may have taken drugs or had
blood transfusions to raise their red blood cell counts. That
brings up the accusation that Lance Armstrong, possibly the
most dominant endurance bicycle racer of all time, took blood
boosting drugs when he won the first of his seven Tour De
The allegation is that Lance Armstrong’s urine, kept in
storage for six years, had a positive test for EPO, a restricted
drug that raises blood levels of oxygen-carrying and
performance-enhancing hemoglobin. An article published in this
month’s issue of the prestigious medical journal, Blood (June 15,
2006) shows that after competing in any athletic event, any
athlete could have a false positive urine test for EPO.
The test for EPO is done by injecting the protein, EPO,
into animals so that their bodies produce special proteins called
antibodies that attach to EPO. The antibodies are put on a
special plate, and the test urine is added. If the urine contains
EPO, a band consisting of the antibody tied to the EPO appears
on the special plate.
Researchers at Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium
showed that “this widely used test can occasionally lead to the
false-positive detection of EPO in postexercise, protein-rich
urine.” Any athlete can have a false positive test with this
procedure. Most people with healthy kidneys do not spill protein
in their urine, but after strenuous exercise, athletes with normal
kidneys often spill protein into their urine. For example, more
than 80 percent of runners spilled protein into their urines after
running the Boston Marathon. The authors state that the
antibodies that are used in the test can attach to any protein in
the urine, not just EPO.
Wow. Roberto Heras must be licking his chops. And honestly, if he did take EPO, it would have made near-zero sense for him to take it in the last few days of the Vuelta. He had a big lead on Menchov, and didn't need to win the ITT, so the possible payoff diminishes greatly compared to the risk of getting caught.
There are other factors that could suggest a "false positive" as well; apparently hematocrit levels will increase when dehydrated.
But the fact remains, it's extremely difficult to prove that anyone did or did not take it. The accused will rely on the absence of "reliable proof", and the accusers will rely on circumstantial evidence and insinuation. I don't see any magic bullet for the goal of getting cycling free of doping.
I am not a hundred percent positive about this but are not the samples taken before stages, not after.
Also, since it's possible for someone to use a catheter and fill his own kidneys with clean, synthetic urine; urine testing is done after each stage. Blood testing is done at random througout the race, day and night at.
According to his website, last year on the eve of a rest day, Fabian Wegmann and a teammate had stayed up late watching television, only to be woken up at 6am by the "vampires" coming for their blood.
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