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In Blood Stepped: The History Of Blood Doping In Sport

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22 May 2017 17:26

It is amusing, on a sad level, that so many need to prove whether or not this person or that blood doped. Yes, being able to put names to the procedure puts dates to it and allows us to see how widespread it was when, but it shouldn't be about the individual athlete.

Of course, what is most interesting about the need to name specific track-and-field athletes is that - certainly from where I'm looking at it, in cycling, and in the 1980s, even the 1970s - it should be about the entourage.
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23 May 2017 11:21

Nine months and fifteen pages in, a brief summary of what we know, specifically WRT cycling and the early years of blood doping:

* The story of Pierre Dumas walking into a hotel room during the 1960 Tour de France and seeing Gastone Nencini casually banging in a bag of blood while sucking on a cigarette is a myth, a misunderstanding that has been passed from hack to hack, often with wholly unnecessary embellishments;

* Jacques Anquetil was playing with his blood in the 1960s but not in ways we we consider transfusions in the sporting sense. In the 1967 Giro d'Italia he underwent a form of ozone therapy - tiny amounts of blood extracted, played about with an reinjected - and at other times he did end of season detoxes that involved transfusions.

* Eddy Merckx was offered a transfusion for his Hour record in 1972 but declined. Merckx himself has publicly spoken about this. It adds to our understanding of what was known about sporting transfusions at that stage, if nothing else.

* We have a dodgy story about Felice Gimondi, in either 1973 or 1975, at either the World Championships or the Tour de France, being caught banging in a bag of blood in his hotel room by a couple of journalists. I'm really not sure what this story tells us, even if the scene as painted by one of the journalists actually happened.

* Joop Zoetemelk spoke in 1976 about using transfusions during the Tour, as a treatment for anemia, and spoke in 1977 about not using transfusions. For me, why he felt the need to publicly distance himself from the practice in 1977 is the more interesting aspect of this story.

* We have an Italian cyclist, Luigi Giovenzana (Italian Olympic squad and Del Tongo), who has spoken about being offered transfusions in the early 1980s.

* We have Mario Beccia (Hoonved) talking of being offered transfusions in 1982 by Sassi/Conconi.

* We have Roger de Vlaeminck saying he was offered transfusions at Gis in 1984, while team-mates with Francesco Moser.

* We have Moser's Hour in 1984, in which the story about his use of transfusions changes every few years. Generally speaking, though, it is understood that he did. The team involved there extends beyond the Conconi/Ferrari/Sassi triumvirate it is usually reduced to and really needs to be identified.

* We have the LA 84 US Olympians, who very publicly were revealed to have used transfusions.

* We have Roberto Visentini (Carrera) suggesting his team doc, Giovanni Grazzi (a veteran of Moser's Hour, apparently), advised the use of transfusions.

* We have PDM at the 1988 Tour de France.

For me, the Beccia / De Vlaeminck / Visentini / PDM stories do suggest that the belief that while transfusions may have reached cycling by the 1980s but were limited only to the Olympics and the Hour is now untenable. They all suggest an Italian nexus, focused on Conconi and his 'pupils'. I am not going to say that just because the Italians were doing it then so must everyone else (the PDM story challenges this).
Last edited by fmk_RoI on 23 May 2017 11:29, edited 1 time in total.
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23 May 2017 11:26

WRT the wider picture of blood doping's early years, I think here I should defer to Aragon for a summary of what is now known. I think a couple of the basic points of it would be:

1) Ekblom's 1972 paper marks a major change in knowledge, however it would appear that knowledge may have been built on experience from the 1960s, with there being evidence that proper transfusions - not the messing around with blood Anquetil was doing - were in use in athletics then.

2) The Lasse Virén story is not as simple as we've been taught to think.

3) The idea of a Finnish nexus has been challenged, as has the idea of the Scandinavians in general being responsible for the whole thing.

That's definitely an over-simplification, I know. Over to you Aragon...
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Re: In Blood Stepped: The History Of Blood Doping In Sport

23 May 2017 21:37

This is an article by Noel Truyers on Giuseppe Saronni at the beginning of 1986, taken from Winning magazine. It described how after winning the Giro in 1983, Saronni had a disastrous 1984 and was thinking of quitting. Bike manufacturer and long time Saronni backer Ernesto Colnago advised Saronni to seek out Conconi.

The first thing that he and Saronni decided to do was get in contact with Professor Conconi, the miracle man behind Moser's 1984 World Hour Record and Milan-San Remo. "But it didn't work out" director sportif Pietro Algeri remembered "partly because physically there wasn't anything wrong. Different training principles were not exactly the cure he needed".

Colnago didn't give in "Ok, lets try Dr.Tredici instead he advised" The right man at the right time,
Tredici didn't show any pity toward Saronni. He was very strict from the very first meeting. He convinced Saronni to work with him."Thats the only way to success".

