Talk About the Trickle Down Effect of EPO

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Here’s one of the deals with the professionals taking drugs to race, it trickles down to others. Namely juniors and amateurs aspiring to make it to the big leagues. That is one of the things that most pro riders don’t consider. I remember hearing a interview with Johan Meseeuw about 10 years ago after he was “caught” distributing HGH or EPO or something. He didn’t address that specifically, but said something about how sad it was that amateur riders and juniors thought they needed to take drugs to race. He said that when he was that age, it never occurred to him to use drugs. I was thinking at the time, “Man, what an idiot. You’re one of the guys that makes these guys think it is mandatory to take drugs to race.” Are the “Pros” naive thinking that the riders that worship them wouldn’t want to do the same thing they are doing to get to their level?

Another, study I saw over 10 years ago, they did at the JUNIOR Italian National Road Championships, two tests, a couple years apart. Just hematocrit tests. One year it was somewhere in the lower 40% race, which is pretty normal. Then two years later it was up above 48%. This was an average for the whole junior field. I remember thinking, “Wow, even juniors in Italy are using EPO?”

Now I’m reading that people are using EPO for Gran Fondos. Unbelievable, right? No true.

Two riders from the Gran Fondo in New York tested positive for EPO. David Anthony, of New York City and Gabriele Guarini from Prato, Italy both acknowledged that they took EPO to race bicycles. Shit. EPO usage by an American master rider and some asshole Italian guy for a tour/race. Craziness. Maybe Anthony was drinking the stuff instead of injecting it, checking out his previous results.

Here’s an article my friend, Ian Dilly, wrote for Bicycling Magazine about The Doper Next Door. I hadn’t seen it before and makes you wonder.

Anyway, the point is that somehow we need to try to really deter the use of drugs in our sport. I don’t believe it is ever going to be completely drug free. But, the current way we do things isn’t working. Sorry, but that’s true. The same old guys are working the races, the same doctors, the same soigneurs. The riders come and go. Some stay in the sport. The penalties are bullshit. It is so strange that Alberto Contador is going to be racing again in a couple weeks. I’d bet he wins the Tour of Spain maybe even the World Championship Road race, you never know. It doesn’t seem like he missed a beat.

And the sponsors should be ashamed of themselves. Especially the American bicycle manufactures that have decided that the Pro Tour Team sponsorship is what sells their bicycles. Look at the sponsorship money that goes into these Pro Tour riders that keep getting popped over and over again. If I had one of their bikes hanging in my garage, that I bought because of some Pro guy riding it and I thought it was cool, and then the rider was caught for doping, I’d send the bike back and ask for my money back. It seems like fraudulent advertising. Especially since most of the people in the marketing departments of these companies are completely cognoscente of what is going on with their sponsored programs.

Okay, I sort of got off track there. Let’s applaud all and every way that WADA, USADA and the all the governing organizations use to stop this pollution in such a beautiful sport. Greatness happens all the time in sport, but drugs make those special moments meaningless. And let’s quit giving our juniors role models that cheat their friends and fans for money and fame. It’s not just an issue of Pro riders beating up on other Pro riders that are using drugs too. And, I’ve only ever heard one guy, Johan Meseeuw, mention that the trickle down was a problem. And he was caught with 8000 doses of Aranesp. The way our sport works, he’ll probably be a team director pretty soon.

30 thoughts on “Talk About the Trickle Down Effect of EPO

  1. Tommasini53

    I wonder everytime I see one of those “Low T (testosterone)” ads on TV during a sports broadcast (usually golf, go figure). So is some masters racer doping up with his insurance company paying the tab?? Maybe if they’re overweight it won’t help their performance that much anyway.

  2. Bernd Faust

    Once again to many nuts around, as I mentioned before jealousy rules aka “fake boobs needed”…It is sad, it happens in other sports too…big strong black boy plays football has talent…parents of white kid buy him steroids so he can look and play as black kid..happens in California all the time…crazy MF’s all around “Insanity” like the guy in Aurora, Insanity all around us…more “Nuthouses” are neede to give those people a refugee..

