Timing of EPO in early 90's that doesn't add up..

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I'm not sure there's anyone disputes the Italians led the pharmaceutical race in the 1990s, with the Spanish in second. It does speak to later in the 1990s though, more than earlier.

Of more interest, I think, is why the Italians fell behind in the first place, given that, medically speaking, they'd seemed to be ahead of the curve from the 60s onwards.
Why the fall off is a good question. Carrera were probably the best team in the world 86/87, but were barely in the Top 20 teams end of 1989. Yes, they lost riders like Roche, but the others guys like Visentini, Zimmermann, Bontempi were nowhere near the same level as they had been.

According to Toni Rominger it was because the teams were not as well funded, as sponsors were diverting money towards the Football World Cup held in Italy in 1990. But that raises the question of why the massive upturn in Ialian performances during 1990 if the teams had no money? Was it because EPO was easier/cheaper to access and store than Blood doping. I always got the impression EPO was super expensive, but was it more expensive than blood doping?

All I know is that 1989 was the worst season of Italian performances for ages, no Major wins, no Worlds medal, only 4 stage wins at the Giro, the lowest since the early 70s when Merckx dominated. Then, boom, Bugno, Argentin, Giovanetti, Ballerini and Chiappucci are performing at the top level in 1990, the best Italian season since.......who knows.

I also looked through Italian performances at major one day races races 1989-96 and there is a pattern. Huge jump 89 to 90, then flattens out for a few seasons and then in 1993, another big jump and by 94-96, Italian teams are just crushing it. This would seem to confirm the common idea that it started with individuals and by 93 was spreading to team wide EPO usage.
 
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Late 1980s emeregence of aids might have put the brakes on blood doping, providing your own blood means you would have to be more specific about races you could target

Generally I think blood doping would have a lower take up than EPO aswell
 
Part of the reason for the fall off was, I think, offered by LeMond to Abt for his Comeback book:
"Cycling has better athletes than it did then [the Merckx era], and the riders' mentality has changed. When Merckx rode, he was the boss and everybody else on the team was his slave. It's not that way anymore. Today, if you're on a team, it really is a team, not a collection of guys working for a boss.

"In the big races, everybody on a team realises who the best rider is and they work for him, not just for the designated boss. If the team wins, rather than its leader, it's still good for everybody.

"Only in Italy does a team still ride exclusively for the leader, whether he's in form or not, and that's why Italian teams tend to fall apart when their leader isn't going well. Nobody else dares try anything and so there's no point in working hard every day."
That was 1989, so there's a cultural shift went on that the Italians were slow to embrace.

There's a change in 1990 or so (I'm plus or minus a year on this, I think) to do with FICP ranking points and earning entry to World Cup races and the Tour. In one of the cycling yearbooks that came out at the time ( I can't remember if the yearbooks were 1989 and 1990 or 1990 and 1991)) LeMond noted how this had impacted the peloton, made riders more mercenary, made races harder and faster (he specifically references the speed of Milan-Sanremo IIRC). Because of lockdown I have very few of my cycling books to hand so can't check this, maybe you can see if it's represented in the stats you have to hand.

The simple point I am making here is that things changed but the change's explanation is not just doping.

On the money side of things: Italians had been to the fore in the big bang of bucks that happened in the 1980s (see the financing of Moser's Hour). Like you, I'm not sure a lack of money can explain their fall off in performance. What I would say is that the arrival of money didn't necessarily help the sport in Italy, not if you look at guys like Visentini who seemed to prefer spending it than earning it. Perhaps there is a 'lost generation', between Moser/Saroni and Bugno/Chiappucci. You probably have better stats on that than I do.

To go back to a doping-related explanation: I think the French were able to hold their own in the 80s with hormone rebalancing and they didn't advance much beyond that. The Italians, on the other hand, were embracing blood doping (we see it at Hoonved, Gis, and Carrera) as were the Dutch (PDM 'discovered' it independently of the Italians). The Spanish were also coming up at the time, unfettered by heritage - Reynolds were breaking the mould as were ONCE - which may have allowed them to play with blood bags early in their history (the evidence is, I think, circumstantial but it's a compelling narrative).

To marry the cultural and the pharmaceutical: once the Italians balanced the equation - made the cultural shift - they were able to pull ahead, particularly of the French, who I think stayed stuck in era of Bellocq and that horse doctor.

On the cost of EPO: it's something I'm paying more attention to these days but yes, in the early years, it wasn't as cheap as legend would have us believe.
 