But the job wasn't easy, Saronni was suffering from anemia. Because of having used some cortisone, his weight had grown to 78kgs. "The first thing we have to do is give him back some self respect and confidence" Dr.Tredici said. Thats what happened, little by little Saronni became stronger. Two stage wins in the 1985 Giro were the first important achievements. Because of his weight, Dr.Tredici forced Saronni to live like a monk: no wine, no sweets, no pasta(Beppe loves these things). In a couple of months Saronni was back to his correct 69kgs.

To prepare for this season(1986) some doctors accompanied Saronni and two team-mates to Mexico in January, this training at altitude was important to bring the red blood corpuscles up to normal again. The last problem was overcome.


Saronni did have a decent year in 86 finishing 2nd at the Giro, but he was never near the rider he was early in his career and never took a major victory again, his last few seasons as a pro were built more on his reputation than his results. When his longtime sponsor Del Tongo saw a chance to sign 1988 World Champion Maurizio Fondriest they did, effectively dumping Saronni. Beppe along with his entourage DS Pietro Algeri, bike Sponsor Colnago and several of his team-mates moved to the Malvor team in 89 and then set up their own team in 1990, Diana-Colnago which was the forerunner of the long running Lampre team. Saronni was 33 when he retired, but his career was effectively finished by the age of 29.

The article raises more questions than it answers, one thing I would take from it is that if Saronni were blood doping, it definitely did not work for him in that period. He was a much better rider beforehand. Also got to love the nonchalant mention of Saronni taking cortisone as if it were nothing.
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Re:

23 May 2017 21:55

fmk_RoI wrote:Nine months and fifteen pages in, a brief summary of what we know, specifically WRT cycling and the early years of blood doping:

* The story of Pierre Dumas walking into a hotel room during the 1960 Tour de France and seeing Gastone Nencini casually banging in a bag of blood while sucking on a cigarette is a myth, a misunderstanding that has been passed from hack to hack, often with wholly unnecessary embellishments;

* Jacques Anquetil was playing with his blood in the 1960s but not in ways we we consider transfusions in the sporting sense. In the 1967 Giro d'Italia he underwent a form of ozone therapy - tiny amounts of blood extracted, played about with an reinjected - and at other times he did end of season detoxes that involved transfusions.

* Eddy Merckx was offered a transfusion for his Hour record in 1972 but declined. Merckx himself has publicly spoken about this. It adds to our understanding of what was known about sporting transfusions at that stage, if nothing else.

* We have a dodgy story about Felice Gimondi, in either 1973 or 1975, at either the World Championships or the Tour de France, being caught banging in a bag of blood in his hotel room by a couple of journalists. I'm really not sure what this story tells us, even if the scene as painted by one of the journalists actually happened.

* Joop Zoetemelk spoke in 1976 about using transfusions during the Tour, as a treatment for anemia, and spoke in 1977 about not using transfusions. For me, why he felt the need to publicly distance himself from the practice in 1977 is the more interesting aspect of this story.

* We have an Italian cyclist, Luigi Giovenzana (Italian Olympic squad and Del Tongo), who has spoken about being offered transfusions in the early 1980s.

* We have Mario Beccia (Hoonved) talking of being offered transfusions in 1982 by Sassi/Conconi.

* We have Roger de Vlaeminck saying he was offered transfusions at Gis in 1984, while team-mates with Francesco Moser.

* We have Moser's Hour in 1984, in which the story about his use of transfusions changes every few years. Generally speaking, though, it is understood that he did. The team involved there extends beyond the Conconi/Ferrari/Sassi triumvirate it is usually reduced to and really needs to be identified.

* We have the LA 84 US Olympians, who very publicly were revealed to have used transfusions.

* We have Roberto Visentini (Carrera) suggesting his team doc, Giovanni Grazzi (a veteran of Moser's Hour, apparently), advised the use of transfusions.

* We have PDM at the 1988 Tour de France.

For me, the Beccia / De Vlaeminck / Visentini / PDM stories do suggest that the belief that while transfusions may have reached cycling by the 1980s but were limited only to the Olympics and the Hour is now untenable. They all suggest an Italian nexus, focused on Conconi and his 'pupils'. I am not going to say that just because the Italians were doing it then so must everyone else (the PDM story challenges this).


I still don't think blood doping was anywhere near widespread in the 80s. As I said previously, Italy was weak at international level in the 80s, which might mean everyone else was blood doping, but then why the fuss about Moser in 84 or the US olympics teams. If it were common, it would hardly have ruffled feathers. I also think that if the French teams had been blood-doping, I am pretty sure Paul Kimmage would have known about it and he has never mentioned blood doping during his career.