  3. Mike

    Steve I completely agree with you and the rest of the world – doping is ridiculous and so incredibly sad that it has trickled down to the amateur level. I had an interesting discussion the other day with a friend regarding doping that I thought would be a great topic for discussion: where do we draw the line where something(drug, food, recovery drink, etc.) attains the label “dope”? Is it the level of enhancement gained from the “dope”? Is it the dangers associated with the “dope”? Why isn’t caffeine “dope”? What about carbohydrates? If the benefit comes from a needle is it automatically “dope”? What about those bins of recovery drink/protein mixes we all consume post ride? Ultimately they all have the same goal: make us faster, stronger, give us greater endurance…

    So what makes something “dope”? I certainly don’t have the answer, but these are the things I think of while putting in my time on the bike.

  4. Daniel Miller

    Great post.

    Definition of blood doping is pretty clear: “defined by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) as the use of products that enhance the uptake, transport, or delivery of oxygen to the blood ”

    I’ll never forget a couple of years ago reading about some Houston Cat 2 racer who got caught taking a bunch of beast cancer drugs for the purpose on increased serum testosterone. That seems to me (as both a training physician scientist and cancer survivor) to be like lighting fireworks off in Colorado right now.

    It’s well known that various xenobiotics contribute to our cancer risk…I simply can’t understand why someone who knowingly use an agent that is meant to cause increased cell division (Epo’s effect on RBCs, Male sex hormones effect on the prostate) in the name of increased performance. Simply unbelievably stupid IMHO.

  5. Bernd Faust

    There is a big difference between a proteinshake or a steroid…. A guy I went to school with took steroids for bodybuilding purposes, with your shakes and eating fish etc.. you get your nutrients, you get better, gain weight, etc.. at one point you get stuck…that’s it, you reached your natural treshold..with steroids there is no pain, you move get stronger in a short time, your natural 275lbs benchpress with a 154 bodyweight moves quickly past 300lbs.. you feel no pain you get up and can f–k yourself up till you bite the dust without knowing it… I know cases, beleive me there is a big difference …
    You have to be a “nut” to take that stuff…people hate to acknowledge that these people are nuts… I don’t like nuts…they need to be locked up in an instituiton…

  6. SalRuibal

    One of the problems is the UCI, which refuses to test for EPO at lower level races, and I’m talking Tour of California and the Colorado ProCycling Challenge, not just your local crit or MTB race.

  7. VCScribe

    Hey, Tommasini53 — the answer is YES. The masters racer, the golfer, the beer league softball player, the 30-something rec soccer player, the masters swimmer, etc. , etc. Which is pathetic enough. But how about the guys who are getting the prescrips from their doctors for “the clear” and then letting their junior high school sons use it for baseball, football, basketball, track, and hockey? Some Texas school districts drug-test athletes, but you know what they test for? THC. Not steroids. Not EPO. Not amphetamines. Not even alcohol (the most widely abused substance by 12-20-y-o’s).

  8. Mills

    Policing the world of drugs in sport is definitely a job I would never want. It’s pervasive in ALL sports where any amount of money is to be made. But who makes the call as to what is doping?

    “defined by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) as the use of products that enhance the uptake, transport, or delivery of oxygen to the blood ”

    True and totally legit. However, how does a simple dextrose IV after a race affect oxygen kinetics? Assume that we are only talking about the IV with sugar and water. How is that different from a protein shake or a cup of coffee? Tough decisions and I’m happy to not be that decider!

  9. Just Thinking

    The problem is the cost of testing. It is not cheap, especially for small sanctioning bodies, with minuscule budgets.

    If a system of stock stockpiling samples, of every athlete who finishes in the top three, of “any (all)” level of event, were established, we could eliminate 95% of the use of drugs in cycling.

