Doping in XC skiing

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Sep 25, 2009
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Tubeless said:
It is possible to record a high Hb after spending an extended amount of time at altitude. During my college years (NCAA cross-country skiing), I used to live at 5000 feet and trained at higher elevations - and recall one specific blood test where my Hb was 17.4 g/l, Hkr was 52.4. No EPO required (this was in the early 1980's).

I don't know whether Kikkan spent a month or longer at altitude before the 2006 Olympics - but since the elevation there was right around 5000 feet, it would make sense the prep camp was up even higher. There were several skiers that were caught for high Hb in 2006, and the 3 North Americans (Randall, Crooks, Zimmerman) all seem non-suspicious with the benefit of hindsight:

http://olympgames.blogspot.ca/2006/02/four-more-skiers-suspended-for-high.html
that haemoglobin fluctuates with altitude is well known. it is is also well known that turin was at about 5000 feet. my suspicion was aroused, as i stated above by several factors: (i) by a jump in performance we have not seen in years(ii) the ironic comparisons by randall's coach to armstrong and hamilton (yes, if you invoke a hindsight, it is quite funny) (iii) by the amount of deviation from what seemed her normal value of 13.2 (22%) (iv) by the vague self-assurances of being prone to high values yet not having a dispensation. (v) by being an experienced professional athlete surrounded by professional staff who should know how to handle a dehydration prior to testing at the olympics. btw, she was, according to other sources, on the ground for at least 35 hours when she tested.

i don't know if she doped. i even gave her a credit for never triggering the situation again, at least officially. but most athlete's suspected around here demonstrated a lot less than what i listed above for randall.
 
It's not just Randall. It that she went for being by far the best American to one of 4 really, really good one, in one season. I see no reason for the US team to lose any relay this year, other than from lack of experience racing at this LEVEL.

Their post-race interviews at Quebec offered an amount of rhetoric that got all hairs on my body re-arrange.
 
Apr 9, 2012
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Kikkan really showed here potential last season. Stats: http://www.fis-ski.com/uk/604/613.html?sector=CC&competitorid=49824&type=result&rec_start=0&limit=50
She was the world’s best sprinter, but also performed reasonable in longer races. Remember that each heat in a sprint competition may last up to three and a half minute, and to win you must go 4 times. The difference up to an < hour of steady effort is most of all a mental challenge according to some. Starting out as a sprinter and then starting to perform in longer races is also a common development I XC.
 
May 23, 2010
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Dear Wiggo said:
Great info!

Do you know what your natural Hgb/Hct was? ie living at sea level?

Also, do you know what altitude skiiers tend to compete at?

When living at sea level, my Hb is normally 14-15 g/l. Very little fluctuation in fact. I used to follow it regularly, checked twice a year. After an altitude camp at 5000 feet of 10 days or more, it would jump to just above 15. To get a substantial increase requires an extended stay at altitude.

FIS has an altitude limit of 1800 meters (or 5900 feet) for world cup and world championship races.
 
May 23, 2010
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python said:
that haemoglobin fluctuates with altitude is well known. it is is also well known that turin was at about 5000 feet. my suspicion was aroused, as i stated above by several factors: (i) by a jump in performance we have not seen in years(ii) the ironic comparisons by randall's coach to armstrong and hamilton (yes, if you invoke a hindsight, it is quite funny) (iii) by the amount of deviation from what seemed her normal value of 13.2 (22%) (iv) by the vague self-assurances of being prone to high values yet not having a dispensation. (v) by being an experienced professional athlete surrounded by professional staff who should know how to handle a dehydration prior to testing at the olympics. btw, she was, according to other sources, on the ground for at least 35 hours when she tested.

i don't know if she doped. i even gave her a credit for never triggering the situation again, at least officially. but most athlete's suspected around here demonstrated a lot less than what i listed above for randall.