There is also nothing to suggest a huge improvement in performance similar to the arrival of EPO, you never hear any ex-pros talk about a sudden increase in performance during the 80s, maybe Rooks and Theunisse aside. That would suggest that if it were being used, benefits were still limited unlike the 00s usage.
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Re: In Blood Stepped: The History Of Blood Doping In Sport

24 May 2017 12:37

pmcg76 wrote:This is an article by Noel Truyers on Giuseppe Saronni at the beginning of 1986, taken from Winning magazine.
Thanks for taking the time to go through your archives.
pmcg76 wrote:Colnago didn't give in "Ok, lets try Dr.Tredici instead he advised" The right man at the right time, Tredici didn't show any pity toward Saronni. He was very strict from the very first meeting. He convinced Saronni to work with him."Thats the only way to success".
Tredici was part of Moser's Hour team. Giovanni Tredici. Someone with better knowledge than me can correct this, but I think his was the Steve Peters role, the psychologist. There's an interesting quote from him on Tuttobicci about Moser's Hour:
"Sotto l’aspetto psicologico l’autoemo­tra­sfusione ha avuto un ottimo impatto sul corridore. Analiz­zando la curva di crescita del suo rendimento, non ho riscontrato particolari significativi dopo che l’ha praticata. Cre­do quindi che avrebbe mi­gliorato i record dell’ora anche senza farvi ricorso."
My translation is open to correction, but I have that as:
"From the psychological point of view, the transfusion had a great impact on the rider. Analyzing the performance curve, I did not find any significant changes after he had used it. So I think he would have improved the Hour record even without using it."
Back to Winning:
pmcg76 wrote:But the job wasn't easy, Saronni was suffering from anemia. Because of having used some cortisone, his weight had grown to 78kgs.
Talk about It Was Alright In The Eighties. You forget how casual some of these things could be discussed.

I'm not sure the rest of the article suggests Saronni was banging in bags of blood, especially given the decamping to Mexico bit and given what Tredici's stated view on transfusions (which could be BS, I know). But definitely useful information in there, thank you.
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Re: Re:

24 May 2017 13:16

pmcg76 wrote:I still don't think blood doping was anywhere near widespread in the 80s.
If this thread achieves anything, I hope it will:

1) Show the error of the belief that while blood transfusions may have reached cycling by the 1980s they were limited to the Olympics and the Hour; and

2) Show that Gen-EPO didn't just spring forth like the Immaculate Conception.

To believe that blood doping was happening in the 1980s does not mean that one believes it was widespread, it does not mean that one believes that all the teams and all the riders in the all the teams were banging in bags of blood at every opportunity. The logistics of the procedure have to be considered, as do the economics: it was complicated and it was expensive.
pmcg76 wrote:As I said previously, Italy was weak at international level in the 80s, which might mean everyone else was blood doping, but then why the fuss about Moser in 84 or the US olympics teams.
First, the fuss about LA 84: that was an American thing, largely. And typically too. Pretty much as the same sort of backlash that's associated (rightly or wrongly) with Lasse Virén after 1976. That fuss, it's important to note, is now not thought to have been the reason the IOC finally decided to ban transfusions in 1985 (from 1986 forward): John Gleaves puts that down to Don Catlin and the fear of HIV/AIDS.

WRT the fuss about Moser's Hour. I'm sure there are people here who know far more about this than I do, so perhaps here they could add their observations. Here's what I know about that Hour. Enrico Arcelli had analysed Merckx's 72 Hour and by the early 1980s was firmly of the opinion that it could be beaten. He wanted Daniel Gisiger to take it on in 1981. Gisiger had set an amateur Hour record in Zurich in '77. Gisiger, though, had been signed to Hoonved for 1982 and didn't want to commit the time to the project that Arcelli wanted, didn't want to risk his road season on it. So Arcelli hunted around and eventually landed on Moser. With Paolo Sorbini financing it, a team was pulled together from four universities, with different specialisations. Everything was given the scientific approach. So you had an unconventional bike. You had the track being treated with a special resin. You had the clothing. You had the nutrition. You had the psychology. For those who liked the idea of Merckx bashing away on the rollers in his basement as preparation for his Hour, of course this was an affront.

So: what fuss there was about Moser's Hour, how much of it related to the blood? And how did that differ from the attitude to Virén?

(The public attitude to blood transfusions is an important consideration here: they weren't against the IOC's rules, but clearly, for some, they crossed a moral line.)
pmcg76 wrote:If it were common, it would hardly have ruffled feathers. I also think that if the French teams had been blood-doping, I am pretty sure Paul Kimmage would have known about it and he has never mentioned blood doping during his career.
I want to be clear: I don't think it was common insofar as common means widespread, insofar as common means everyone was doing it. I don't hold to the belief that just because the knowledge was out there then everyone was using it. I am really only interested in evidence here (though, of course, your earlier Visentini quote does raise a smile when you think about 1987). WRT French teams, I can really only think of one I'd consider as likely - and I'm only saying likely - and that's Renault. But maybe the French didn't feel the need for blood - the jury then was still out on its effectiveness - and were happy to stick with hormone rebalancing.
pmcg76 wrote:There is also nothing to suggest a huge improvement in performance similar to the arrival of EPO, you never hear any ex-pros talk about a sudden increase in performance during the 80s, maybe Rooks and Theunisse aside. That would suggest that if it were being used, benefits were still limited unlike the 00s usage.
I don't buy the pop-guns versus howitzers argument many like to believe when it comes to showing that 1980s were more innocent than the 1990s. It we have to run with that analogy, I would say the difference between the two decades was that in the 1990s everyone was armed to the teeth, while in the 1980s it was only a few. EPO made a change to the sport because you had domestiques running wild all day long like they were Duracell bunnies. I don't believe that teams in the 1980s were banging in bags of blood to domestiques. The real difference between blood transfusions and EPO is cost and logistics: it was easier and more affordable. More could do it and it could be done more often. So you are going to physically see a step-change in performance in the 1990s while in the 1980s all you have to point to is incredible individual performances (and while that can be entertaining it is not really what I want to do here).
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Re:

