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July 1, 2016 – A French laboratory testing doping samples at the Tour de France is now able to detect micro doses of EPO, French sports newspaper l’Equipe said on Friday, as cycling battles to mend its damaged reputation.
Many cyclists, such as disgraced American Lance Armstrong, have been banned for using the blood-booster EPO, but there were fears that riders had taken to using micro-doses that were undetectable to anti-doping testers.
Micro doses of just 500 units “injected before 11pm will still be detectable at 6am the next day and even after the sample has been diluted by excess hydration”, said the laboratory in a statement quoted by l’Equipe.
Tour director Christian Prudhomme hailed the progress made in the anti-doping fight. “The research is progressing on all sides,” he said. “The fight continues.”
EPO became the cheat’s drug of choice during the 1990s due to the huge boost it gave to an athletes endurance. The hormone produces extra red blood cells, thus carrying greater amounts of oxygen around a person’s blood and to their muscles. That and blood transfusions were the methods that cheats such as Armstrong used to make huge improvements in their performances.
Armstrong’s sordid past finally caught up with him when in 2014 he admitted in an interview on American television that he had cheated throughout his career. By then the evidence against him had already been mounting and he was stripped of his record seven Tour titles in a row from 1999-2005.
His compatriot Floyd Landis, a former team-mate, had his victory in 2006 overturned due to doping. Other Tour winners such as Dane Bjarne Riis (1996), Jan Ullrich of Germany (1997) and Italian Marco Pantani (1998) eventually either admitted to using EPO or tested positive for the substance retroactively.