Ed Coyle's paper about LA delta efficiency is a fraud.

Jul 19, 2009
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Its interesting to see Ed Coyle's paper regarding LA's changes in efficiency, cited around here sometimes:

Improved muscular efficiency displayed as Tour de France champion matures.
J Appl Physiol. 2005 Jun;98(6):2191-6.

It looks as though the well informed members of this forum are already aware that the main result of this paper ie: an 8% improvement in cycling efficiency over a 7yr period, is quite out of the ordinary. Just so that everyone is aware though, there is one very important aspect of this paper that should be made clear....

Ed Coyle lied in the methods.

He did NOT use the same cycle ergometer for all testing sessions reported in the paper and he did not conduct a dynamic calibration on the ergometers that were used. Hence there is no way of knowing whether the power output was the same between test sessions. This is fact verified by people who were working in Ed's lab at the time. The data contained in this paper is considered next to worthless (by some of the world's top cycling physiologists) and many letters of complaint have been written to the editor asking for an explanation as to why a case study with such blatant disregard for scientific rigour has been allowed to be publsihed in a journal with such high standards.
 

Eva Maria

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May 24, 2009
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Krebs cycle said:
Its interesting to see Ed Coyle's paper regarding LA's changes in efficiency, cited around here sometimes:

Improved muscular efficiency displayed as Tour de France champion matures.
J Appl Physiol. 2005 Jun;98(6):2191-6.

It looks as though the well informed members of this forum are already aware that the main result of this paper ie: an 8% improvement in cycling efficiency over a 7yr period, is quite out of the ordinary. Just so that everyone is aware though, there is one very important aspect of this paper that should be made clear....

Ed Coyle lied in the methods.

He did NOT use the same cycle ergometer for all testing sessions reported in the paper and he did not conduct a dynamic calibration on the ergometers that were used. Hence there is no way of knowing whether the power output was the same between test sessions. This is fact verified by people who were working in Ed's lab at the time. The data contained in this paper is considered next to worthless (by some of the world's top cycling physiologists) and many letters of complaint have been written to the editor asking for an explanation as to why a case study with such blatant disregard for scientific rigour has been allowed to be publsihed in a journal with such high standards.
Ross and Jonathan did a good review of this a while back

Part 1
http://www.sportsscientists.com/2008/09/coyle-and-armstrong-research-errors.html

Part 2
http://www.sportsscientists.com/2008/09/coyle-armstrong-research-installment-2.html
 
Jul 19, 2009
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Thanks for the links Eva. Those Sth African boys are from a good pedigree as former students of Tim Noakes. They know their stuff!
 
Mar 18, 2009
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I've discussed this till I've gone blue, but there are also other glaring errors in Coyle's paper that have a marked bearing on his conclusions. Even Jackhammer, the staunchest of LA fans, admitted that a high school maths teacher could see Coyle was wrong.

This is Table 2 from Coyle's paper summarizing his data:



Coyle's conclusions were basically Improved Efficiecy + Weight Loss = 18% Improvement in Power-to-Weight Ratio.

As Kreb's Cycle and Eva Maria have pointed out, the efficiency calculations are highly suspect.

As you can see from the Table 2 data, percentage body fat was not measured in 1999 and lean and gross body weights are actually heavier than either 1992 or 1993. So the weight loss part of the equation is clearly incorrect. (Coyle based his weight loss argument on Armstrong's estimated racing weight of 72-74 kg, which was neither measured and nor was it relevant considering all data is from preseason and not racing season).

As you can also see from Table 2, weight and power are listed which gives power-to-weight ratios of 4.74 in preseason 1992, 4.99 in preseason 1993, and 5.07 in preseason 1999. This results in improvements of 6.9% compared to 1992 preseason and 1.6% compared to preseason 1993 - nowhere near the reported 18%. Again, Coyle comes up with this figure because for 1999 he used the measured preseason power with Armstrong's estimated racing weight rather than the measured preseason body weight.

So when you look at Coyle's conclusions, efficiency is highly questionable, weight loss is incorrect and the improvement in power-to-weight ratio is also incorrect. A fine bit of rigorous scientific study IMO!
 