24 May 2017 18:51

fmk_RoI wrote:WRT the wider picture of blood doping's early years, I think here I should defer to Aragon for a summary of what is now known. I think a couple of the basic points of it would be:

1) Ekblom's 1972 paper marks a major change in knowledge, however it would appear that knowledge may have been built on experience from the 1960s, with there being evidence that proper transfusions - not the messing around with blood Anquetil was doing - were in use in athletics then.

2) The Lasse Virén story is not as simple as we've been taught to think.

3) The idea of a Finnish nexus has been challenged, as has the idea of the Scandinavians in general being responsible for the whole thing.

That's definitely an over-simplification, I know. Over to you Aragon...

Here is a far too long answer to the item one of your list, but here is my reading about the 1972 Ekblom-study and its implications based on connecting bits and pieces of the source material.

I think it is fair to assume that the starting point for the blood doping research tradition can be traced to a 1964 Swedish study (Åstrand, Saltin et all.) in which it was noticed that there was a very strong correlation between the amount of oxygen delivered by heart and oxygen consumption, and that body use up to 90 % of the oxygen "offered" during heavy exercise.

Because there are three inputs in the oxygen delivery equation (Heart Rate x Stroke Volume x Blood Oxygen Content), it was of great interest to figure out if these factors could be manipulated independently and whether oxygen uptake was correspondingly elevated. Maximal heart rate is constant, but stroke volume can be increased slowly with exercise up to a certain point. There is very little physiologically anyone can do to manipulate the third factor (oxygen content) except to directly infuse red blood cells into the body, and this is more or less how the method of blood doping came as a subject of academic research.

This line of research started around mid-1960s and at least some attempts turned out to be futile as even simply elevating hemoglobin concentration had to be done by trial and error and it wasn't easy to solve all the factors such as amount of blood removed, storage time etc.

It should be emphasized that this wasn't done in total secrecy and some of the first findings were presented and discussed at the 1966 annual meeting of The Scandinavian Physiological Society which was held in Finland with up to a few hundred doctors and exercise physiologists participating in the meeting (there was correspondingly a few hundred lectures with up to half a dozen held simultaneously in different halls, so this one most likely didn't gain too much attention yet). While many have read questionable intentions into the story told by the Swedish speed skater Jonny Nilsson about the 1966 blood doping offer by Björn Ekblom, Nilsson has claimed at least once that Ekblom was interested on the matter as a part of scientific research.

After some dead ends and inconclusive results, at least one subject has later recalled that the final breakthrough study was conducted in 1970. These findings were published in the media in the autumn of 1971 and in a peer-reviewed journal a year later.

While now everyone "knows" that the magic of blood doping has been "known" since 1972, this isn't the whole story. The Swedish research was unique in many respects and while the findings sparked enough interest for foreign researchers to try to replicate the key findings (Russia, USA, West Germany, Finland), if one goes back to the summer of 1972 in his/her in mind the knowledge that this was the only blood doping study published thus far, one spots easily several strange phenomena and weaknesses in the study:

- There were test two groups with total of seven subjects (3+4) and no control group whatsoever. While the subjects were decent recreational athletes (relative Vo2MAX figures around ~50-60), they were far from elite runners.
- While the researchers pay attention to the significant "overnight" increases of Vo2MAX (9 %) and time-to-exhaustion (25 %) following the blood reinfusion, if one makes the comparison to the initial baseline values (ie. before blood was drawn), the corresponding figures are only around 5 % and 15 % in the 800ml group and the maximal oxygen uptake of the 1200ml group was elevated only by some 1.6 %.
- If the underlying hypothesis was that elevated hemoglobin content would increase the amount of oxygen the heart could pump with each stroke and correspondingly body could use all the extra oxygen "offered", it looks strange that neither heart rate nor rate of perceived exertion was decreased at submaximal workloads.
- The changes of hemoglobin concentrations (hematocrit) of the subjects were still very modest and the highest hemoglobin values measured were only around 16 g/dl (Hct equivalent ~48 %), so in any case one shouldn't directly jump to the conclusion that athletes tried to elevate their hematocrits to high 50s or 60s the moment they read the study even if they accepted Ekblom's key findings.

It is really difficult to evaluate how much interest the study sparked within the sports community, but many must've been interested at least on some level. In 1971 none other than the future Olympic champion Anders Gärderud showed interest into trying the method, but when one realizes that most of the published attempts to replicate the study turned out to be futile until late 1970s, one should be very cautious before taking for granted that the practice spread like a wildfire into the sports circles.