    You could have a system, of “random” lottery testing of the stored samples, and “specific targeted” testing, when there is a possible suspicion. At the point of instituting and establishing that system/infrastructure, you would then have a fair policy of absolute “Zero tolerance.”

    The threat of “zero tolerance” would then be a real (concrete) deterrent to athletes using androgens, EPO or stimulants.

    Any lesser infractions of the WADA banned substances list, could then have “limited sanctions” that would be dealt with on a case per case basis.

    For now, without a new system designed specifically to test all riders, we can not stop the problem.

  10. Steve

    The problem is the baby boom generation. A lot of them take the same approach to sport as they do the financial world and life…ZERO ethics/morals to stroke ego. Participation of all cohorts in cycling is down except for baby boomers which is up 90%. Racing in North America despite all this TDF hype is dying except for masters. I raced at the continental level in Europe and the U.S. and went south all winter to train. Guys 20 years older in their 40s, 50s, and even 60s are doing pro TT times and racing back to back days like rockets. I’m retired from racing and only 37. I’m still fast, but my recovery has tanked and I have raced at a higher level than all these masters bums. They are starting to test my local masters and already guys who used to race category 1 with me are getting nailed for testosterone and EPO. Guaranteed the top handful of masters riders and some other categories are on the sauce. If performances are too good to be true, they probably are.

  11. Mike

    Great points guys. This is exactly what I’m talking about. So you get a huge advantage (yes at a very dangerous cost) from steroids…what is it that makes steroids “dope”? Is it the danger or is it the size of the advantage gained? What about Ibuprofen – is that considered “dope”? Definitely helps me ride through pain and recover quicker. Mills brought up another good example – what about a simple IV of sugar and water? Dope? EPO obviously has its proven dangers and the advantage gained is huge…but again I have to ask – what makes EPO dope?

    This is surely a highly sensitive topic and this is a great discussion. I don’t have answers but I think these are things we all need to really examine.

  12. David H

    I remember reading Ian Dilly’s article on Mitch Comardo. I also remember reading Mitch’s blog when I raced against him. I started reading it a few months before he got caught. Everyone who met him (I never really did) said he was super nice and his blog was all about training hard and having fun while suffering for the goal of getting better. He even posted a link to a one of your blog posts about just why doping is so wrong and that it cheats others out of their hard work. He said he really liked and agreed with it.

    So you can imagine all the turmoil that ensued when he was caught. A lot of people really liked that guy and believed he was innocent for a while. I understand he tested positive for so many things that he had no defense so eventually everyone had to realize he was guilty. The worst part of it all was that people really liked him and kids would look up to him at races. This guy was so cool otherwise that you don’t know who to trust. That’s the worst thing! I just had a good year in the Texas marathon mountain bike series (overall series win). I have random people including kids congratulate me and tell me they like how I ride and stuff. All I can think about is how they can’t really trust me because of what Mitch and others did and they have no idea. Our series doesn’t have the money to test at our mostly amateur races so we just have to trust each other, which I normally do. But it really messes things up. I didn’t feel like training very hard for a few days when that a$$-h0!# got caught.

    I tried to encourage Mitch to get up and finish the last 100K Mas-O-Menos race when he was sitting beside his single-speed mountain bike half-way up the big climb. Now I know I should have yelled at him and told him to leave cycling and never come back.

  13. QuestionThis?

    I noticed that at the Tour of California, Tour of Utah and US Pro Challenge…Zero testing was done. How could this even be possible?

    Also remember hearing the Danny Pate commented once that in all the years he had been racing the US Pro Championship there was relatively no testing being done.

    Now on to current amatuer racing. I race masters and have went away a few times wondering how some of the results were outside of the riders means. There are some really great master racers that are very consistent. There are also some masters racers that are all over the place in know the type…a Cav that can drop climbers on a cat 1 climb…

    Would it really be that difficult for race organizers at all levels to pull some testing? I would love going to a race and know that the playing field is as level as can be.