Kikkan's performance in 2006 Olympics was not remarkable - 53rd on the classic 10 km, 9th on the 1.2 km freestyle sprint. Not indicative of doping.

Her rise has been relatively steady, and she's come on strong in sprint over the past two seasons - and in distance events this year. But she's still being beaten by a mile by the queen of Norway, Bjorgen.

I just had my Hemoglobin tested - 14.0 g/l, living at sea level. My highest measured value (17.4%) is 24% higher, due to altitude living & training.

When you arrive at high altitude from sea level, the body's first reaction is to respond to the lower oxygen levels by reducing plasma (which will increase Hb as it's measured as g/l of blood). You'll end up peeing away lots during days 2 & 3 up high. Full compensation to recover the lost plasma back takes about a week. It is unlikely, however, that this was the case for any of the athletes caught with high Hb - if the race is at altitude, you'll prepare for it by training up high just before.
 
Sep 29, 2012
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Tubeless said:
When living at sea level, my Hb is normally 14-15 g/l. Very little fluctuation in fact. I used to follow it regularly, checked twice a year. After an altitude camp at 5000 feet of 10 days or more, it would jump to just above 15. To get a substantial increase requires an extended stay at altitude.

FIS has an altitude limit of 1800 meters (or 5900 feet) for world cup and world championship races.

Thanks.

Did you ever track the drop upon returning to sea level?
 
Sep 29, 2012
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Tubeless said:
When you arrive at high altitude from sea level, the body's first reaction is to respond to the lower oxygen levels by reducing plasma (which will increase Hb as it's measured as g/l of blood). You'll end up peeing away lots during days 2 & 3 up high. Full compensation to recover the lost plasma back takes about a week. It is unlikely, however, that this was the case for any of the athletes caught with high Hb - if the race is at altitude, you'll prepare for it by training up high just before.

Great insight again, thanks.

As the body's increased EPO/Hgb production cycle is primarily hypoxia-based, it would seem to be of no effect when an increase occurs if you're competing at altitude. You're competing at altitude, so that increased Hgb is just counteracting the reduced oxygen pressure in the atmosphere yes?

Being at higher altitude to the competition site would potentially have a greater increase in Hgb, but the drop in Hgb upon returning to lower altitude is pretty quick yeah?
 
May 23, 2010
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Dear Wiggo said:
Thanks.

Did you ever track the drop upon returning to sea level?

Not via a blood test, but a rule of thumb is that the benefit will last as long as the stay up high.
 
May 23, 2010
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Dear Wiggo said:
Great insight again, thanks.

As the body's increased EPO/Hgb production cycle is primarily hypoxia-based, it would seem to be of no effect when an increase occurs if you're competing at altitude. You're competing at altitude, so that increased Hgb is just counteracting the reduced oxygen pressure in the atmosphere yes?

Being at higher altitude to the competition site would potentially have a greater increase in Hgb, but the drop in Hgb upon returning to lower altitude is pretty quick yeah?

Not sure what you're getting at but it's worth separating the Hemoglobin value (measured in grams / liter of blood) from the total Hemoglobin mass. E.g. if your Hemoglobin value is 15.0 g/l and you have 5 liters of blood, your total Hemoglobin mass is 5 * 15 = 75 grams.

While EPO levels go up immediately after arriving at altitude, it takes time for the body produce enough new red blood cells to make a difference in total Hemoglobin mass. The relative value measured in g/l goes up simply because the total blood volume drops - and the loss of plasma is in fact counter-productive to endurance performance. You can have an "ok" race by arriving at the race site at altitude the day of the race - but days 2 & 3 are typically not the best.

Another rule of thumb is that it takes 1 day per 1000 feet of elevation gain for the body to make the necessary adjustments to the lower oxygen pressure - these changes relate to heart rate, breathing frequency and plasma volume. The change in total Hemoglobin takes a minimum of 10 day stay up high.
 
