Thursday, August 02, 2007

This is why they dope

Because the odds are stacked against getting caught.

How many blood tests for EPO or blood doping do you think were run during the Tour de France?

A grand total of forty post-race blood tests, according to this article. I'm assuming that's for a full blood workup for EPO, exogenous RBCs/blood doping, etc. They do more hematocrits than that before the Tour, but those are simple and easy to do and all you need to stay out of trouble do is to keep your values within normal ranges.

Let's see, let's assume they tested 20 stage winners of 20 stages. That leaves 20 random tests for the entire rest of the peloton during the tour.

For an average of about 160 riders riding 20 stages. Or about 3200 rider-stages.

Just don't win a stage and you have less than 1 percent chance of getting blood-tested on any given stage. There's perhaps a 80-90% chance that you won't get blood-tested at all during the Tour on any stage. And as I understand it, if the test isn't administered within a few days after EPO administration, it won't detect it.

Or even if all the tests were given randomly, there's still less than a 2% chance of getting blood-tested on any given day.

And let's see, those 40 blood tests netted something like a 5% hit rate - Vinokourov for blood doping and Mayo for EPO. If the whole peloton is doping at that frequency, there are somewhere between 6 to 8 other riders in the Tour who would have tested positive for EPO or blood doping. If they were tested, that is. All the other testing (400 pre-stage "blood screens", 140 post-stage urine tests) netted only a couple positives, Moreni and Sinkewitz, correct? (0.4% hit rate). Seems like it would be appropriate to concentrate the tests where they're yielding results, i.e., positives. (Although Floyd Landis's disputed positive test from last year was on a post-stage urine sample).

Yes, the idiocy continues, and will continue as long as there are pretty good odds if you dope you won't get caught.

Why not just hire twenty certified phlebotomists and delay the start of the toughest Pyrenees stage by an hour next year and pull blood from every rider? And make sure all the samples are analyzed and results announced before they roll into Paris. Preferably by a lab that follows rigorously correct scientific procedures. Yeah, it would be expensive to run all those tests. So? How expensive is all the bad publicity and infighting and accusations and uncertainty?

Update: A step in the right direction - The Tour of Spain organizers have announced that they will conduct at least 40 blood tests for EPO among 80 or more unannounced tests, and "On Aug. 30, when all the riders are assembled for the start in Vigo, a medical team will submit every participant to a health and doping test."

And how about EPO and blood doping tests on the top twenty riders in the standings for both the general and mountains classifications immediately before or after the toughest mountain stage of the Tour? That would show they're really serious about weeding out any drug cheats.


Sinkewitz tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone on June 8, 2007. An Out-of-Competition test conducted by a German [anti-doping] agency. So he tested positive before the Tour de France, but competed in the race.
Oh yeah, good point! That does change the numbers. So that's only 1 positive during the Tour testing for 540 urine tests and "blood screens" (whatever that is - I'm guessing just a hematocrit).

Versus 2 positives for 40 post-stage blood samples.
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