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Anorexia the new EPO?

Mar 9, 2010
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In the last year I have seen a rash of young (under 23) riders losing massive amounts of weight, going beyond losing body fat to significant reductions in muscle mass. Men and women (boys and girls?) going from healthy to stick-like bodies. The ones topmost in my head are all in the fold of USA Cycling's development program, for whatever that is worth. So if testing eliminates all illegal options to enhance performance, is this the only method of "doping" left? Yes it is legal, but this form of "doping" comes with significant damage to young bodies and cost to lifespan.

Are these kids making their own choices? Is this coming from coaches? Are teams or national associations pushing this? And since one rider disappeared for just 10 weeks and came back a skeleton, how are they losing all that weight so fast?
 
Drugs can be used to lose weight. Body builders have losing fat weight almost down to a science. A lot of female celebrities are using drugs to get incredibily thin--thin beyond just fat loss.

I would think all the common stuff, like Clen and T3, is easily detectable.
 
Well losing weight to the extent that they lose muscle mass isn't going to help them (in terms of winning, or in terms of health).

Also, Bro - what was that drug that someone accused Wiggins of taking? It takes off weight very quickly. Can't find the posts about it now.

And I vaguely remember reading something on the CN frontpage about someone (low down - Italian?) being banned for taking something to do with weight loss not long ago..
 
Apr 28, 2009
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luckyboy said:
Well losing weight to the extent that they lose muscle mass isn't going to help them (in terms of winning, or in terms of health).

Also, Bro - what was that drug that someone accused Wiggins of taking? It takes off weight very quickly. Can't find the posts about it now.

And I vaguely remember reading something on the CN frontpage about someone (low down - Italian?) being banned for taking something to do with weight loss not long ago..

Don't know about any Italians but Australian Nathan O'Neil was busted for taking weight loss pills during competition.
 
Aug 6, 2009
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It's not really anorexia, because it's all with the aim of improving performance, and there's a limit to how much you can starve yourself before your performance starts to suffer. Unlike models who just have to be able to walk down an isle without fainting. I could be wrong but I don't think that athletic weight loss is particularly dangerous. Certainly not as dangerous as being physically inactive
 

Iron Man Sam

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Mar 9, 2010
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Yes they seem to have gotten weight loss down to a fine art in recent years. I suspect this is one of the reasons why the likes of Armstrong is struggling to be at the top of the new peloton.
 
Mar 9, 2010
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Cerberus said:
I could be wrong but I don't think that athletic weight loss is particularly dangerous. Certainly not as dangerous as being physically inactive

Well, let's see what happens when one starves to the point of losing muscle... Organ damage, low white blood cell count, cardiac arythmia, kydney problems, low body temperature, hair loss, susceptibility to viruses. Sounds pretty dangerous to me.

Cerberus said:
It's not really anorexia, because it's all with the aim of improving performance

That's like saying "it's not really [EPO, steroids, speed, etc.] use, because it's all with the aim of improving performance..."
 

Iron Man Sam

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Mar 9, 2010
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kbiker said:
Well, let's see what happens when one starves to the point of losing muscle... Organ damage, low white blood cell count, cardiac arythmia, kydney problems, low body temperature, hair loss, susceptibility to viruses. Sounds pretty dangerous to me.

I think that's unlikely to happen with the sports scientists who accompany the pros. It might happen to an amateur though.

Though I think someone would realise pretty quickly that they've gone too far if they were unable to ride their bike properly through lack of energy.
 
Aug 6, 2009
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kbiker said:
Well, let's see what happens when one starves to the point of losing muscle... Organ damage, low white blood cell count, cardiac arythmia, kydney problems, low body temperature, hair loss, susceptibility to viruses. Sounds pretty dangerous to me.
Sure it does, now show some evidence that these problems commonly occur before the point where the weight loss becomes performance decreasing?

kbiker said:
That's like saying "it's not really [EPO, steroids, speed, etc.] use, because it's all with the aim of improving performance..."
No, it's not like that. Don't parse my quotes just so you can knock down straw men. It betrays just how thin your case is.
 
Jul 30, 2009
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the point about the AICAR was that it reduces body fat without reducing your muscle mass (ie power) - it seems pretty available on the internet, but as far as I could work out a programme would cost $$$$$.

Bordry thought it had been widely used last year, but although there is supposed to be a test noone has been busted for it yet. I think his assumption was that a lot of riders were looking very thin but no less powerful so he smelt a rat but couldn't set a trap for it.