To the OP, this was discussed big time in the thread entitled: Reasons for Lemonds decline. Andrew Coggan and the Science of Sport guys made an appearance in the thread.
The following is what I wrote and summarises some of my main problems with the paper. It was a reply to Andrew Coggan who was a student of Coyle and was defending the paper.
The reason I'm asking you is that you are defending Coyle's work, regarding the muscular effiency, yet many other questionable findings (at the very least) have been pointed out, thus surely devaluing his paper as a whole. His formulas have already been questioned, as have alot of other aspects by the Science of Sport guys.
You mention the very high VO2 Max. Coyle measured it five times, and then took the highest value, why not the average? The values ranged from 71.5 to 81.2.
Secondly a VO2 Max of 81.2, in 1993 by the way, is not higher than Miguel Indurain, who was at 88. Coyle claimed it was higher than Miguel. Secondly, Lance's VO2 Max in 1999 was 71.5 - the year he first won. So clearly VO2 Max, which Coyle attribute some of Lance's advantage to, is questionable to say the least.
Coyle has said that Lance's heart is the equivalent to the heart of a seven foot man. Yet Coyle never officially measured it, in the appropriate way. Yet, the medical reports leading up to his cancer treatments note that his heart was within normal limits. There is clearly no basis for Coyle to make such an assumption, that the heart was the equivalent to the size of a seen foot man.
And in relation to his weight, which Coyle attributes so much performance improvements to, the figureS show that Lance lost all of one Kilo, approx two pounds). And this figure is arrived at using Coyle's own study and the words of Lance, because Coyle, bizarrely, measures Lance's weight five times, in four different months. These months were January, September, August and November. Surely this cannot be right, in a scientific sense, to measure at different times.
 
Jul 8, 2009
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Digger said:
You mention the very high VO2 Max. Coyle measured it five times, and then took the highest value, why not the average? The values ranged from 71.5 to 81.2.
I have no doubt that most of the criticisms are accurate, but let me just note that taking the average would not be correct. You could use the median value, perhaps, but not the "average".

However, I would actually use the second highest value myself. The reason is that there are many possible reasons for a VO2 max measurement being measured lower than the actual VO2 max - lack of proper motivation, fatigue, different phase of training cycle, and others. Even using different test protocols can mess with it. On the other hand, there are very few things than can cause it to be measured higher than it actually is - pretty much some sort of equipment or tester failure is the only reason. By using the second highest value, you are more than adequately protecting against that.

I'd go further, though - people make way too much of VO2 max. Not only is there the measurement repeatability problem, but it just doesn't have the kind of really tight correlation everyone seems to think it does. I see people saying so and so couldn't have ridden such and such because his VO2 max is "x" and I have to laugh. Say it takes me, who weighs 155 pounds, 66ml/kg to generate a certain wattage in a certain gear on a certain road surface with certain wind conditions with a certain bike weight in a certain position on the bike. Even assuming you could find someone else with the exact same variables (almost impossible), it still might take them only 62ml/kg to do it. There is definitely a "limit" out there, but it is literally impossible to quantify.

Please don't take this as a suggestion that drugs are not rampant in the peloton. It should be obvious to most that they are (no more so than many other sports of course). And it is undoubtedly true that a trained athlete with a VO2 max of 60 will never win the Tour De France. But beyond such relatively useless statements, VO2 max is more of a curiosity than anything else. I know some coaches like to measure it to check improvement, but it never does anything other than confirm what they could already see in training rides and races.
 
egtalbot said:
I have no doubt that most of the criticisms are accurate, but let me just note that taking the average would not be correct. You could use the median value, perhaps, but not the "average".

However, I would actually use the second highest value myself. The reason is that there are many possible reasons for a VO2 max measurement being measured lower than the actual VO2 max - lack of proper motivation, fatigue, different phase of training cycle, and others. Even using different test protocols can mess with it. On the other hand, there are very few things than can cause it to be measured higher than it actually is - pretty much some sort of equipment or tester failure is the only reason. By using the second highest value, you are more than adequately protecting against that.

