EPO: The racer's edge

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Tuesday, February 28, 2006
By Yokota Fritz

Amgen in Longmont

That's what it says on the t-shirt I bought from Velochimp. While we were taking these photos an Amgen employee came up and talked to us; she didn't seem too amused. This Amgen factory in my city is where rhEPO is manufactured. The location of this factory at the corner of Airport Road and Nelson Road in Longmont is also along a very popular route for road cyclists in Boulder County.

Perhaps I shouldn't treat this so lightly -- people die from EPO abuse. Their blood gets too thick and they get heart attacks. I want to make it clear that I am absolutely against doping in athletic competition.

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Had me worried there, for a minute! Synthetic EPO or natural, there are long term risks associated with it, like the Heart attack duem to blood turbidity(TOO THICK) as well as Haemopoiesis cycle damage and production and release of immature blood cells leading to an eventual degradation of O2/CO2 exchange. Here's an extract from eirpharm.com:

EPO is also known as Epoetin or Erythropoietin it is the best known of this class of drugs, which stimulate erythropoiesis which is the formation of red blood cells.

EPO enhances athletic performance by increasing the supply of oxygen to muscle tissue and is in particular useful in endurance sports such as long distance cycling, distance running, cross country skiing. It also enables the athlete to recover faster from an endurance event.

While this substance is naturally produced in the body and it can also be made by recombinant DNA technology. It is pharmacologically classified as a haematopoietic growth factor which means it promotes the growth of red blood cells in the body. Red blood cells carry oxygen through the body. EPO is used clinically in the management of anemia associated with chronic renal failure in dialysis and predialysis patients, in conjunction with other treatments for HIV and as a part of a drug-treatment regime for those undergoing chemotherapy.

The abuse of EPO by athletes can have particularly serious consequences as its abuse can result in changes in thickness of the blood thus affecting the rate at which blood flows through the body. This can be further exacerbated by dehydration potentially leading to a life-threatening situation for the athlete. The effects of EPO is often measured by a haematocrit reading which is a measure of the volume percentage of the red blood cells in blood. Haematocrit readings above 55% have been reported to result in coronary and cerebral circulatory problems.

Other side effects include iron overload, flu-like symptoms such as headache and joint pain and high blood pressure.

From http://www.timinvermont.com/fitness/govpub.htm

Erythropoietin, or EPO, is another steroid alternative used in the international sports community although it has seen limited abuse in the United States. EPO, approved for treating anemias associated with chronic renal failure and zidovudine (AZT) therapy in HIV-infected patients, stimulates bone marrow to produce red blood cells. The hormone appeals to athletes because they tire less easily when taking it and because it is undetectable by tests presently used.

"It (EPO) increases the red blood cell count, and therefore the athlete is able to absorb more oxygen and increase stamina- the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood system is just unbelievable," Leggett says.

But EPO use is not without risk. As the body's red blood cell count rises and the blood thickens, blood clots, heart attack, or stroke could result. Abuse of EPO is especially risky among marathoners and long-distance bicyclists. As these athletes compete, Leggett explains, they lose body fluids, including blood fluids. Reducing blood fluids concentrates the already abnormally high red blood cell count, which can lead to polycythemia, an abnormal increase in circulating red blood cells. "EPO can turn their blood to the consistency of Jell-O," he says.
Severe Penalties

Here are some potential health effects of drugs and other substances-ranging from the mildest to the most severe-used as alternatives to anabolic steroids.

* greasy skin
* headache
* severe acne
* premature balding
* bloating associated with water retention
* dizziness
* chills
* drowsiness
* nausea
* vomiting
* muscle tremors
* fever
* fast heart rate
* slowed heart rate
* bloody diarrhea
* seizure-like movements
* lowered blood pressure
* breathing difficulty
* breathing cessation
* blood clots
* cardiovascular problems
* liver disease
* cancer
* heart attack
* stroke
* death

Sorry about the lengthy comment, but I think it needed to be shown. I normally don't metablog on others blogs!
I still find it ironic that Amgen, a manufacturer of EPO, took it upon themselves to sponsor the Tour of California (and that the promoters allowed it!)...
I agree BC. And although I am not a fan of NASCAR (cycling is much more interesting to me), they realized their old sponsor of the race series (Busch beer) wasn't a good idea and switched away from it.

AMGEN sponsoring the Tour of California is almost like Marlboro sponsoring an American Lung Association event, it doesn't make ANY sense.
Michael, there is still the NASCAR Busch series. Going strong!

BC - I was very conflicted about this sponsorship, too. As someone who has worked on the organizing end of events, I know how hard it is to get sponsorship. You fight for every single dollar. I guess I can't blame the organizers for taking the money when it came. However, this seems to be a huge conflict of interest. Not to mention, what would have happened had a racer tested positive during this race? Yikes!
I have to disagree. The fact that Amgen is the producer of a drug that is widely abused among professional cyclists is a legitimate reason for the sponsorship (if they go about addressing the problem in the right way). Almost all cyclists are aware of EPO, but I would be willing to bet that some do not know that it is a drug that has legitimate medical purposes. This sponsorship gives the company the opportunity to educate the cycling public about the drug and to stress the dangers of its improper use. If a rider had tested positive, I think the sponsors would have done just that. I think it is a safe bet to assume that they anticipated such a possible scenario and prepared a response in advance.
very cool
when ever an retired pro athlete dies in their 40's
well, it should make us think
measure the loss to gain

wouldn't be more fun for athletes to play fair

do they all relate to Rosie Ruiz?
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