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Is EPO making a comeback in cycling: experts fear microdosing?

Posted May 25 2010 2:56pm

Floyd Professional cycling is all too often the poster child for illegal performance enhancing drug use.

That's why the sport of cycling was one of the first endurance sports to get serious about cheating and develop the strict biological passport.

The World Anti-Doping Agency also supports the biological passport. The passport (developed about two and half years ago) follows the athlete's blood and maintains a electronic record of the make-up of the blood and any substances, banned or not, that might potentially enhance performance.

But now a group of scientist has found a way to circumvent the biological passport. Using a method known as microdosing, the scientist were able to evade the the biological passport and the detection of EPO (the preferred and illegal red blood cell boosting drug) in an athlete's blood steam.

Furthermore, few in the sport believe that microdosing is unknown to dishonest athletes or the doctor who treat them. Especially in the light of recent revelations by Floyd Landis naming current and prominent cyclist cheaters.

According to the New York Times :

"Ashenden and the French researchers have recently repeated their earlier experiments. Somewhat to their surprise, they found that the bodies of the test subjects adapted in a way that hides microdosing from the passport program. For various practical reasons, the passport tests measure only the concentration of red cells in athletes’ blood, not the total amount of red cells in their bodies.

Microdosing, however, appears to increase users’ blood volumes significantly. So although EPO raises users’ overall red blood cell level, its concentration stays constant because of the increased blood volume"

“Small injections we previously thought didn’t have a biological impact do work,”  Michael Ashenden, a prominent Australian exercise physiologist and a scientific adviser to the cycling union.

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