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Barcelona was 92, so I imagine your timeline to be slightly askew.
Barcelona was 92, so I imagine your timeline to be slightly askew.
Barcelona was 92. That preparation for Barcelona games included stage races with teams that had been to Europe, including teams that had riders in the LA Olympics so information was widely discussed. Our National Olympic teams were open to amateurs. For the Atlanta Games we had two Oly trial races in Seattle a year apart to prepare. People were keen to understand what we were up against so, no...the timeline was correct. Sorry for any misdirection, though.
 
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Late 1980s emeregence of aids might have put the brakes on blood doping, providing your own blood means you would have to be more specific about races you could target

Generally I think blood doping would have a lower take up than EPO aswell
That is, allegedly, the reason the IOC banned blood doping in 1985:
Once news broke, the IOC contacted the head of its antidoping laboratory for the 1984 Los Angeles Games, UCLA professor Dr Don Catlin. Catlin created a report titled ‘Summary of the Adverse Effects of Blood Transfusion’. This report focused solely on scientific explanations of the procedure and the risks associated with blood transfusions. It omitted any mention of the US cycling team or any other sport-related issue but focused significantly on the risks of HIV/AIDS. Indeed discussion of HIV/AIDS amounted to one quarter of the entire report, more than any other perceived health risk. The report provided Merode with evidence to support the unprecedented action of banning a substance with no test available and he was quick to share it with his colleagues:

As you are aware, during our Session last year in Berlin, it was agreed that blood doping should be prohibited by the IOC. In order to give you further information regarding the dangers of blood doping for the health of athletes, you will find enclosed a comprehensive report prepared on behalf of the IOC Medical Commission, by Dr. Don Catlin of the UCLA, Los Angeles.
That's from John Gleaves's Manufactured Dope. (And yes, Gleaves is the academic who got sent to the naughty step recently and yes Catlin is the guy LA tried to hire as a doping shield.)

While the Americans at the LA Games did do homologous transfusions, and it's presumed Zoetemelk's 1970s transfusions were also from others, real blood doping in cycling in the 1980s was autologous, based on the limited evidence available. So no, in the real world I don't think HIV - or the more real threat of hepatitis - stopped transfusions even if it did make them illegal.
 
Part of the reason for the fall off was, I think, offered by LeMond to Abt for his Comeback book:That was 1989, so there's a cultural shift went on that the Italians were slow to embrace.

There's a change in 1990 or so (I'm plus or minus a year on this, I think) to do with FICP ranking points and earning entry to World Cup races and the Tour. In one of the cycling yearbooks that came out at the time ( I can't remember if the yearbooks were 1989 and 1990 or 1990 and 1991)) LeMond noted how this had impacted the peloton, made riders more mercenary, made races harder and faster (he specifically references the speed of Milan-Sanremo IIRC). Because of lockdown I have very few of my cycling books to hand so can't check this, maybe you can see if it's represented in the stats you have to hand.

The simple point I am making here is that things changed but the change's explanation is not just doping.

On the money side of things: Italians had been to the fore in the big bang of bucks that happened in the 1980s (see the financing of Moser's Hour). Like you, I'm not sure a lack of money can explain their fall off in performance. What I would say is that the arrival of money didn't necessarily help the sport in Italy, not if you look at guys like Visentini who seemed to prefer spending it than earning it. Perhaps there is a 'lost generation', between Moser/Saroni and Bugno/Chiappucci. You probably have better stats on that than I do.

To go back to a doping-related explanation: I think the French were able to hold their own in the 80s with hormone rebalancing and they didn't advance much beyond that. The Italians, on the other hand, were embracing blood doping (we see it at Hoonved, Gis, and Carrera) as were the Dutch (PDM 'discovered' it independently of the Italians). The Spanish were also coming up at the time, unfettered by heritage - Raynolds were breaking the mould as were ONCE - which may have allowed them to play with blood bags early in their history (the evidence is, I think, circumstantial but it's a compelling narrative).

To marry the cultural and the pharmaceutical: once the Italians balanced the equation - made the cultural shift - they were able to pull ahead, particularly of the French, who I think stayed stuck in era of Bellocq and that horse doctor.

On the cost of EPO: it's something I'm paying more attention to these days but yes, in the early years, it wasn't as cheap as legend would have us believe.
Part of the reason for the fall off was, I think, offered by LeMond to Abt for his Comeback book:That was 1989, so there's a cultural shift went on that the Italians were slow to embrace.