I'd go further, though - people make way too much of VO2 max. Not only is there the measurement repeatability problem, but it just doesn't have the kind of really tight correlation everyone seems to think it does. I see people saying so and so couldn't have ridden such and such because his VO2 max is "x" and I have to laugh. Say it takes me, who weighs 155 pounds, 66ml/kg to generate a certain wattage in a certain gear on a certain road surface with certain wind conditions with a certain bike weight in a certain position on the bike. Even assuming you could find someone else with the exact same variables (almost impossible), it still might take them only 62ml/kg to do it. There is definitely a "limit" out there, but it is literally impossible to quantify.
Coyle uses VO2 Max as a reason for Lance's success.
 
Apr 8, 2009
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Didn't Coyle admit in the past year or so that he made mistakes on that analysis? I seem to remember reading that somewhere earlier in the year.
 
Mar 19, 2009
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Digger said:
Coyle uses VO2 Max as a reason for Lance's success.
Yeah thats true...The whole thing is off. He was paid big time by Lance as a lot of others have been.
 
Jun 22, 2009
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a lot of people have probably already read the ashendon article/interview but it's illuminating in many ways.

i think that his criticsms of coyle's work are the most articulate and the most damning.

link to interview

(you have to scroll half-way down to read the criticism of coyle but the entire Q&A is worth a read if you haven't already)

EDIT: just checked out the work at sportscientists.com links above, very thorough and they have conveniently linked to original study and other important docs, kudos to those guys
 
Jul 19, 2009
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Ed Coyle provided a photo as 'evidence' that the same ergometer was used but all you can see in the photo is Lance's upper body and some handlebars! There was no ergo in the picture!! :confused:
 
Mar 18, 2009
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Krebs cycle said:
Ed Coyle provided a photo as 'evidence' that the same ergometer was used but all you can see in the photo is Lance's upper body and some handlebars! There was no ergo in the picture!! :confused:
That's consistent with the evidence in his paper! :D
 
Mar 18, 2009
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coffeebean2 said:
Didn't Coyle admit in the past year or so that he made mistakes on that analysis? I seem to remember reading that somewhere earlier in the year.
The only mistake to which Coyle has admitted is citing the wrong paper for the precise method used to calculate delta efficiency.
 
Mar 18, 2009
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Krebs cycle said:
Ed Coyle provided a photo as 'evidence' that the same ergometer was used but all you can see in the photo is Lance's upper body and some handlebars! There was no ergo in the picture!! :confused:
When/where was this?

FWIW, I can personally vouch for the existence of the ergometer that was stated to be used, as it was the one I employed for my dissertation. IOW, the Aussies were flat-out wrong in saying that no such ergometer was ever made.

Whether Armstrong was always tested on that ergometer is a somewhat different question, and one which I have no specific knowledge (since I'd gradauted before Armstrong was ever tested in Coyle's lab).
 
Mar 18, 2009
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Krebs cycle said:
Its interesting to see Ed Coyle's paper regarding LA's changes in efficiency, cited around here sometimes:

Improved muscular efficiency displayed as Tour de France champion matures.
J Appl Physiol. 2005 Jun;98(6):2191-6.

It looks as though the well informed members of this forum are already aware that the main result of this paper ie: an 8% improvement in cycling efficiency over a 7yr period, is quite out of the ordinary. Just so that everyone is aware though, there is one very important aspect of this paper that should be made clear....

Ed Coyle lied in the methods.

He did NOT use the same cycle ergometer for all testing sessions reported in the paper and he did not conduct a dynamic calibration on the ergometers that were used. Hence there is no way of knowing whether the power output was the same between test sessions. This is fact verified by people who were working in Ed's lab at the time. The data contained in this paper is considered next to worthless (by some of the world's top cycling physiologists) and many letters of complaint have been written to the editor asking for an explanation as to why a case study with such blatant disregard for scientific rigour has been allowed to be publsihed in a journal with such high standards.
1. Coyle's finding that efficiency improves over time in highly-trained cyclists has since been confirmed in several cross-sectional and longitudinal studies.

2. The only evidence that the same ergometer was not used is the word of some unnamed graduate students.
 
Mar 18, 2009
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lean said:
a lot of people have probably already read the ashendon article/interview but it's illuminating in many ways.
I agree, but I'd say it sheds far more light on Ashenden than on the subject at hand (and I don't mean that in a good way).
 
Mar 18, 2009
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Eva Maria said:
Ross and Jonathan did a good review of this a while back
...except, of course, for the fact that they never really addressed the fact that gross efficiency (which is what really matters) also changed.
 
