News for January 25, 1997

Armstrong's first race back

Lance Armstrong will have his first public appearance after his illness at the goodwill race "Race for Roses" in Austin, Texas, on March 23 (this was formerly to be held on February 16).

Doctors are the sorcerers of the peloton

The cycling doctors are the sorcerers of the peloton. Last year racing saw the team doctor as an important part of the team. The success of Italian cycling is also the success of the Italian doctor Conconi and his former righthand man Ferrari.

Anyway, that is said in the medical world. They are the top specialists of erythropoetine (EPO), the forbidden drug that the peleton is caught in the grip off.

"Will you banish EPO, that must begin with the doctors" said Emile Vrijman of the Dutch Centre for Dope Taking Enquiry. He has been putting pressure on over the excessive use of EPO in sport. The recent publicity following the Italian investigator Sandro Donati, who says that everyone is freely using EPO in the peloton, has opened the discussion again.

In 1988, the first rider was banned for using EPO. The American tourer Randy Eichner expressed displeasure over the death of riders due to EPO use. He can not really prove anything. In the 1991, Scandinavian EPO specialists Ekblom and Berglund published an article in a medical journal outlining the effects of EPO on sports performances.

A similar search by the Dutch Ebink and Van Teeffelen, presented similar results in 1991. Again it did not come to the front that the sudden death of individual riders was the consequence of taking EPO. "The sticking point in the whole discussion is that there is no method of detection" said Vrijman. "The real question is how to find EPO". It is not certain from urine tests. Therefore the doping controls are inefficient."

"According to Conconi you need a litre of urine to find EPO. But which rider can after a stage produce a litre of urine. No-one." Has the IOC ever questioned a manufacturer of EPO, a marketer in the middle, and said that the urine controls are against finding it.

In the medical world there is one method of detection - the blood test. The UCI must do proper tests. The riders must not meddle with the testing. According to Vrijman, the UCI as a consequence has called a meeting in Geneva on Friday. There are a number of businesses who profit from the drug taking. "The cycling calendar is too long, and moreover there are points to earn in each race. At the end of the season it is important for teams to have lots of points. That converts into lots of money. Riders from small teams must try to get lots of points, which leads to them taking forbidden substances. The UCI gives the sportsmen a moral choice, no drug taking, but that is not an honest choice. One fat fish in the form of money and a heavy penalty for drug taking is just dishonesty.

The UCI must restrict the team doctors, "To get objective doctors, the UCI must pay. A sort of business health service. Each team doctor would be changed each yaer, so that he does not become a fan of a particular team. So the UCI doctors, who would be used in the Tour of France, would be paid for by the Society de Tour de France."

"The UCI doctors would have to keep a log book for the UCI, and sit day and night with the team. They would know which riders were taking EPO. That would be clear in their tests. The great advantage of the UCI doctors would be their independence. Now the doctors eat from the gains of the team. That cannot remain."