There's a change in 1990 or so (I'm plus or minus a year on this, I think) to do with FICP ranking points and earning entry to World Cup races and the Tour. In one of the cycling yearbooks that came out at the time ( I can't remember if the yearbooks were 1989 and 1990 or 1990 and 1991)) LeMond noted how this had impacted the peloton, made riders more mercenary, made races harder and faster (he specifically references the speed of Milan-Sanremo IIRC). Because of lockdown I have very few of my cycling books to hand so can't check this, maybe you can see if it's represented in the stats you have to hand.

The simple point I am making here is that things changed but the change's explanation is not just doping.

On the money side of things: Italians had been to the fore in the big bang of bucks that happened in the 1980s (see the financing of Moser's Hour). Like you, I'm not sure a lack of money can explain their fall off in performance. What I would say is that the arrival of money didn't necessarily help the sport in Italy, not if you look at guys like Visentini who seemed to prefer spending it than earning it. Perhaps there is a 'lost generation', between Moser/Saroni and Bugno/Chiappucci. You probably have better stats on that than I do.

To go back to a doping-related explanation: I think the French were able to hold their own in the 80s with hormone rebalancing and they didn't advance much beyond that. The Italians, on the other hand, were embracing blood doping (we see it at Hoonved, Gis, and Carrera) as were the Dutch (PDM 'discovered' it independently of the Italians). The Spanish were also coming up at the time, unfettered by heritage - Raynolds were breaking the mould as were ONCE - which may have allowed them to play with blood bags early in their history (the evidence is, I think, circumstantial but it's a compelling narrative).

To marry the cultural and the pharmaceutical: once the Italians balanced the equation - made the cultural shift - they were able to pull ahead, particularly of the French, who I think stayed stuck in era of Bellocq and that horse doctor.

On the cost of EPO: it's something I'm paying more attention to these days but yes, in the early years, it wasn't as cheap as legend would have us believe.
The introduction of the then FICP point system is a common reason given for the change in racing styles post 84. Paul Kimmage mentioned it in Rough Ride as a factor in doping to gain Points. The change of speed in early season races was frequently mentioned as that was the way the lesser riders could score points before the big guns got into shape. Also the racing style at the Giro seemed to change, but that was more during the 1990s. I read an interview with a former 7-Eleven rider recently(might have been Frankie Andreu) who rode the Giro in 1990 and he said some days were super easy. That had changed by 92/93 when LeMond was saying how there was no longer any easy days at the Giro.

One reason put forward by Bugno for the lack of Italian success pre 1990 was that Italian teams rarely bothered racing outside Italy seriously, the big names like the teams of Moser/Argentin/Carrera did, but too many were happy to stay within Italy. As a result, he felt they were behind the rest and claimed that his Chateau d'Ax team racing outside Italy in 88/89 might have not garnered many results, but it gave them the experience to compete on the same level. There maybe something to that, as it might align somewhat to what LeMond was saying. Ariostea turned down a Tour invite in 89 and Del Tongo did the same in 90 and 91. Hard to imagine any teams turning down a Tour place these days

I agree there was a gap between the Moser era and the 90s, Argentin had two bad seasons in 88/89 then bounced back in 1990, but should be noted he started working with Ferrari late 89. Fondriest and Bugno were touted as the next big things, but both underperformed in 89 despite the press trying to build a new Moser/Saronni rivalry between them. I think the Italian press gave up on Bugno a little after that. He complained about it after he won Milan San Remo, saying the press expected too much by expecting everyone to be Moser.

I think that was the surprise of 1990, it wasnt a new generation of young riders. Most of the guys who performed had been pro for at least 3-4 years. You can look at it and say, Argentin was a return to form, Bugno was belated confirmation, Giovanetti got lucky at the Vuelta, Ballerini was finally getting to race outside Italy and Chiappucci was better than thought, but it is still a strecth to imagine all theses pieces falling into place simultaneously without some underlying reason. Taken individually it may not seem much, but all together and backed up in the following seasons by the likes of Chioccioli, Furlan, Lelli etc it seems more like a general trend. Maybe the reasons mentioned did give Italian cycling more confidence, but it is still hard to look past EPO as a major factor.

As for Spanish Cycling, they were the only nation who came near Italy in GT performances during the 90s. I think they were or more less equal in terms of results, but were miles ahead of everyone else, bar the success of Rominger, Zulle & Dufaux giving the Swiss a good record. Spanish cycling had always been focused on stage racing though so hard to say. Melchor Mauri of ONCE winning the Vuelta in 1991 was as big a shock as anything the Italians did. ONCE were ahead of the game, that was for sure
 
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On the FICP points: there's two seperate issues. The first is 83/84, their introduction, what Kimmage wrote about the chaudières. The second is the one I was thinking of, when the FICP points were married to entry to the World Cup later in the decade. Several riders have said that changed the way people raced.

