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Digital Volkskrant, 7 July 2012. The assumption - more red blood cells means more oxygen in the blood - is cycling faster - is a myth. If you are healthy, you have relatively almost as much oxygen in your blood as cycling top cyclists. Still, you wouldn't keep them for five minutes.

epo 658x312The 29th Tour is still popular despite all the 'cheating'. Philosopher Stine Jensen explains this with a quote from Petronius: 'The world wants to be deceived ...' (EenVandaag, 06-2013-XNUMX). But who is cheating who? The Sorgdrager report, on doping in cycling, says that riders cheated with EPO / blood doping (further epo doping), creating a two-speed peloton. According to Sorgdrager himself, 'clean' riders could not keep up with the peloton. That benefit is said to arise because the number of red blood cells increases with epodoping. Blood can then contain more oxygen and thus provide more energy. According to some, that improves performance by more than twenty percent.

But why did many riders perform as well as before after an epo doping suspension when they had that epo advantage? There are then three options: (1) they never used. That seems unsustainable after many confessions. (2) They still used. This seems unlikely due to the attention directed at them. Or (3) epodoping hardly improves bicycle performance. Then Armstrong, Boogerd and others performed on their own.


Based on this problem, a research team from the Open University and Maastricht University started a study into performance improvement by EPO. Various scientific publications have shown that epodoping is unlikely to have a decisive influence on cycling performance. A Leiden research group also found no evidence that EPO improves bicycle performance.

Yes, cyclists started cycling faster at the end of the last century. But that development started in the early eighties, when EPO did not yet exist. And yes, the Italians cycled faster than the rest of Europe in the early XNUMXs. But they had almost a decade ahead at the time in introducing (for cycling) modern training methods. And in the land of the blind one-eyed is king. By linking the Italian lead to epodoping, the non-Italian peloton did not have to look at itself. Not we do badly, but they are dishonest! Nothing human is strange to riders.

Huge boost

To top it all off, the UCI classification was introduced in 1989. The UCI points became valuable because riders were allowed to take them to a new team. Teams could now buy additional points (riders) if they had too few to be selected for the big races. As a result, more riders raced longer and that gave cycling performance a huge boost. These developments coincided with the first stories about EPO, creating an illusionary causality: a causal relationship is then attributed to two coincidental events.

Due to various psychological phenomena, this fallacy led to delusions that brought cycling to the brink of its existence. The studies also showed that if we attribute cycling performance to EPO, that EPO works differently in the same riders in different countries. Again unlikely. And last but not least, the publications uncover the issues in studies that report performance enhancement through epodoping. It is not inconceivable that epodoping did not generate the stories about epo, but that those stories caused epo use.

More oxygen in the blood

And the assumption - more oxygen in the blood is cycling faster - is a myth. Then as a tour enthusiast you can cycle as fast as your favorites.
The amount of oxygen (by body size) in your and their blood does not differ significantly, at least if you are healthy. Healthy riders have enough oxygen in their blood. More red blood cells thicken the blood and that greatly impairs the blood circulation, especially during efforts. Epo is more disadvantageous than advantageous for cyclists.

Nevertheless, the aforementioned publications are ignored in the epodoping debate (as with Sorgdrager). Riders do not use epodoping because they are unfair, but because they are not able to keep up with the peloton according to the sports authorities. The cheaters are those who ignore the counter-evidence of their claim in their information and then punish the riders for it. Petronius was right, but different.


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