Sep 29, 2012
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Tubeless said:
Not sure what you're getting at but it's worth separating the Hemoglobin value (measured in grams / liter of blood) from the total Hemoglobin mass. E.g. if your Hemoglobin value is 15.0 g/l and you have 5 liters of blood, your total Hemoglobin mass is 5 * 15 = 75 grams.

While EPO levels go up immediately after arriving at altitude, it takes time for the body produce enough new red blood cells to make a difference in total Hemoglobin mass. The relative value measured in g/l goes up simply because the total blood volume drops - and the loss of plasma is in fact counter-productive to endurance performance. You can have an "ok" race by arriving at the race site at altitude the day of the race - but days 2 & 3 are typically not the best.

Another rule of thumb is that it takes 1 day per 1000 feet of elevation gain for the body to make the necessary adjustments to the lower oxygen pressure - these changes relate to heart rate, breathing frequency and plasma volume. The change in total Hemoglobin takes a minimum of 10 day stay up high.

What I am saying is - if 2 athletes at sea level are performing relatively at X & Y and they both go to altitude, for training and then a race, their body's having sufficient time to adapt and respond to the hypoxia, I would expect them to continue to perform at relative X & Y.

Just because a skier had a higher Hgb, it's driven by hypoxia which the other athelete should also experience, to the same extent, and even though not measured, you'd expect their Hgb to increase as well.

I am curious, given the numbers you cite above, why cyclists train at altitude for as little as 2 weeks and yet ride so well afterwards - it would hardly seem to be from naturally increased Hgb mass given they return to sealevel for at least a week.
 
May 23, 2010
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Dear Wiggo said:
What I am saying is - if 2 athletes at sea level are performing relatively at X & Y and they both go to altitude, for training and then a race, their body's having sufficient time to adapt and respond to the hypoxia, I would expect them to continue to perform at relative X & Y.

Just because a skier had a higher Hgb, it's driven by hypoxia which the other athelete should also experience, to the same extent, and even though not measured, you'd expect their Hgb to increase as well.

I am curious, given the numbers you cite above, why cyclists train at altitude for as little as 2 weeks and yet ride so well afterwards - it would hardly seem to be from naturally increased Hgb mass given they return to sealevel for at least a week.

There are surprising differences between athletes in altitude performance. When I was skiing NCAA's, I had a Norwegian team mate who was no match from sea level through 7,500 feet. Above that altitude he'd almost always beat me. His best race was at a college meet that was held at 10,600 feet.

Note that altitude performance is not all about the relative Hemoglobin value. Some athletes have muscles that are able to absorb oxygen from blood more fully than others. When you go up in altitude, the difference between air pressure and tissue pressure (which is what enables oxygen molecules to transfer from blood to tissue) gets smaller - and it's believed there are individual differences in tissue pressure. At even moderate altitudes, perfectly good oxygen attached to red blood cells / Hemoglobin gets returned back to the lungs unused as the muscles were not able to absorb it.

A 2-week stay at a sufficiently high altitude is long enough to increase Hemoglobin values. Tapio Wideman, a Finnish member of the FIS medical commission during the 1990's has said that each 1 g/l increase in Hemoglobin can decrease the actual race time by as much as 2.5%. A 2-week training camp at 7,000 feet may be sufficient to induce such a change.
 
Sep 29, 2012
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Tubeless said:
There are surprising differences between athletes in altitude performance. When I was skiing NCAA's, I had a Norwegian team mate who was no match from sea level through 7,500 feet. Above that altitude he'd almost always beat me. His best race was at a college meet that was held at 10,600 feet.

Note that altitude performance is not all about the relative Hemoglobin value. Some athletes have muscles that are able to absorb oxygen from blood more fully than others. When you go up in altitude, the difference between air pressure and tissue pressure (which is what enables oxygen molecules to transfer from blood to tissue) gets smaller - and it's believed there are individual differences in tissue pressure. At even moderate altitudes, perfectly good oxygen attached to red blood cells / Hemoglobin gets returned back to the lungs unused as the muscles were not able to absorb it.