On Spanish cycling, part of where they differed (from the French) was in embracing the medicalisation of sport. They had proper sports doctors with proper degrees in sports-related diciplines (Padilla's was aerobic capacity or something like that, Terrados was altitude training, wasn't it?). This made them more like the Italian teams employing Ferrari, Cecchini, Grazzi etc. Walsh, in his book about the 1993 Tour, wrote approvingly of this change. And Melchor Mauri - that was Fuentes and the infamous cooler bag or box thing that may have been EPO, may been blood bags, or may have been a tub of ice cream, wasn't it?
 
Gert Jan Theunisse and PDM...there is a Dutch influence here as well in '88 apparently. He was caught taking steroids during the Tour and nicked a time penalty. Forgive me if anyone had mentioned that way upstream....
He was caught more than once for testosterone, and eventually went and got a certificate showing he had a high natural testosterone. He would have been one of the riders receiving the blood bag in 88 at PDM which is where he tested positive the first time. Think along with Rooks later admitted to doping, but cannot recall if that included testosterone,
 
On the FICP points: there's two seperate issues. The first is 83/84, their introduction, what Kimmage wrote about the chaudières. The second is the one I was thinking of, when the FICP points were married to entry to the World Cup later in the decade. Several riders have said that changed the way people raced.

On Spanish cycling, part of where they differed (from the French) was in embracing the medicalisation of sport. They had proper sports doctors with proper degrees in sports-related diciplines (Padilla's was aerobic capacity or something like that, Terrados was altitude training, wasn't it?). This made them more like the Italian teams employing Ferrari, Cecchini, Grazzi etc. Walsh, in his book about the 1993 Tour, wrote approvingly of this change. And Melchor Mauri - that was Fuentes and the infamous cooler bag or box thing that may have been EPO, may been blood bags, or may have been a tub of ice cream, wasn't it?
Well, what I remember about the impact of the World Cup was that riders were riding somewhat more negatively if they had a position to defend rather than going out to win individual races. I think both Kelly and Fignon said that, and that it was a major criticism of the Series.

I don't recall if the World Cup had a major impact on faster racing. At the time, the Top 25 teams on the rankings qualified to take part, but very often the Spanish teams had little interest in riding the Northern Classics and often you had lesser ranked teams taking part, with teams from the host nation getting priority. It got so bad with teams skipping races that didnt suit them, the UCI made it compulsory for the Top teams to take part. The likes of Banesto and Kelme would send all their lesser lights with minimal backup support to Flanders or Roubaix.

Edit: This is the LeMond quote: seeing the photos of Paris-Nice and the spring classics reminds me how rugged these races are, and how much faster they have become in recent years. The reason, of course, is the battle to finish in the Top 50 at each race to score FICP points-which now determine which teams take part in the World Cup events and the Tour de France.
The new system has changed the way we race. For instance, there was the unexpected , early break in Milan-San Remo, which saw me and most of the favourites left behind.
 
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To follow up on the previous post, the words of LeMond needs to be given some context. When LeMond was competitive in the classics in 84-86, he was in peak condition. He missed spring 87 completely and was not in top shape for the classics in 88-91. That year, 1990, he was famously out of shape and rode few classics before heading back to the States. When he was in shape, he was competitive, in fact he recently told how he had gotten drunk two nights before finishing 2nd at the Zurich World Cup race in 1990, but he was in his peak post Tour/pre Worlds shape so was still competitive.

That Milan-San Remo was strange. It was not a breakaway, but a large split in the peloton due to crosswinds. Many of the favourites were in the back group thinking it would come back together and there is photos of Kelly, Fignon, Criquelion cruising along laughing and joking. Up front, they realised many of the favourites were in the back group so Giuseppe Saronni organised all the Italian teams to push the pace. By the time the group behind realised the danger, the gap was too big and most abandoned. It was the fastest Milan San Remo at that point, but that was more down to circumstance than design I think,
 