Mar 18, 2009
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Digger said:
Coyle uses VO2 Max as a reason for Lance's success.
No, he concluded that Armstrong's "growth" as a cyclist was the result of 1) improved efficiency, and 2) a reduction in body mass.

(BTW, Armstrong's VO2max has been measured in different labs on a number of occasions, with the data reported in the lay press. The two that come to mind are 1) at the OTC in Colorado Springs, where it was 84 mL/min/kg despite being at ~2000 m altitude, and 2) at Appalachian State University, during his well-known training camp in Boone, NC. The data for #1 can be found in a Scientific American article just prior to the Atlanta Olympics, but I don't know off-hand where one might find the second.)
 

Eva Maria

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May 24, 2009
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acoggan said:
No, he concluded that Armstrong's "growth" as a cyclist was the result of 1) improved efficiency, and 2) a reduction in body mass.

(BTW, Armstrong's VO2max has been measured in different labs on a number of occasions, with the data reported in the lay press. The two that come to mind are 1) at the OTC in Colorado Springs, where it was 84 mL/min/kg despite being at ~2000 m altitude, and 2) at Appalachian State University, during his well-known training camp in Boone, NC. The data for #1 can be found in a Scientific American article just prior to the Atlanta Olympics, but I don't know off-hand where one might find the second.)
Funny how you seem to know Armstrong's V02 but Armstrong claims not to know it.

Keep defending the fraud Andy.
 
acoggan said:
No, he concluded that Armstrong's "growth" as a cyclist was the result of 1) improved efficiency, and 2) a reduction in body mass.

(BTW, Armstrong's VO2max has been measured in different labs on a number of occasions, with the data reported in the lay press. The two that come to mind are 1) at the OTC in Colorado Springs, where it was 84 mL/min/kg despite being at ~2000 m altitude, and 2) at Appalachian State University, during his well-known training camp in Boone, NC. The data for #1 can be found in a Scientific American article just prior to the Atlanta Olympics, but I don't know off-hand where one might find the second.)
Bullsh**
Coyle believed Lance to be physiologically gifted, even by the standards of his rivals. One of these 'gifts' was the VO2 Max. In Coyle's paper, he estimated Lance's VO2 to be greater than Miguel Indurain and also said that Lance's values to be among the highest reported in world class runner and cyclists.
And Coyle himself has said that the highest he has recorded was 81.2.
Miguel's was 88.0. Lemond 92. And Lance's post cancer 1999 was 71.5. So you might want to check with Coyle as to why he attributes so much time to VO2 Max, Lance's amazing VO2 Max - yet you come here today and say it wasn't really relevant to the study.

The piece I want to edit is in bold. In my defense, I was genuinely running out training when I typed the above. I read ACoggan's reply and thought to myself, I never said 'highest ever'. But lo and behold, I had said that. That was a genuine mistake on my part. What i should have said is now in there.
 
Mar 18, 2009
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Eva Maria said:
Funny how you seem to know Armstrong's V02 but Armstrong claims not to know it.
I guess my memory is simply better than his. ;-)

(If my recollection is correct, the data in question can be found in J.T. Kearney's 10 page article "Training the Olympic Athlete", which appeared in the June 1996 issue of Scientific American:

http://www.sciamdigital.com/index.cfm?fa=Products.ViewIssuePreview&ARTICLEID_CHAR=90100B4D-CD18-4D04-BF09-039C68CFC2E)

Eva Maria said:
Keep defending the fraud Andy.
There is no fraud, merely a somewhat flawed paper that has received far more attention than it really deserves.
 