A 2-week stay at a sufficiently high altitude is long enough to increase Hemoglobin values. Tapio Wideman, a Finnish member of the FIS medical commission during the 1990's has said that each 1 g/l increase in Hemoglobin can decrease the actual race time by as much as 2.5%. A 2-week training camp at 7,000 feet may be sufficient to induce such a change.

Thanks. The info and history is fascinating, and I was unaware of the tissue pressure although now that you mention it, I like the sense it makes. A bit similar to the concept of osmosis or the body's ability to absorb water better when there's electrolyte molecules to ease the passage.

Would blood pressure have an impact on that? ie higher BP enhances oxygen transfer through tissue? Heading OT now, I realise.

The 2 week cycling training camps are followed by 2 weeks taper at sea level then a week racing on flats before hitting the mountains in week 2 of a GT - so it's essentially 3 weeks at sea level. But I am getting way OT here, so please don't feel the need to respond inthread, unless I need correcting.
 
Dec 10, 2012
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"Climbers' build"

Aren't some people being unfair with comments about certain skiers not having a climber's build?

Isn't what a cyclist might think of as a climber's build not really transferrable to skiing, as in skiing the upper body muscle would help get up the climb, whereas on a bike it would be deadweight?

Nice to see Solemdal win at the weekend, last season she was a good shoot away from a win, good to see it happen for her.
 
davidhughes said:
Aren't some people being unfair with comments about certain skiers not having a climber's build?

Isn't what a cyclist might think of as a climber's build not really transferrable to skiing, as in skiing the upper body muscle would help get up the climb, whereas on a bike it would be deadweight?

Nice to see Solemdal win at the weekend, last season she was a good shoot away from a win, good to see it happen for her.

Indeed, you can't just judge people's climbing ability by their weight in cross country skking.
 
Dec 10, 2012
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Tyler'sTwin said:
WOMEN'S WORLD CUP TOTAL SCORE

1. NEUNER Magdalena 990
2. DOMRACHEVA Darya 945
3. MÄKÄRÄINEN Kaisa 807

138 points separating the top 2 is more exciting than 45 points? Domracheva will smash everyone next year.

Really? Not smashing Berger so far. And if Solemdal keeps up the shooting ...
 
Bavarianrider said:
Indeed, you can't just judge people's climbing ability by their weight in cross country skking.

I'm a climber myself at the level I compete at, and I've only ever managed to be <80kg in much younger years of high training volume.

In case of Bjoergen, she visually has many kgs of muscle bulk, difficult to use efficiently on an extended uphill effort at under jogging speeds, but at (near) maximum heartrate effort. I fully support such a build to bring the best short hill performance on the planet, but being top-5 or so on long climbs, makes me itch. She's like a Serena Williams on skis, no-one is more muscular. Or Lance, for that matter.
 
May 23, 2010
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Dear Wiggo said:
Thanks. The info and history is fascinating, and I was unaware of the tissue pressure although now that you mention it, I like the sense it makes. A bit similar to the concept of osmosis or the body's ability to absorb water better when there's electrolyte molecules to ease the passage.

Would blood pressure have an impact on that? ie higher BP enhances oxygen transfer through tissue? Heading OT now, I realise.

The 2 week cycling training camps are followed by 2 weeks taper at sea level then a week racing on flats before hitting the mountains in week 2 of a GT - so it's essentially 3 weeks at sea level. But I am getting way OT here, so please don't feel the need to respond inthread, unless I need correcting.

Here's a useful article that explains the oxygen diffusion process - blood pressure is not a factor:

http://www.elmhurst.edu/~chm/vchembook/260acidbasebal.html

Altitude training enhances the body's ability to adapt breathing frequency, plasma volume and carbon dioxide levels to subsequent visits to altitude. It's the basic training effect - the more you train your body to do something, the more easily it will respond. A 2-week stay at altitude followed by a 2-week taper at sea level will eliminate any Hemoglobin mass increase obtained in altitude - but is still useful as a prep for a repeat visit to altitude during the grand tour.