Image
He stands up as a Guinea Pig. Anders Gärderud wants to test GIH-'method' (Aftonbladet, 9/24/1971)

On the other hand, we can't really know what went on behind the closed doors outside academic world in unpublished tests and there was a German study published in 1975 (Rost, Hollman et al) which confirmed in essence the key findings of the Swedes. As an interesting anecdote, one of the conductors of the study was Dr. Heinz Liesen, who collaborated with none other than Eddy Merckx.

That connection proves very little as such, but it should be at least fair to assume that the subject was discussed when doctors with first-hand knowledge on the research such as Liesen, Åstrand and Ekblom treated their patients. If they weren't interested in helping the patients, the method was in any case in essence very simple and the technical information so easily accessible that almost any doctor could assist an athlete to try the method.
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25 May 2017 15:42

Many thanks for the above fmk_Rol and Aragon. Very informative.
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Re:

27 May 2017 06:33

fmk_RoI wrote:2) The Lasse Virén story is not as simple as we've been taught to think.

3) The idea of a Finnish nexus has been challenged, as has the idea of the Scandinavians in general being responsible for the whole thing.

I hate to make bombastic allegations with little evidence to back them up, so I'll open up a little the source material why I mentioned just a few pages ago that it was "beyond debate" that there was a blood transfusion culture in Finland in 1970s.

This is simultaneously an introduction to the item three of your list.

When the first preliminary information about the Ekblom study was published in September 1971, Risto Taimi, one of the most respected Finnish sports journalists, wrote in an editorial of one sports magazine that the revelations weren't anything totally new and there was "clear evidence about the beneficial effects of this type of procedure even here in Finland". That is to say that, the practice went on even before the method was seemingly invented.

Antero Raevuori, still today an active journalist and author of multiple books on the history of different types of sports, read these words with great interest and out of curiosity approached Mr. Taimi about the subject and subsequently authored - as far as I know - the first look into the so-called blood doping practices in Finland.

It was October 1971, a full year before the world had heard of Lasse Viren or Pekka Vasala.

It should be emphasized that both of these two journalists were really "in-the-know" into the Finnish sports circles and very respected by the Finnish coaches and athletes and while not everyone was happy about the revelations, they weren't blackballed from the community. On the contrary, during the following five years, Taimi would coauthor the official (auto)biography of Pekka Vasala (1974) and Raevuori collaborate a similar book with Lasse Viren and his coach (1977), which was translated into English under the title Lasse Viren: Olympic Champion.

"Blood transfusions appear to be a very sensitive subject", notices Raevuori about the difficulty of doing the research on the article. "Nobody wants to disclose any names, the veil of secrecy is surrounding the discussions; everyone has heard something, nevertheless nobody knows nothing".

Still many people commented on various aspects of the subject, among them Risto Taimi, who revealed why he had made the comment about "clear evidence" of transfusions in Finland:
Yes, it was the summer of 1968, when a runner - one of our top runners - mentioned to me that Jouko Kuha had received a blood transfusion before he broke the 3000m steeplechase world record. The informant specifically emphasized to me that "do not print this information"...
A year ago [1970] one prominent sports doctor told after Juha Väätäinen made his record run (10000m 28:19.6) that he had received a transfusion. So I made the claim based on this information. If the information isn't accurate, it is because these people have lied to me.

The author also interviewed other sports people such as sports doctors, a coach and athletes who also told that they were well aware about the rumours of transfusions being carried out in Finland.

Dr. Kaarlo Hartiala - a regular accredited team doctor and a future member of the IOC Medical Commission - mentioned that "on theoretical level, the matter has been known for a long time". He was a prominent Finnish participant of the 1966 meeting of Scandinavian exercise physiologists where blood doping was discussed and referred perhaps precisely to the research carried out by Åstrand, Ekblom and others discussed there.

The caveat is that the consensus view of the interviewees was that the method wasn't carried out in order to take unethical shortcuts but only to fine-tune blood values when they have fallen. "If the exercise load is far too heavy, blood values will shrink, in which case transfusion is the last option to elevate the values", told one runner. "It is a fact, that if the hemoglobin value is low, oxygen uptake will elevate if the athlete is given red blood cells", Dr. Pekka Peltokallio - the accredited Finnish team doctor of many future Summer Olympics - also stated as a fact.

