Study: EPO May Not Help Elite Athletes

Authors call drug "pointless"

Caty Enders

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A new study has concluded that using the doping agent EPO in elite competition may not help improve performance. The study, published on Thursday in the British Journal of Pharmacology, reviewed 13 studies on EPO, conducted between 1991 and 2010. Most of the studies on EPO were conducted on people with average physical prowess, and researchers found “no scientific evidence” that the drug enhanced performance in elite athletes.

The popular justification behind EPO use is that it improves an athlete’s VO2 max. But the study points out that cycling test subjects have only been assessed over short distances, and nothing resembling the length of a cycling race. It also argued that VO2 max is far from a decisive factor in long-distance competition.

“An elite cyclist runs on technique, on muscle power which is supplied by oxygen and glucose and amino acids and foods, on team tactics, on weather, on millions of things,” said lead researcher Adam Cohen. “To assume that one of these factors, which is delivery of oxygen to tissue, is going to clinch the whole thing, is rather naïve.”

Cohen suggests that the lack of conclusive evidence to support EPO use—and the extensive evidence of its very real dangers—may be more successful at deterring doping than current prohibitions.

Via Bloomberg News

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