But as we know, the pros have other useful ways to fix the red blood cell count, so they don't need carefully timed visits to altitude for that :)
 
Cloxxki said:
I'm a climber myself at the level I compete at, and I've only ever managed to be <80kg in much younger years of high training volume.

In case of Bjoergen, she visually has many kgs of muscle bulk, difficult to use efficiently on an extended uphill effort at under jogging speeds, but at (near) maximum heartrate effort. I fully support such a build to bring the best short hill performance on the planet, but being top-5 or so on long climbs, makes me itch. She's like a Serena Williams on skis, no-one is more muscular. Or Lance, for that matter.

----------------------
http://www.seher.no/863609/marit-bjorgen-kritiserer-fredrik-skavlan
Another picture of her there...

I agree that Bjørgen is suspicious. However a lot of the races in XC have not got many long uphills anymore. It's usually shorter ups and downs in a quite short round that is used several times in the longer distances. Because of the number of mass sprints, being stronger in the upper body is a much better idea than it used to be in XC-skiing.
Bjørgen is a product of weight training. In swimming we saw an increase in performance when weight training was introduced, it's not a huge surprise that weight training also helps in XC were you also use legs AND arms to move forwards.
 
Armchaircyclist said:
I agree that Bjørgen is suspicious. However a lot of the races in XC have not got many long uphills anymore. It's usually shorter ups and downs in a quite short round that is used several times in the longer distances. Because of the number of mass sprints, being stronger in the upper body is a much better idea than it used to be in XC-skiing.
Bjørgen is a product of weight training. In swimming we saw an increase in performance when weight training was introduced, it's not a huge surprise that weight training also helps in XC were you also use legs AND arms to move forwards.

This. Courses these days are more "sprinter" friendly. Shorter laps for spectators forces this in many ways.

Have a look at Kikkan. Not as beefy as Marit, but pretty bulky too. She is doing better and better also in distance racing.

Kikkan on the left:
XC-Ladies-Back-profile.jpg
 
Sep 25, 2009
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...to continue with the upper body/arms development in the elite female xc skiers... here's justyna - a no slouch herself.

(she is very selective with respect to publicly available images of her musculature... only a handful can be found)

kowalczyk_gl_2.jpg
 
I totally see how muscle bulk is helpful for sub-minute hills. I however have problems that some with such extreme physique would also challenge on 2-minute hills at the end of a brutal week-long tour. Not every competitor is developed as specifically. Others find their uphill speed in cyclist-like builds. Less weight, more speed. They do lose out on top speed and short uphill bursts. To lose ground on a 20-minute suffer fest, makes no sense to me.

Yes, Johaug does have a bit of an advantage over Bjoergen on long hills, but look at the difference between them. Johaug is spicy, but not a strength skier. Her high-cadance style lends credibility on her out-climbing Bjoergen. However, few others manage.

In cycling, I would be uncomfortable if a 200m track sprinter, even if he's an Olympian, would be able to hang to my wheel on an Alp. Let alone if he'd barely be dropped by a Contador-like specialist.
 
Feb 15, 2011
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I feel like climbing is so much different in skiing though. I can certainly kill people uphill that I would be dropped by double poling, but in cycling those people can stay with me much better because they have power in the legs, while I just can go anaerobic on climbs well. So part of it is how well you can recover and racing style based on that. Different conditions also have a big impact; I'm much better on wet snow than dry cold snow which favors the super strong.

Bringing this back to Marit, she is a power skier, but only since ~2010 when she really started to dominate. Before that she was no where near the level she is now. I attritube that to crazy weight training and a serious ramp up in training. I suppose I could envision that she is doping, but I don't think she is, because it would be too obvious. Also, I know the Americans are not doping, and Randall can almost compete with Marit.