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He was caught more than once for testosterone, and eventually went and got a certificate showing he had a high natural testosterone. He would have been one of the riders receiving the blood bag in 88 at PDM which is where he tested positive the first time. Think along with Rooks later admitted to doping, but cannot recall if that included testosterone,
That's true and was documented by soigneur Bertus Fok who got caught up in the "Intralipid" affair. Reputedly the injected samples were not properly refrigerated and everyone got sick. Most tested positive with testosterone because they withdrew transfusions while on a program....ala' Landis. Fok said EPO "was too much for me" as he wasn't a doctor. Knock-off EPO wasn't likely available and real EPO was expensive and needed to be administered along with insulin and other program aids to be truly effective.
1989 was Theunisse's best year and he did have a testosterone certificate in hand and probably held a strong aversion to taking IV boosting. He also won the TDF polka-dot jersey along with other wins. This was also about the time of a spate of young danish cyclists dying in their sleep with super high blood values.
 
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That's true and was documented by soigneur Bertus Fok...
There are three items likely wrong in your post:
  1. Even if one donated blood for later reinfusion after being administered T, the trace amounts are unlikely to alter the T/E-ratio if there is much T left in the infused blood if it is frozen (PDM-method) when the plasma is thrown away.
  2. While dopers tend to use many substances, they (particularly insulin) usually aren't mentioned as a prerequisite for effective rHuEPO doping and none of the studies showing a performange boost uses it with other substances (except iron).
  3. AFAIK, there is no documentation whether the cyclists who died in 1987-1990 in their sleep (not all even died when sleeping) had high, low or normal hct values nor that all were even that young, because nobody seems to know who the up to 20 were case-by-case.
 
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There are three items likely wrong in your post:
  1. Even if one donated blood for later reinfusion after being administered T, the trace amounts are unlikely to alter the T/E-ratio if there is much T left in the infused blood if it is frozen (PDM-method) when the plasma is thrown away.
  2. While dopers tend to use many substances, they (particularly insulin) usually aren't mentioned as a prerequisite for effective rHuEPO doping and none of the studies showing a performange boost uses it with other substances (except iron).
  3. AFAIK, there is no documentation whether the cyclists who died in 1987-1990 in their sleep (not all even died when sleeping) had high, low or normal hct values nor that all were even that young, because nobody seems to know who the up to 20 were case-by-case.
Thanks for the elaboration:
  1. Did not know that PDM actually froze the plasma and that it had that effect.
  2. My error; jumping ahead to era where iron supplementation led to extremely high levels in rider's blood profile as a suspect activity.
  3. Relied on recall when the reported deaths at the time were young riders.
 
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Edit: This is the LeMond quote: seeing the photos of Paris-Nice and the spring classics reminds me how rugged these races are, and how much faster they have become in recent years. The reason, of course, is the battle to finish in the Top 50 at each race to score FICP points-which now determine which teams take part in the World Cup events and the Tour de France.
The new system has changed the way we race. For instance, there was the unexpected , early break in Milan-San Remo, which saw me and most of the favourites left behind.
Cheers for digging that out. I accept that LeMond's recall - even just months after the event - can be challenged but I think he still has a point about other factors also impacting the way people raced.
Willy Voet mentions in his memoirs that when took his job at the Festina in winter 1992-1993, the former PDM doctor Erik Rijkaert mentioned vaguely that some riders had used rHuEPO the previous year.
Most of my cycling books are currently in storage and with the lockdown I don't have access to them but a handful did make the move with me before things went to hell in a hadcart. One of them was Breaking the Chain. Voet writes in it of joining Festina in the winter of 1992-93 and the following June, at the 1993 Dauphiné, Eric Rijckaert “gave me a flavour of the 'measures' which were currently being used by certain members of the team. He needed someone he could trust to make sure that everyone followed his advice. Thus it was that the vague notions I had about EPO were given shape. Some of the riders had been using it since the previous year, and Rijckaert explained its effects, both bad and good.” Rijckaert had joined from PDM and so that gives us 1992 as the start of PDM's experimentation with EPO (and makes it harder for those who claim that 1991's Intralip affair was really EPO). I don't think there's much debate about EPO being in wide use in 1992, with fingers pointed at Indurain and Chiappucci in the Tour.
 
Thanks for the details even when the issue is still somewhat confusing.

To establish the PDM-timeline more accurately, it would be helpful if someone from the Netherlands went through the Sanders tax - case and what it actually says about the 178 Eprex-ampoules he got between 1990 and 1995, ie. exactly when and where he got them, because I am not sure if the product was available even in the Netherlands in 1990, and it was sold in Germany (from where Sanders got some ampoules) under the brand name Erypo 2000, 4000 etc. (later of course Recormon became available).

