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June 16, 2010

That trouble-making molecule, Erythropoietin (EPO)


Yep.  It is time to open a can of worms regarding performance enhancing.  For me, “performance-enhancing” begins by losing 10-15 more pounds.  Then perhaps work on my fitness, VO2 max, core strength, recovery, and cycling skill set.  After that plateau I may consider upgrading my ride.  Rinse, lather, repeat.  Then and only then will the next possible step to improve PR include increasing the number of red blood cells bringing oxygen to my optimally prepped muscles.  If this helps, what is a good number of RBC’s?  I’m sure the “more is better” philosophy peters out in effectiveness when you can measure blood viscosity like motor oil. 


What then?  after at least 5W-30 (should be appropriate not only for maximum oxygenation, but will lubricate joints and muscles effectively), then perhaps something needs to be done about the muscles themselves.  If I can create more muscle, then I can better utilize the excess oxygen floating around, untapped.  Human growth hormone.  Anabolic steroids.  Testosterone.  Surely there is a cocktail that will allow me to reach that podium.  Genetically I have too many “fast-twitch” and not enough “slow-twitch” fibers.  So I need a myofibrilic bundle transplant (MFBT) to increase my muscle endurance [I totally made that up…I think].  While I’m at it, I could use a few more fast-twitch fibers to help in sprints and finishes.  While I’m under I should have another lobe grafted to my lungs to further increase my VO2 max.


Now I have this height issue.  I am 5’10”.  I need a good three inches added to my leg length to give me more leverage for my pedal stroke.  Tibia/fibula titanium “spacers” may help.  I am tiring between stages and need something to push me through.  Amphetamines make me wide-awake and energetic.  This gives me trouble sleeping which is so vital to recovery so horse-tranquilizers help me sleep.  The rage and depression wrought by the many surgeries and side-effects of the medications I am taking have necessitated adding one anti-psychotic medicine and fully three separate antidepressants.  I feel on a very even keel.  I don’t hurt any more, but then again I don’t remember what it feels like to feel


Final analysis:  at 215 pounds, 6’2″, six percent bodyfat, I am an adonis.  I have rocketed through the ranks of cat4 and with the additional performance-enhancing drugs and body modifications I am a solid cat2!  My life-expectancy has dropped to about 43-45.  I have probably a good five years to make my mark on the amateur cycling scene before dying of “natural causes”.

Doping Theory

There are essentially three opinions to how performance-enhancing drugs should be policed by professional (and amateur) sports:

  1. No holds barred.  In this approach, there is no drug testing and therefore athletes are left to their own devices in regard to performance-enhancing drugs. 
  2. Partial ban.  In this model (perhaps the most utopian), certain banned substances can be allowed by doctor’s prescription and monitored for “safe” use.
  3. Total ban.  The current model (for cycling and increasinly many other sports) is to develop a list of banned substances and then test for the presence of and punish for a positive test for these substances.

Theory #1

The first model is intriguing.  Unfortunately, the result would be many prematurely dead athletes.  There is so much money involved with success in professional sports, that athletes would be pressured to take the “more is better” philosophy.  It would be interesting to find the limits of the human body under this full-throttle model.  As the body count increases, however, eventually something would be done to restrict performance-enhancers, and the unbreakable records would forever be marked with an asterisk.

Theory #2

The second model makes the most sense in a perfect world.  Human growth hormone, anabolic steroids, and other medicines could be used for injury recovery, allowing for a faster, more full recovery.  Perhaps a “safe” level of EPO or blood doping could be determined and allowed to a ceretain point.  Under a doctor’s supervision, this may be safe.  The problem here is that there will always be corruptible physicians and non-physicians ever-pushing the “medically necessary” envelope.  We then degenerate into the first model.

Theory #3

The third and current model is probably the best of all evils.  The problem lies in the testing for these substances.  Who tests and when.  Constant research into new testing methods is required to tackle the end-around that is invariably found to elude a positive test.  It’s a broken system, but it is currently the best we have.  Agreeing on a governing body to test and everyone accepting a positive test within these protocols is the brass ring here. 

In the current and continuing hubbub with Floyd Landis and other athletes, millions of dollars are at stake.  We can scoff and point fingers at those who test positive, but in the cycling world when performance-enhancing can be the edge between being crowned a champion and not reaching the podium, would our integrity hold up?  In last year’s Tour de France for example, six minutes separated Tour champion Alberto Contador from Bradley Wiggins in fourth.  If he had taken some substance or substances that allowed him to ride ten seconds faster per stage, he would have beaten Contador and been crowned champion with multi-million dollar endorsement deals and fame.

There has inexplicably been a huge increase in performance-enhancing drugs amongst amateurs of late.  Cat3 racers taking drugs to win that $100 crit, of a pair of cycling socks or similar schwag.  Is a PR that valuable?   I would always put a mental * by my results if they were tainted with performance enhancers.  But then again I have a long way to reach my untainted potential and I can accept that I am not awesome.

Next for Me

I did not sign up for the sprint triathlon this weekend.  A $70 entry fee for a sprint tri is ridiculous in my opinion and I refuse to pay it.  I used that $70 to register for XTERRA Camp Eagle in central Texas on August 15!  And then I spent my savings on a cup of coffee.  I just upped the ante!  Next, however is a three-day mountain biking festival in Eureka Springs, AR in a month where I plan to race XC, short track, and downhill events!  Woo-hoo!

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