Peltokallio went on to admit publicly right after the 1972 Summer Olympics that he had heard about a "few cases" of transfusions taking place in Finland, detailing three years later that there were three cases he knew with absolute certainty but "of course also rumours". (In 1981, he admitted administering one transfusion himself in 1972 for the Summer Olympics)

The openness of the discussion is striking, because Finns became later very reserved in their comments particularly with foreigners after the accusations against Lasse Viren started to gain real momentum when he repeated his 1972 Munich triumph in 1976. When marathon runner Kenny Moore visited Finland in 1977 to solve the enigma of Viren and blood doping, the article he wrote for the Sports Illustrated was good but still quite thin in substance at least on blood doping. Viren said that "nobody does it" and Peltokallio was more reserved than in his earlier comments in the Finnish media:
Peltokallio has not himself experimented with blood doping, but draws his information from Swiss and Swedish studies. "The reason why people connect Finns with blood doping is that there was a Finnish sportsman some years ago— just about the time of the first experiments in Sweden—who had a hemoglobin level of 11. He tried it and improved dramatically." Peltokallio declines to mention this man's name, but other sources say he probably was Jouko Kuha. who came from obscurity to break the world steeplechase record in 1968.

The case that "blood doping" was in the toolbox of Finnish athletes in early 1970s and as early as 1968 seems to be pretty solid. On the other hand, even today there is strikingly little evidence that the method was more than treatment of anemia. It enhances performance, but how much did Finns jump into the blood doping bandwagon is another matter.

It could be that the "official truth" that Finns were the vanguards of "blood doping" and elevating their hematocrits to 50s and 60s from early on is mostly based on the anachronistic reading of the Ekblom study and connecting it with the transfusion program. On the other hand, it should be remembered that the first athlete (Mikko Ala-Leppilampi) who in 1981 confessed his transfusion use in early 1970s claimed specifically that hematocrits were elevated far beyond their natural values. He told many weird things and had questionable motives, but his testimony is there.

(If you click my website from the left, the first item is a Finnish-language blog entry on Ala-Leppilampi that seems almost readable through google translate now that they updated the algorithm. I am working also on an entry on the confession of Kaarlo Maaninka and on an abridged translation of that entry)
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23 Jul 2017 16:03

An interesting comment in the Dekker book:
Jacques knows his dope. He knows what's on the market, what works and what doesn't. And he knows what kind of doping offers the least chance of getting caught: blood transfusions. He tells me the big names in the pro peloton have been doing it for years and that he even experimented with it himself in his days as a rider.
Jacques is Jacques Hanegraaf, who was a pro from 1981 to 1994.
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Re:

24 Jul 2017 20:36

Nothing sensational, damning nor new, but in order to tie in some loose ends on the case of Francesco Moser, if my reading is sound, according to these documents on the Ferrara-case from 2000, it appears that the Italian has stated that he used "repeatedly" autotransfusions from 1983 to 1985.

https://sites.google.com/site/dopingitalia/home/documenti/processo-conconi---richiesta-di-archiviazione-parziale-per-prescrizione-dei-termini-2000

Here is the relevant quote in Italian: "quella di FRANCESCO MOSER, il quale ha dichiarato (v. 5.1. del 24/4/99) di aver praticato ripetutamentel’ autoemotrasfusione dal 1983 al 1985."
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Re: Re:

25 Jul 2017 11:16

Aragon wrote:Nothing sensational, damning nor new, but in order to tie in some loose ends on the case of Francesco Moser, if my reading is sound, according to these documents on the Ferrara-case from 2000, it appears that the Italian has stated that he used "repeatedly" autotransfusions from 1983 to 1985.

https://sites.google.com/site/dopingitalia/home/documenti/processo-conconi---richiesta-di-archiviazione-parziale-per-prescrizione-dei-termini-2000

Here is the relevant quote in Italian: "quella di FRANCESCO MOSER, il quale ha dichiarato (v. 5.1. del 24/4/99) di aver praticato ripetutamentel’ autoemotrasfusione dal 1983 al 1985."
So he stopped when they made it illegal? Right. (Though elsewhere in the report it's clear they don't believe all transfusions magically stopped in 1985 just because the law changed.) The starting in 83 just about fits with other evidence. Thanks for this.

That has Conconi talking transfusions with a skier in 82, the same year Beccia says he spoke to him about it. Elsewhere in that page, it seems to suggest he started research programme in this in academic year 81-82.

(I'll bet you love that that page blames the Scandinavians for starting it all ...)

In 1984 Conconi got Lire 50 million (about GBP 20 thousand) to buy a fridge and centrifuge?

They seem to be saying that he wasn't definitely on to EPO in 1987 (but may have started research?) but that he was definitely on to it by 1991. Their statements from cyclists don't seem to support a conclusion that he was using EPO before the 1990s.
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Re: Re:

25 Jul 2017 13:36

Two quick points from the interesting paragraph:

1) While geographical favouritism and friendship with Conconi could explain a part of Moser's access to blood doping use, his casual sounding claim that he used transfusions "regularly" makes it sound as if transfusions were a part of the regular toolbox of the "peloton" in early 1980s.

2) Unlike often quoted, Moser doesn't specifically confess (at least in this context) having used transfusions specifically for his 51151 meters in the heights of the México City.

fmk_RoI wrote:So he stopped when they made it illegal? Right. (Though elsewhere in the report it's clear they don't believe all transfusions magically stopped in 1985 just because the law changed.) The starting in 83 just about fits with other evidence. Thanks for this.

