Beating the 'vampires': a doctor speaks...

Wednesday, October 5, 2005 11.00pm
A former US Postal team doctor has told French sports newspaper L'Equipe about what he believes to b
PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM Prentice Steffen, doctor at the US Postal squad in 1996, spoke to French sports newspaper L'Equipe on Thursday about what he has learned to be one of the latest practices in the professional peloton. According to Steffen - who works currently with the TIAA-CREF development team in the US, and doesn't name his source - ahead of the last Tour de France riders had "taken EPO to raise their haematocrit level, perhaps up to around 60. Then a doctor extracted some of their blood, storing it in special pockets, so that their haematocrit level returned to normal so that they could pass the pre-Tour medical tests without any problems. "The teams know that during the race the 'vampires' (UCI blood testers) can turn up any day, but always between seven and eight o'clock, or half-an-hour either way," continues Steffen. "After that, there are no more controls, and the riders can re-inject their own blood. They then ride the stage with a massive advantage - with their haematocrit level around between 55 and 58 - then, back at the hotel, extract the excess blood again so that their haematocrit returns to a normal level so that they can sleep without any [health] risks, and so that they will be all right for any possible controls the next morning." Autotransfusion - re-injecting your own blood - is a method, according to Steffen, only used "for important stages - in the mountains, or for time trials, perhaps. It's really simple to do, and there's no risk, except if you're caught by the police." It's another frightening insight, which, if true, reveals the lengths to which teams and riders will go to to cheat the drug tests.

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