Cycling

Armstrong’s blood values “suspicious”

According to DR, the leading Danish media conglomerate, Armstrong’s blood values at this year’s Tour de France are suspicious, and could be indicative of blood doping.

Paraphrasing Google’s translation of the DR article:

Evidence suggests that Lance Armstrong used blood doping during the Tour de France, says one of Denmark’s leading blood researchers, Jakob Mørkebjerg from Bispebjerg Hospital, to DR Sport after he saw American’s blood values.

Both the hematocrit (red blood cell counts) and hemoglobin were essentially the same on the first day and last day of the Tour, which is quite unusual. Furthermore, [Armstrong’s] hematocrit value increased during 11th-14th July, representing the middle of the Tour, [from] 40.7 to 43.1, which is also noteworthy, believes Mørkebjerg.

“What we know from our research is that the hard work as a Tour de France will cause a marked decrease of these blood values, and it seems this did not happen in Lance Armstrong,” says Mørkebjerg, who has just completed a PhD thesis on blood doping.

Why might that be?

“It could be because he has had some blood transfusions. This does not mean that he has received them, but it could be one explanation.”

There may be other reasons?

“Had he, for example, had diarrhea and was dehydrated, it could lead to an increase in blood levels,” said Mørkebjerg, elaborating further: “But the picture is a contradiction of we would normally see. Lance Armstrong’s values are unchanged from the first to the last sample, and [we] would normally expect a decline. This decline can be seen in his values during the Giro d’Italia a few months before, but not so during the Tour de France.”

DR Sport has unsuccessfully tried to get a comment from Lance Armstrong, who was No. 3 in the Tour de France.

Some may say that Armstrong’s return to racing this year was too good to be true, especially his podium finish. Others will dismiss this article (which has yet to make it to the major English-language cycling media) as yet another attempt to smear Armstrong’s legacy as arguably the greatest Tour de France rider of all time.

What’s reality? Only Armstrong and those closest to him know for sure … but I’d like to think that for once, the Tour was relatively clean, and that Armstrong’s position was due to incredibly hard work. The fact remains that he was and is one of the most heavily tested athletes in the world; so either he has access to some incredible drugs that no one can find, or he truly is competing cleanly.

Time will tell.

2 Replies to “Armstrong’s blood values “suspicious”

  1. I call BS on the assertion that hematocrit falls during an endurance event. Hematocrit typically increases, especially when your blood plasma volume falls if you don’t hydrate sufficiently.

    On the other hand, publishing the numbers and “open sourcing” your blood chemistry lgoes a long way toward’s transparency, IMO. Mørkebjerg’s the one with the PhD so I’d be interested in knowing more about his assertion.

  2. Yokota Fritz: I call BS on the assertion that hematocrit falls during an endurance event. Hematocrit typically increases, especially when your blood plasma volume falls if you don’t hydrate sufficiently.

    I can certainly understand that; but numerous studies do show that Hct falls during endurance training and races; that’s why racers would re-juice with microdoses of EPO during stage races, to bring their Hct back up to maintain the levels with which they started.

    Short-term effects, due to dehydration for example, can lead to a temporary increase; and as Mørkebjerg indicated dehydration or diarrhea could account for the rise between 11-14 July; however, that doesn’t account for pre-race and post-race values being essentially unchanged, whereas during the Giro d’Italia, levels fell as expected.

    See the following studies for more info.

    From http://www.jssm.org/vol6/n2/16/v6n2-16pdf.pdf

    Endurance trained athletes generally show an increased blood volume mainly due to plasma volume (PV) expansion, which already exerts after a few days of prolonged exercise, accompanied by lower hemoglobin (Hb) and hematocrit (Hct) levels. On a short term basis dehydration caused by prolonged exertive exercise leads to enhanced concentrations of Hb and Hct due to decreased PV.

    In contrast to acute exercise it has been well documented as a long term adaptation that regular endurance training over long term periods or repeated bouts of strenuous exercise, e.g. repetitive cycling races or cycling stage races over several consecutive days, lead to a fall in both Hb and Hct levels due to a progressive enlargement in particular in PV.

    From http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11914976

    o study the haematological acute effects of prolonged strenuous cycling we measured Hct, Hb, red blood cell (RBC) count and plasma protein in a reliably ‘clean’ population of 38 well-trained male amateur cyclists before, immediately after and one day after an extraordinary ultramarathon.

    The pre-race levels of Hct, Hb and RBC count were placed in the lower range of normal distribution and well below the Hct cut-off limit of the UCI.

    Immediately post-exercise the mean levels of Hct, Hb, RBC count and protein remained unchanged. One day after race, however, all four parameters significantly dropped by 3 %, 6.7 %, 6.5 %, 9.9 % respectively (p < 0.001), indicating marked post-exercise PV expansion. The calculated percentage increase in PV was 11.9 %.

    From http://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/pages/articleviewer.aspx?year=2007&issue=05001&article=00706&type=fulltext

    RESULTS: Hb mass and red cell volume did not change significantly over the study period, plasma volume (mean +9.5%) and blood volume (mean +5.2%) tended to increase. Hct (pre race mean 44.1±2.5 %, end race mean 40.9±1.59 %) and Hb (pre race mean 15.8±0.9 g/dl, end race mean 14.7±0.7g/dl) decreased (p<0.05). (r) was 0.28 for Hb mass, 0.9 for Hb and 1.1 for Hct.

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