Wiggins was claiming he was on 1500 cal/day - but that is below my resting metabolic rate - can you really get by on less than that AND train 3/4/5 hours a day (2500-4500cal at 75kg)? A pound of fat is 3500 cal, so you are going to shift weight fast if you can get by on that little energy but I would think you would be agonisingly hungry if you were riding hard on that little food. It can't be doable for any length of time and certainly not as you are trying to get into form - surely?
 

Iron Man Sam

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Mar 9, 2010
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Winterfold said:
Wiggins was claiming he was on 1500 cal/day - but that is below my resting metabolic rate - can you really get by on less than that AND train 3/4/5 hours a day (2500-4500cal at 75kg)?

Maybe the interviewer wrote that down wrong. It does seem a bit off.
 
Winterfold said:
Wiggins was claiming he was on 1500 cal/day - but that is below my resting metabolic rate - can you really get by on less than that AND train 3/4/5 hours a day (2500-4500cal at 75kg)? A pound of fat is 3500 cal, so you are going to shift weight fast if you can get by on that little energy but I would think you would be agonisingly hungry if you were riding hard on that little food. It can't be doable for any length of time and certainly not as you are trying to get into form - surely?

I have done six week cycles of 1700 - 1800 Cals/day while cutting weight for ultras. The training was all long, slow endurance stuff, and I feel like crap when doing it. 1500 while doing quality training for the TdF? I don't think so.
 
Nov 24, 2009
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BroDeal said:
I have done six week cycles of 1700 - 1800 Cals/day while cutting weight for ultras. The training was all long, slow endurance stuff, and I feel like crap when doing it. 1500 while doing quality training for the TdF? I don't think so.

I think that has to be interviewer error.... Surely? I mean he would be seriously struggling after any length of time riding on that little energy
 
Mar 9, 2010
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I brought in my “pro,” who is a clinical psychologist specializing in athletes with eating disorders. Here is my friend’s response…

“The point is that this is a dangerous trend in the sport of cycling and other sports as well, a trend with health implications that are clearly known in the study of anorexia and other eating disorders. And, yes, anorexics continue to function all the while their bodies break down irreparably. None of this should be taken lightly just because there is a supposed marker of when weight loss has gone too far (i.e., suffering performance). And we are talking about 18-20 year olds here as well, not independently functioning adults.

What makes extreme weight loss such a concern is that these health effects are very real and sometimes hard to detect by a medical team until the weight loss has gone too far. Furthermore, some research in the area of anorexia suggests that there may be something about these individuals on a biological level that allows them to function relatively normally at extremely low levels of weight. So yes, the top level performance of these individuals will suffer - but they still may be out there on the bike racing endangering their health.

Lastly, what should be more of a concern is the misperception held in many sports that weight loss = performance enhancement. This type of thinking is what encourages unhealthy weight loss methods and creates an environment where a dedicated athlete turns to desperate dieting (or other extreme measures - like taking weight loss drugs) to improve their performance.

So an athlete who loses large amounts of weight is definitely different from the runway model in that his/her ultimate goal is improved performance (not necessarily aesthetics), but the disorder or the medical condition or the mental condition of the individual is still the same. And the majority of individuals out there racing do not have doctors closely monitoring their health or understand that weight loss is NOT a direct link to improved performance, which makes the encouragement of weight loss by cycling peers, coaches, or the individual that much more risky.”

And I add… On the other hand, just like they had doctors helping them dope with chemicals, they now have doctors helping them destroy their bodies through weight loss.
 
kbiker said:
I brought in my “pro,” who is a clinical psychologist specializing in athletes with eating disorders. Here is my friend’s response…

“The point is that this is a dangerous trend in the sport of cycling and other sports as well, a trend with health implications that are clearly known in the study of anorexia and other eating disorders. And, yes, anorexics continue to function all the while their bodies break down irreparably. None of this should be taken lightly just because there is a supposed marker of when weight loss has gone too far (i.e., suffering performance). And we are talking about 18-20 year olds here as well, not independently functioning adults.

What makes extreme weight loss such a concern is that these health effects are very real and sometimes hard to detect by a medical team until the weight loss has gone too far. Furthermore, some research in the area of anorexia suggests that there may be something about these individuals on a biological level that allows them to function relatively normally at extremely low levels of weight. So yes, the top level performance of these individuals will suffer - but they still may be out there on the bike racing endangering their health.