It is conclusively proven that Ferrara lab continued autotransfuse at least until the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, but I am not quite sure if they continued with runners and if there were that many cyclists to begin with. But in any case, the 1988 PDM-case showed that without retrospective retesting, the "banned without test"-years are always quite meaningless, particurly when the testers had even no knowledge on how thick liquid was flowing inside the veins of the dopers (contrast this to mid-1990s when testers knew by name the skiers who had their hematocrits close to 60 and even then the skiers didn't care one **** and still took rEPO).

The case of Italy is still slightly different. In addition of breaking doping regulation, the reason why particularly Italians either seized to blood dope or are super-reluctant to talk about the post-1985 could be also a legal one, as "autoemotrasfusione" was also really illegal under the law from that year onward due to efforts by Sandro Donati and Adriana Ceci.

In Moser's case, him stopping blood doping in 1985 is slightly more plausible, as for the 1986 season, he was already 35 years old with retirement just around the corner so he might not've wanted to push the envelope.
fmk_RoI wrote:They seem to be saying that he wasn't definitely on to EPO in 1987 (but may have started research?) but that he was definitely on to it by 1991. Their statements from cyclists don't seem to support a conclusion that he was using EPO before the 1990s.

I should read the material with more time before commenting on this one, but I've noticed that there are lot of references to the hormone erythropoietin in the scientific literature in the late-1980s because there was interest in 1) response to hypoxic/altitude training and 2) on the fluctuations in the natural levels as it was one marker of possible blood doping use. It raises directly eyebrows to see word the word "erythropoietin" associated with nice guys like Ilario Casoni (transfused one XC-skier prior to 88 Winter Olympics) and Francesco Conconi when in the end this research has absolutely nothing to do with rEPO-doping nor even with the synthetic version of it:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3384528
(That paper published in 1988 was almost certainly researched a year before, so there might be a clue to '87)
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25 Jul 2017 18:27

Not sure that last paper was researched due to synthetic EPO making its appearance, as Conconi had already authored another paper back in '83 that dealt with the effects of introducing (naturally produced) EPO into cultures.
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Re: Re:

28 Jul 2017 13:27

Aragon wrote:1) While geographical favouritism and friendship with Conconi could explain a part of Moser's access to blood doping use, his casual sounding claim that he used transfusions "regularly" makes it sound as if transfusions were a part of the regular toolbox of the "peloton" in early 1980s.
Just how much a part of the regular toolbox of the peloton in the early 1980s is, of course, one of the things we're trying to get at here. We do have the comment form Moser's team-mate Roger de Vlaeminck, about when he was a member of the 1984 Gis-Tuc Lu squad. "They spoke to me about blood transfusions." De Vlaeminck told Friebe. "When I was riding for Francesco Moser, they asked whether I wanted to give half a litre of blood to put in the fridge. I said no…"

Given Ferrari went with Moser to Supermacati in 1986 I'm not sure how much I take Moser's 1985 cessation as anything other than a reference to the change in Italian law.
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Re: Re:

01 Aug 2017 17:43

fmk_RoI wrote:
Aragon wrote:1) While geographical favouritism and friendship with Conconi could explain a part of Moser's access to blood doping use, his casual sounding claim that he used transfusions "regularly" makes it sound as if transfusions were a part of the regular toolbox of the "peloton" in early 1980s.
Just how much a part of the regular toolbox of the peloton in the early 1980s is, of course, one of the things we're trying to get at here. We do have the comment form Moser's team-mate Roger de Vlaeminck, about when he was a member of the 1984 Gis-Tuc Lu squad. "They spoke to me about blood transfusions." De Vlaeminck told Friebe. "When I was riding for Francesco Moser, they asked whether I wanted to give half a litre of blood to put in the fridge. I said no…"

Given Ferrari went with Moser to Supermacati in 1986 I'm not sure how much I take Moser's 1985 cessation as anything other than a reference to the change in Italian law.

No disagreement here, while clearly there was some reluctance to administer transfusions by the Ferrara docs after 1985, for instance Italian cross country skier Silvano Barco has told that the Italians didn't want to carry the stored blood to foreign countries (And yes, Calgary is quite far away from Italy unlike France).

He also has told that he donated his blood in 1985, but that it wasn't administered until 1988 and even then there was a lot of cloak-and-dagger stuff such as cryptic oral instructions and following a marked car for a half an hour and in the end the transfusion was administered in the childen's playroom of an Italian doctor.
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Re: Re:

10 Aug 2017 18:09

Here is an interesting enigma on the R&D side of blood transfusions.

