Types of Drugs and Methods Used in Cycling

EPO (erythropoietin):

Blood Doping:

Human Growth Hormone:

Pharmacological,chemical and physical manipulation:

Steroids:

Stimulants

Gene Doping

Amphetamines

Narcotic Analgesics:

Diuretics


EPO (erythropoietin): EPO is a chemical form of blood doping that first came about in the late 1980s allowing aerobic potential to be increased by increasing the blood’s oxygen transfer capacity. Its misuse in the professional ranks arrived soon after it was used on the patients it was designed for. EPO artificially boosted the body’s red blood cell count . Boosting an athlete’s red blood cell count (and thus the efficiency with which oxygen is transported around the body) in order to improve performance, is done by injecting erythropoietin – a hormone produced by the kidneys that stimulates production of red blood cells – and it gives a massive advantage in performance. It was an undectable until a test became available in 2000. The use and abuse of EPO was rampant in professional cycling, according to riders who competed at the time. This is underlined by the amount of cyclists caught using the substance. The greater the amount of red blood cells available, the more oxygen can be carried from the lungs to the muscles.  EPO is typically taken prior to a big training block – out of competition – to ensure that by the time of the competition all traces of the synthetic EPO will have disappeared. It enables the doper to train harder and longer than he would be able to “naturally”. Cheaters can also “micro dope” by staying under the fail limit, as an aid to performance on the event.

The obvious danger with EPO is that the body’s capacity to produce red blood cells naturally is compromised, with the athlete ultimately having to rely on injections of the hormone ( for the rest of his life ) .In May 2007, the T-Mobile cycling team suspended two doctors who allegedly supplied EPO to former Tour de France winners Bjarne Riis, Jan Ullrich and other riders on the team (then known as Team Telekom) between 1992 and 1996, more than a decade earlier.
Though EPO is now a prohibited substance in professional cycling, and riders are regularly tested for its presence in their bodies, its use is still a problem.  CERA is the most efficient form of the Drug; the ‘third generation’ EPO was only detectable in drug testing from MAY 2008.

Blood Doping: Blood doping is when an athlete illicitly boosts the number of red blood cells (RBCs) in his or her body in order to enhance athletic performance.   An athlete has  healthy blood ‘removed’ during periods when the body is at its freshest (e.g after a period of rest), which blood is stored and transfused ‘back’ into the rider when needed.

The benefit of a transfusion of half a litre of blood can provide the athlete with an additional half litre of oxygen to muscles per minute, at the same time increasing the capacity of the muscles to use oxygen by up to five percent. Autologous blood transfusion (transfusion of your own blood) is not detectable and is perhaps not technically “doping”, but remains a banned technique affording a massive boost to an athlete over fatigued competition.

Poorly stored blood leads to serious illness and blood clots, and by pushing “thick blood” with high red cell count through the body, massive strain is put on the heart. The main function of red blood cells is to carry oxygen to the muscles, meaning a higher RBC count can dramatically improve an athlete’s performance by kicking up their aerobic capacity and stamina.

Blood doping in the traditional sense involves harvesting red blood cells either from the athlete or compatible donor and then saving them until needed. Red blood cells can be easily frozen and later thawed for use without significant loss of their oxygen-carrying properties. Just prior to a critical competition, these harvested red blood cells are then reinjected into the athlete’s circulatory system.
The major blood doping case in professional cycling is known as Operación Puerto, the case name given by Spanish police. The investigation broke in May 2006 when Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes was accused of helping 200 professional athletes from a number of sports engage in blood doping to enhance their performance. Among these athletes were some of the best known cyclists in the world, including several of the top finishers at the most recent Olympic Games and Tours de France.
As of May 2007, fifteen cyclists whose names surfaced in the Operación Puerto investigation have been acquitted, while three riders — Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso, and Michele Scarponi — have either admitted doping or been seemingly convicted by substantial evidence linking them to the practice.

 Human Growth Hormone:  When the aim is to increase strength and muscular power (to  improve technique) protein, natural or synthetic anabolic agents in combination with hyper-protein diets and muscle-building exercises are frequently used. The balance between the increase in muscle mass and the loss of fat mass can be maintained by growth hormones associated with aminoacids, drugs with anabolic properties, or with nutritional supplements.

Growth hormones stimulate cell growth, aids in muscle mass building and their recovery. Typically it is injected prior to a period of training (to aid muscle development during training), but can be used during competition to speed up recovery from fatigue.  Abuse of HGH leads to thickening of the bones (particularly the jaw bone), swelling of hands and feet and increased organ growth.