Lastly, what should be more of a concern is the misperception held in many sports that weight loss = performance enhancement. This type of thinking is what encourages unhealthy weight loss methods and creates an environment where a dedicated athlete turns to desperate dieting (or other extreme measures - like taking weight loss drugs) to improve their performance.

So an athlete who loses large amounts of weight is definitely different from the runway model in that his/her ultimate goal is improved performance (not necessarily aesthetics), but the disorder or the medical condition or the mental condition of the individual is still the same. And the majority of individuals out there racing do not have doctors closely monitoring their health or understand that weight loss is NOT a direct link to improved performance, which makes the encouragement of weight loss by cycling peers, coaches, or the individual that much more risky.”

And I add… On the other hand, just like they had doctors helping them dope with chemicals, they now have doctors helping them destroy their bodies through weight loss.

This is not a new problem. It's been around endurance sports probably since ancient Greece AKA 3,500 years or so.

I'm not disagreeing with you that this is a problem I'm just saying it's been around forever and the only way to address it is with proper education.

I knew a girl 10 years ago who washed out of the sport of cycling due to anorexia and she was very talented. She got it in her head that she needed to get skinnier and skinnier and ate so little that eventually she could no longer race at all much less race well. And in this girls case she had a coach and friends like myself all begging her to eat more; so my point is that a lot of times this behavior can be internally motivated just as often as externally.

I give the above anecdote to also point out that I've only personally known one person in this sport in almost 10 years of racing who's had problem with anorexia. The majority of racers certainly want to lower their body fat % but they also do not want to lose muscle because they know this will impact their performance negatively.

I have a hard time believeing that there is some new cadre of coaches out there preaching weight loss at all costs because that kind of teaching is completely against Exercise Phys 101 and is counterproductive to everyone involved including the coach.
 
BikeCentric said:
The majority of racers certainly want to lower their body fat % but they also do not want to lose muscle because they know this will impact their performance negatively.

How true is this? Upper body muscle is largely useless. The limiting factor for performance is usually oxygen delivery not muscle strength. If 20% of leg muscle were eliminated from a rider with muscular legs to start out with, would it impact performance? Contador is not exactly a body builder.
 
Jun 19, 2009
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Cerberus said:
It's not really anorexia, because it's all with the aim of improving performance, and there's a limit to how much you can starve yourself before your performance starts to suffer. Unlike models who just have to be able to walk down an isle without fainting. I could be wrong but I don't think that athletic weight loss is particularly dangerous. Certainly not as dangerous as being physically inactive


Most strongly disagree. The psychological pressure to lose weight to this extreme indicates some damage already has been done, particularly to young riders. A few pounds taken off by caloric intake for a specific event is not the same as young, developing riders attempting to lose weight beyond normal participation. This smacks of some of the junior treatment via USACycling in the 90's and early 00's. The same "coaches" were suggesting the concept of overtraining was purely psychological and suggested to young riders suffering from that affliction get a Prozac prescription.
 
Winterfold said:
here's the article http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/driving/features/article7041787.ece

my guess is that he is eating and drinking while training and that is not accounted for in the 1500 cal?

also the article might be dated late Feb but the interview could be from the off season.

Didn't Ullrich used to go out for six hour rides with only water. He would go away for about a month and come back six kilos or so lighter, which seems to be quite aggressive weight loss but not outrageous.
 
Jun 19, 2009
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BroDeal said:
Didn't Ullrich used to go out for six hour rides with only water. He would go away for about a month and come back six kilos or so lighter, which seems to be quite aggressive weight loss but not outrageous.

Ullrich was carrying more extra kilos than that, though. It's different when a 6%/bodyfat young rider wants to lose unwanted, natural muscle as a long term program. If they're riding long enough hours to get tired they'll lose any non-essential weight. Anything more is generally unsustainable and unhealthy. How many posters know a tri-geek or wannabe that used stimulants, etc to lose weight and eventually broke down physically and emotionally? I've known several and it started innoncently enough as attempts to maintain a regime. Once it became habitual they got slower and more possessed.
Again, we're not talking about a seasoned pro with a doctor watching him.
 
Mar 13, 2009
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How is that possible when Glycogen reserves are used up within 2-3 hours of hard riding?

If I was doing that regime for a month, I'll be losing a hell of a lot more than 6 kilos.
 

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