Difference between taking EPO and high altitude training

Just curious

12 messages
26/08/2012 at 11:41

Just wondered if anyone on here knew much about EPO. Haven't really heard too much about it until now, with the Lance Armstrong thing and, from what I have read, taking EPO would seem to have the same effects as what I've read about the benefits of altitude training i.e. increasing red blood cells and thus the ability to carry oxygen to the muscles. So are whatever risks that come along with taking EPO (presumably it's a bit of a strain on the heart) the same as with altitude training? Are they effectively the same thing with one just being a shortcut and the other involving actual hard work?

You could, if you wanted, make an argument for either both being fine, or both being an unfair advantage, rather than allowing one and not the other. Not sure it's an argument I would make but I don't think it's as clear cut as it's made out to be.

Anyone know anything about this who could enlighten me?

26/08/2012 at 12:21

Matt, I don't think you can make an argument at all for training at altitude being the same as taking EPO.

It would be the same as saying that taking steroids is ok, because they're a version of a naturally occuring substance in the body. Some people will naturally have more testosterone etc, but it doesn't mean someone else looking to equalise this with steroids is ok.

26/08/2012 at 12:32

From what I remember the RBC production improvements from EPO were far above what the body could produce naturally, even at altitude. Here's an interesting article on the physiological effects:

 

http://www.sportsscientists.com/2007/11/effect-of-epo-on-performance-who.html

26/08/2012 at 13:06

Stevie, from a standpoint that one is an easy shortcut and one involves a lot of hard work and so is "morally" superior, then it is indeed a difficult argument to make, although, if the end results are the same (although from what ross and the article he linked to says, they aren't) then I think you could just about make a case for them not being as different as many think. Both would seem to be gaining an advantage by artificially altering something in the body (one by a drug, one by going up high). Anyway, as I said, it's not an argument I would agree with and am just playing devils advocate really.

I guess what I'm really driving at is the other standpoint against illegal drugs of all types - that they're bad for you. Here I think the waters are muddied a bit more because, if increasing the red blood cells in your body over a relatively short time is bad for you (I don't know enough to know if this is true, so would like more information) then presumably it's bad for you if you do that by altitude training as well.

I was just struck by the similarities between what I've read about the goals of taking EPO and altitude training and would like to know what the differences are in effect on the body.

At the end of the day though, I do agree with you.

26/08/2012 at 13:18

One is just making use of a natural phenomenon, one is meddling with your own constitution via drugs. It's like saying someone who lives in a hilly area is getting an unfair advantage over someone who lives on the flat, and instead takes drugs to equalise it.

Not sure there's anything bad with altitude training in terms of rucking yourself up. Otherwise the runners who train and live there for life would surely have massive problems.

What would be interesting is if they scrap the banned list, and make everything available.

Would some athletes risk death by their 30s just to take a bit of time off their pbs?

26/08/2012 at 13:37
Stevie G . wrote (see)

What would be interesting is if they scrap the banned list, and make everything available.

Would some athletes risk death by their 30s just to take a bit of time off their pbs?

I'm certain that some people would. Take the world of competitive body building. It's rife with drug use, and early death is quite common - typically from cardiac disease. Yet people will continue to take the drugs that are shortening their lives, purely so they can be the strongest/biggest competitor. 

 

27/08/2012 at 18:05

Yeah, bodybuilding is utterly bonkers. AFAIK, it's split into two 'divisions' (dunno what the correct term is) - one for all natural, i.e. no steroids, and the other where anything goes, including a lot of stuff which is actually illegal in most countries. The all natural bodybuilders look huge, but still fairly normal. The other ones just look like freaks.

27/08/2012 at 18:19

Wasn't there that survey in America where athletes were asked via a secret ballot that if they took a drug that was (1)undetectable,(2) would guarantee an Olympic Gold medal,(3)but kill them by the age of 40, would they take it. 70% said yes.

I've mentioned this before, the late Ron Pickering very publicly highlighted the danger of drug taking in sport following the death of the German long jumper Birget Dressel whose system literally collapsed under the cocktail of substances she was taking. It seems to many that the clampdown on drug taking in sport is about winning prizes fairly when its really about stopping athletes killing themselves though ambition like Dressel.

Edited: 27/08/2012 at 18:19
13/01/2013 at 18:18

 

ross riley wrote (see)

From what I remember the RBC production improvements from EPO were far above what the body could produce naturally, even at altitude. Here's an interesting article on the physiological effects:

 

http://www.sportsscientists.com/2007/11/effect-of-epo-on-performance-who.html

Depends on use. Phelps used an altitude tent but then he only had a couple of races lasting a few minutes each. Compare to Lance Armstrong (convicted of using EPO / blood transfusions) who raced 5 hours a day for 3 weeks during the Tour de France. Phelps is considered a hero whereas Armstrong a fraud!

MattDA makes a good point in that there is an argument for either both being fine, or both being an unfair advantage, rather than allowing one and not the other.

14/01/2013 at 09:46

the Brownlee brothers use altitude tents - brought them some success at last year's Olympics  

EPO use amongst cyclists was for one very simple reason - it keeps RBC levels at artificially high levels following every injection - at whatever altitude.  altitude training only produces a short term effect - as soon as the athlete stops being at altitude their RBC levels naturally drop.  

14/01/2013 at 10:09

Altitude training involves a lot of hard training where the air is thinner. Taking EPO involves cheating and taking a short cut to winning.

Nothing to discuss there really.

14/01/2013 at 10:17

Yes the relevant difference is one is against the rules and the other isn't - that explains why one athlete is a fraud and another isn't.  

There are good health related reasons why epo is banned - not just around having a dangerously high haemocrit either there are other health implications.    There are health reasons why blood transfusion in banned - I think the cyclist Riccardo Ricco's recent health scare was to do with a self transfusion gone wrong.  Whether well regulated transfusions are a risk I don't know - but if you allow them for sport then you will get people without the money to have it done properly doing it themselves.     

I don't know if there are any health concerns around altitude tents or training at altitude - if not then there isn't really a case for banning it - though it does give the well funded athletes a big advantage - Wiggo did a lot of training at altitude last year.  


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