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Commentary: Disputing Ferrari’s altitude training claims, part 2

  • By Dr. Michael Puchowicz
  • Published Feb. 22, 2013


To visualize Ferrari’s point, we created this representation of figure X from #### (1990). The actual data was intentionally not used as it would be useful to would-be dopers.

In our figure, three different IV doses of EPO are represented. The level of EPO “detectable” in the serum is then plotted out over time. The blue arrow is inserted to show the earliest time that an anti-doping EPO test could be conducted. As Dr Ferrari pointed out, even with the micro-dose regimen, EPO would still be “detectable” at this time.

However, Ferrari’s rebuttal is, to put it kindly, flawed. The most obvious issue is a complete disregard for the timeframe of events. Armstrong’s first Tour de France wins in came in 1999 and 2000. The EPO test was introduced in 2001. For at least these two years there was simply no EPO test in place. Therefore, arguing what might or might not be detectable is completely irrelevant for these years. Armstrong was free to use any EPO dose necessary. The retrospectively tested samples from 1999 confirm that Armstrong did just that. His samples were not “just a little” positive for EPO, but “flaming positive, the highest we’ve ever seen,” according to U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart in his 60 Minutes interview.

The window of detection that Ferrari focused on is not a concern at all until 2001 and only truly relevant when out-of-competition testing was later put in place in 2004.

The second major issue is Ferrari’s chain of logic. He implies that theoretically “detectable” equals positive test result and therefore theoretically “detectable” also equals “cannot be used by cyclists.”

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