Mar 18, 2009
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Digger said:
Bullsh**
Coyle believed Lance to be physiologically gifted, even by the standards of his rivals. One of these 'gifts' was the VO2 Max. In Coyle's paper, he estimated Lance's VO2 to be greater than Miguel Indurain and also said that Lance's values to be the highest reported in world class runner and cyclists. And Coyle himself has said that the highest he has recorded was 81.2. Miguel's was 88.0. Lemond 92. And Lance's post cancer 1999 was 71.5. So you might want to check with Coyle as to why he attributes so much time to VO2 Max, Lance's amazing VO2 Max - yet you come here today and say it wasn't really relevant to the study.
I don't think there is any question that Armstrong - like any professional cyclist - is physiologically gifted. What you have claimed above, however, is absolutely incorrect. Specifically, here is what Coyle wrote in his study:

"Laboratory measures of the subject in our study were not made soon after the Tour de France; however, with the conservative assumption that VO2 max was at least 6.1 l/min and given his reported body weight of 72 kg, we estimate his VO2 max to have been at least 85 ml/kg/min during the period of his victories in the Tour de France. Therefore, his VO2 max per kilogram of body weight during his victories of 1999–2004 appears to be somewhat higher than what was reported for the champion during 1991–1995 and to be among the highest values reported in world class runners and bicyclists (e.g., 80–85 ml/kg/min) (6, 15, 16, 28, 29)."

Not quite the hyperbolic statements you have credited to him, eh?

As for the emphasis given to VO2max vs. LT vs. efficiency vs. body mass in the paper, it would be silly to discuss just the latter two without commenting on the first two. If you actually read the paper (or just consider the title), though, you will see that it the apparent improvement in efficiency and reported reduction in body mass that gets by far the most attention.

BTW, when I was a PhD student in Coyle's lab I also had a VO2max that also exceeded Miguel Indurain's, at least in mL/min/kg. I therefore wouldn't read too much into Coyle's comment that Armstrong's was also higher (of course, no exercise physiologist ever would, because of the knowledge that VO2max is but one determinant of endurance performance ability...non-scientists, however, often seem to be obsessed with the measurement).
 
Jun 16, 2009
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acoggan said:
Not quite the hyperbolic statements you have credited to (Coyle), eh?
From Coyle's paper:

These absolute values are higher than what we have measured in bicyclists competing at the US national level (9), several of whom subsequently raced professionally in Europe during the period of 1989–1995. The five-time Grand Champion of the Tour de France during the years 1991–1995 has been reported to possess a O2 max of 6.4 l/min and 79 ml·kg–1·min–1 with a body weight of 81 kg (28). Laboratory measures of the subject in our study were not made soon after the Tour de France; however, with the conservative assumption that O2 max was at least 6.1 l/min and given his reported body weight of 72 kg, we estimate his O2 max to have been at least 85 ml·kg–1·min–1 during the period of his victories in the Tour de France. Therefore, his O2 max per kilogram of body weight during his victories of 1999–2004 appears to be somewhat higher than what was reported for the champion during 1991–1995 and to be among the highest values reported in world class runners and bicyclists (e.g., 80–85 ml·kg–1·min–1)

... which sounds pretty similar to the summary that Digger gave ...

Perhaps your memory isn't as good as you hinted at in your earlier post, ay? ;)
 
Mar 18, 2009
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acoggan said:
I guess my memory is simply better than his. ;-)

(If my recollection is correct, the data in question can be found in J.T. Kearney's 10 page article "Training the Olympic Athlete", which appeared in the June 1996 issue of Scientific American:

http://www.sciamdigital.com/index.cfm?fa=Products.ViewIssuePreview&ARTICLEID_CHAR=90100B4D-CD18-4D04-BF09-039C68CFC2E)
So I started digging for news reports re. Armstrong's visit to Appalachian State University, and found this on page 195 of his autobiography (emphasis added):

"We flew to Charlotte, North Carolina, and drove three hours into the mountains. Our first stop was Appalachian State, where Chris arranged with the athletic training center to do some testing with me on a stationary bike, to find out where I stood fitness-wise. Chris looked and my VO2max and lactate threshold numbers, and they confirmed what he already knew: I was fat and in lousy shape. Usually, by physiological values were the elite of the elite. My VO2 rate, ordinarily at 85, was now at 64."

Somewhat as an aside: I've been told by those who work in Colorado Springs that Armstrong is somewhat unusual in that he doesn't suffer from the normal altitude-induced reduction in arterial O2 content, and hence VO2max, at least at that altitude (~2000 m). It is well-known that there are individual differences in this regard, which recent evidence suggests is due to anatomical differences in lung structure. What I have not seen, however, is any attempt to relate such a physiological trait to performance in, e.g., mountain stages of the Tour de France.
 

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