While almost the classic textbook definition of blood doping is "reinfusion of own stored blood", as seen below, this hasn't been the most popular method due to methological difficulties:

1) Italians - high glycerol freezed blood (-90 celsius)
2) Russians - according to Mikhail Kalinsky, researched both refrigerated and frozen blood.
3) Finns - supplies of blood bank, some mostly unsubstantiated rumours about blood donated during high altitude training that was later reinfused
4) LA84 cyclists - matched donors.
5) Moser protegés of Ferrari - possible access to the high glycerol freezer of the Ferrara Lab
6) Joop Zoetemelk - supply of a blood bank
(ie. not a single confirmed case of refrigerated blood)

One must only read almost any review on the subject and find out that many leading authors are skeptical whether an athlete can elevate his/her hematocrit significantly by storing blood and re-infusing it later. This is simply because the stored blood deteriorates faster than an athlete can fully recover from the anemia caused by the blood donation and correspondingly the elevations in total hemoglobin are low with this technique. While the authors admit that the recovery problem can be circumvented by freezing the blood, this technique is time-consuming and expensive method and the equipment is and was very rare.

What we do know today is that the researchers were wrong and there is the simple and clever refreshing trick described in detail by Tyler Hamilton in his memoirs, which allows athlete both to take full advantage of the RBCs stored at +4 C in a standard refrigerator and in addition, this method does allow also the use of multiple blood bags:
The Secret Race wrote:To get multiple bags ready, however, was a lot more complicated. You couldn't take two or three BBs our four weeks before the race, because the blood loss would cripple your training. The method that had evolved solved this problem through simple rotation: taking out fresh BBs while re-infusing stored BBs back into your body... For example, if you wanted three BBs for the Tour de France, you would begin ten weeks before the race, and your plan might look like this:

10 wks before: 1 BB out
6 wks before: 2 BBs out, then 1 BB in
2 wks before: 3 BBs out, then 2 in
Race: 3 BBs in (1 per week)

This method is never mentioned in anywhere in the literature and even haematologist Michael Ashenden who is usually considered the leading authority in developing detection methods of blood doping had no clue about the method in 2002 pretty much dismissing the reinfusion of regrigerated RBCs for doping purpose:
A strategy to deter blood doping, 2002 wrote:If the athlete elects to store cells at 4°C, they must be harvested within 42 days of a major competition. This means that an athlete will experience a period of reduced aerobic capacity during the several weeks the bone marrow requires to replenish the harvested cells. From an exercise physiology perspective, this does not constitute an ideal preparation for a major competition.

What I do find interesting that both Fuentes and Ferrari knew about this "trick" seemingly independently around 2001-2002, when transfusing became fashionable due to fears of rEPO test. Either the method had been dormant in the toolbox of the people "in-the-know" for ages or the flow of information was fast when riders switched teams. As the idea never came into mind of any academic blood doping researcher, it is unlikely that many people had the same idea simultaneously independently of each other.

In summary, there is zero clue when, where and by whom this "trick" was invented by. If it was in the 1970s or 1980s, the applicability of blood doping could've been significantly higher than previously considered.
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Re: Re:

24 Aug 2017 15:17

Aragon wrote:(If you click my website from the left, the first item is a Finnish-language blog entry on Ala-Leppilampi that seems almost readable through google translate now that they updated the algorithm. I am working also on an entry on the confession of Kaarlo Maaninka and on an abridged translation of that entry)

Here is the English translation of the Mikko Ala-Leppilampi blood doping essay I promised, if anyone is interested. It is a truncated version and roughly half of the length of the original essay with even some people and paragraphs omitted completely and no references as only a handful of readers have any access to Swedish and Finnish sources. All the references can be found from my blog if anyone is truly interested.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bz2uJgdLxwkbeVZwRHVrVEpVREE/view
(Google-Drive PDF-link)

I am first one to admit that it is quite dull and clumsy in many parts, not to claim that the original Finnish version was of H.L. Mencken - quality.
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10 Sep 2017 18:41

Peter Janssen's story, in summary.

- reads an article about Conconi and Moser ("I thought hello, if I was a cyclist myself, I'd like to try it sometime, that's at least something. Instead of all this nonsense. '")
- in November (1987?) he's watching the ten o'clock news and sees a story about a blood bank in Velp ("I called them right away the next day, that was the beginning.")
- he practices on himself first and then introduces the procedure to PDM
- in 1988 it was one bag in Nantes (end of stage two or start of stage three?) and two bags in Strasbourg (end of stage nine). He only names Rooks and Theunisse (Bertus Fok's diary also showed Jörg Müller received one bag of blood in Strasbourg)
- the blood bank in Velp was charging 1,500 Guilders per blood bag (that's GBP 400 or USD 750)
- PDM again used blood bags in 1989, one bag on the Thursday before the start in Luxembourg, two bags in Bordeaux (at the end of stage seven)
- Janssen left PDM in 1990 and joined Panasonic where blood bags were also used
- when the blood bank in Velp went bust Janssen was able to make arrangement with a German supplier
- he left Panasonic pretty quickly
- in 1993 former Panasonic rider Eddy Bouwmans (Novemail - Histor) approached him directly and two bags of blood were taken out and stored in the German facility

What's new? We now have Panasonic using blood transfusions in 1990. We have one rider from Novemail - Histor turning to transfusions as late as 1993. We have an actual cost for the procedure. We have a picture of one of the ways knowledge of the procedure was spreading indirectly.

Have I missed anything important?
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