    Sad to think that something as beautiful as cycling, and the fitness related to it; can all be diluted due to those that don’t want to play fair be it in a Fondo, Strava course, Masters Race, or National Calendar race.

  14. Chris Hepp

    It is funny, but I find myself more incensed when I learn of a 45-year-old amateur doping to win a Grand Fondo than anything the pros are caught doing. Some level I can understand _ and even forgive _ someone who might cheat to hold on to their profession. In this case, even a two-year suspension seems too light. For 30 years I’ve busted my hump to hold a job, raise a family and find enough training time to be able to suffer through in a half dozen races a season. I’m not much more than field fodder, the king of 12th place. If I manage to slip into the top 10 or the money a couple times a year, I might as well have won the tour. One or two dopers a race is all it will take to steal that small bit of joy from me. Maybe it is because its my ox getting gored here, but I have no patience for doping at this level. One strike, you’re out.

  15. DavidA

    Then there is the Pot Belge equation….herion, morphine, cocaine and speed with or with out steroids if you want. This is still being used in Europe by Pros and Elites/Beloften Basically speedball with anti-inflamitory

  16. Matt

    How about the Tour of California being sponsored by Amgen a biopharmaceutical company? It runs deeper than we think in our sport…

  17. Bernd Faust

    My favorite drink after a hard trainingride or race is a good beer, preferably a Hefeweizen, and here Paulaner Hefeweizen or Franziskaner Hefeweizen…am I doing something wrong?
    “Life is to short to drink cheap beer”, Life is to short to even think about doping!

  18. channel_zero

    You guys mentioning no EPO testing at Colorado and California UCI events, is there a public way to corroborate that?

    The Masters method of doping is visiting an anit-aging clinic where the MD dopes you with some safety and confidence. Given the number of clinics out there, it stands to reason some of those urban Masters are doped.

    And yes, this is the UCI/USAC’s problem. They like the spectacular doped performances at the Elite level. At the weekend warrior level, the bike industry and federation like the money.

  19. Formerly Jim

    Steve, is there testing at the events you attend and, if so, down to what placement are riders tested?

  20. tilford97 Post author

    Formerly-They only test at some of the NRC races, then the Nationals, of course. They tested at Cross in Madison and Lousiville for Masters Worlds.

  21. mark

    First place in New York was an $8000 bike so none of this should be a surprise to anybody. They announced that testing would be conducted to keep the notorious cheaters away and “most” of the top Gran Fondo guys did not attend this one. Door wide open for somebody juiced up and feeling lucky that he won’t get caught.

  22. tilford97 Post author

    mark-What do you mean by most of the top Gran Fondo guys did not attend? Is it like a circuit that certain riders travel to race/tour?

  23. Dan

    Racing is fun but with cost of entry fees , Time required to train , Potential Risk of injury , and now with the do anything to win attitude including drugs. I’ll stick the the charity rides .

  24. Ted Lewandowski

    The irony of it all – Aranesp is marketed by Amgen – the primary sponsor of Tour of California!

  25. tom

    tilford, gran fondos are races, check out this video from gran fondo laigueglia. look at 1:55 in the video, that’s how it looks in the middle of the pack. there are over 100 gran fondos in italy, several each weekend. some are parts of series, some are just the local gran fondo.

  26. Bill K

    Talk about Masters racers who cheat, I remember, 10 years ago, A guy who dominated our local 60+ fields, died after a race because he ignored his doctors advice to get one of his heart valves fixed. In his obit, it turns out that he was only 54 years old. When he came over to the USA from Eastern Europe, he faked his birth certificate.
    Talk about sad.

  27. Steve

    The fact that the top riders stayed away says a lot! Do masters care about an $8000 bike? The two guys who got caught have a PINA and are running Di2. It is always interesting that certain age group riders get dropped and then a week or two later they are lapping the field, but when they try a NRC race or go international they get shelled or if there is testing they are pack fill.


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