HGH is currently not tested for efficiently.

Pharmacological,chemical and physical manipulation: By the use of either substances or particular methods it is possible to hide the presence of banned substances in, or even to  alter a urine sample. Most obvious techniques used is to use someone else’s urine for your sample, or by using Epitestosterone, Bromantan, diluted urine, Hemodilution, by reducing kidney tubular secretions or by manipulating the body’s Testosterone/Epitestosterone ratio, simply to beat the test.

 Steroids: A primary form of cheating that has occurred in professional cycling is found in the use of performance-enhancing drugs, including anabolic steroids. There are various steroids that enhance muscle development and the kidney’s ability to produce natural EPO. Testostorone – being one of them – both accelerates the body’s EPO production ability, and aids in muscle recovery. Natural or man-made compounds that act like testosterone – such as Nandrolone, Tetrahydrogestrinone (THG), Stanozolol, Androstenedione, or DHEA – can increase muscle size, strength and power. It also increases aggression and competitiveness, and allows one to train harder, for longer.

In males the known side effects are kidney damage, development of breasts, premature baldness, shrinking and hardening of testicles, sterility and impotence, acne, increased aggression and sexual appetite. In females the side effects to subjects have been the development of male features (such as facial hair & a deepening of the voice), cause increased aggression, mood swings, depression, irregular periods and increase the risk of jaundice and liver damage.

Steroids stay in body for up to six months and are easily detectable in urine.  Anabolic steroids encompass an entire family of drugs related to testosterone, the male hormone, and which stimulate muscle growth in the body. Anabolic steroids may be taken by pill, injection or administered through the skin.
American rider Floyd Landis, who won the 2006 Tour de France, was stripped of his championship a month after the race when the results of a drug test showed higher-than-allowable levels of testosterone as well as the presence of synthetic testosterone in his body.

Stimulants: Substances like Amphetamines, Ephedrine, Cocaine, Ecstasy & Salbutamol  act on the brain to stimulate the body mentally and physically, allows athletes  to compete at higher levels – for longer – by reducing feelings of tiredness, and can aid weight loss.

Gene Doping: Actually altering the individual human’s DNA index, is at the forefront of bioresearch.   The essence of gene therapy is not the EPO hormone itself, but augmenting the ‘gene’ that produces it, to make more. It’s been possible to put a gene into a virus, a disabled virus that acts as a kind of a moving van to put that gene into cells- therefore multiplying the effect. There are already some ready-to-use genetic systems which allow precise adjustments of gene’s activity. Although un-proven and more importantly, undetectable; gene doping is the next generation of avenue for cheats. The initial Gene therapy was designed to treat people with chronic kidney disease and with cancers, for people who are unable to make good amounts of red blood cells themselves.

Amphetamines: A relatively less common problem in professional cycling is the abuse of amphetamines as a performance-enhancing drug. These days, amphetamines are the drug of choice only for the unimaginative or unsophisticated cheats. Whether you call it crank or speed, it’s the same thing, but fortunately use of these off-limit uppers seems to be pretty rare these days; at least no high profile busts since Tour of Spain winner Angel Arroyo had his title yanked in 1982 for testing positive.
Amphetamines are a stimulant, and mimic the effect of adrenaline on the central nervous system. Users may feel more alert, more energetic and less fatigued.
Abuse of amphetamines remains tied to one of cycling’s most tragic stories, the death of British rider Tom Simpson on Mont Ventoux during the Tour de France in 1967 due to heart failure brought on by a combination of heat, dehydration, physical stress and the drugs he had taken on the morning of the race.

Narcotic Analgesics: Morphine, Methadone, Heroin and Pethidine are the strongest known painkillers. Their use increases the pain threshold enabling an athlete to compete and train longer / harder, and reduces or eliminates pain to compete despite injury or illness.

These substances are highly addictive, cause loss of concentration, balance and co-ordination, drowsiness, nausea and vomiting, constipation, fainting and comas, and are easily detectable if tested within three months of having been taken.

Diuretics are products that help eliminate fluid from the body (such as Acetazolamide, Chlorthalidone and Triamterene). They are used to lose weight quickly (water) and to disguise the presence of other banned substances by increasing the rate at which urine is produced and expelled.

Side effects are constituted by dehydration, dizziness, cramps, headaches, nausea, kidney damage, and is easily detectable.