It could turn out to be that Sanders got doping products from 1990 until 1995 with some RBC hormone in the process and the media presumed he got rHuEPO already in 1990. Without knowing the details too deeply or even who used the RBC hormone, but 178 ampoules doesn't sound much for any cycling team of high Hct junkies of the 1990s for six years.
 
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I'm not sure that Dutch sources offer more detail. The references in both the CN stories and that Dutch outlet suggest 1990 to 1995 was more likely to have been the scope of the actual inquiry, and not specifically when he started and stopped buying EPO.

As you say, nor does the volume of EPO bought stack up: Willy Voet was busted with 234 doses of EPO, which works out at just enough to cover a nine-man team in a three-week race at 2,000 units per day, with a little left over for breakages etc. (EPO comes in 2,000-unit ampoules). But Sanders, over the 1990 to 1995 period, he's only alleged to have bought 178 ampoules of EPO. That's 35 doses a year, if spread evenly, or barely enough for one rider at a Grand Tour and a couple or three Classics each year.

That said, there is a reference to 1,200 guilders being spent at a German chemist for EPO used at the 1990 Tour. The best guide we have on the cost of EPO then was that at some stage Sanders sold on 8 units phials for 1,600 guilders. So if the 1990 reference is correct - and I'm not disupting it - he can't have had much EPO in 1990.

Bill Mitchell, who ran CN when these stories came out, in some of his reporting appears to mix up that 1990 claim up with the 1991 Intralipid story. But there is an actual Dutch source for the claim here:
De huiszoekingen leverden samen met de documenten die bij Philips, mede-eigenaar van PDM, in beslag werden genimen, nog meer bewijzen. Zo kocht Sanders bij apotheken tussen 1990 en 1995 tenminste 178 ampullen Eprex, zonder dat hij (nier)pateienten had die het medisch nodig hadden. Het was uuitsluitend bedoled als dopoing-middel, nder meer voor PDM. Zoals een Eprex-bestelling van 1200 guilden die hij ut Apotheek Selfkant in het Duitse Tudderen haalde en meenam naar de Ronde van Frankrijk 1990.
Google's pidgins give that as "blah blah blah between 1990 and 1995 bought 178 ampoules of Eprex blah blah blah an Eprex order of 1,200 guilders from the German chemists, Pharmacy Selfkant , which he took to the 1990 Tour de France."

Any Dutch speakers willing to go through the rest of the above link and note if it offers anything relevant, that'd be great.

So, possibly, we do actually have someone in PDM colours - or another client of Sanders' - using what appears to be a small dose of EPO in 1990. PDM had used blood bags in 1988 and 1989, but in 1990 the man responsible for the blood bags had moved over to Panasonic while Sanders came onboard at PDM.

Two questions: bearing in mind the real fear that bodies were piling up on mortuary slabs, particularly bodies of Dutch athletes, you could argue that Sanders expermimenting with EPO in 1990 almost makes sense. Doesn't prove the story's true, but it allows it to be plausible.

Second question: 1,200 guilders doesn't sound like a lot of EPO for even one rider, which converts into not a lot of a performance gain for one rider. Yet the alleged performance gain in multiple Italian riders at the same time was visible to the naked eye?
 
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Well just to add to the discussion about Italian teams, I have quoted some excerpts from Laurent Fignons' book on joining Gatorade, Bugnos team. Now, I do not believe everything Fignon said in his book, he plays innocent a little too much. Still.

On first joining the team:

"The mindset I discovered completely changed my way of seeing things. Sport mattered so much in Italy, and within the team everything around us helped us to race to the best of our ability. We were positively spoiled. There was no chance of any disruption due to problems with equipment. The organisation was tip top, it was a different world"

Considering Renault/Systeme-U/Castorama had been one of the top teams, that is remarkable how Italian teams were better, especially in the light of Romingers comment about Italian cycling just two seasons previous.

However, he was not so convinced by their tactics or indeed by Bugno's mental fragility:

"Basically I think I had problems adapting to the way they raced. As far as organisation went, everything was superb. But tactically it didn't suit me at all"

And on EPO:

"As it happened my transfer to an Italian team speeded up the process of discovery for me"

"During the 1992 season I believe these forms of doping-which bore little relation to what we had experienced in the 80s- were not yet widespread. There were some of the team leaders who clearly seemed to have access to EPO, maybe one or two on each team. I don't really know"

He then goes on to explain how he was approached by someone in late 92 about EPO, but rejected it as he didn't like the idea of blood doping st that stage of his career.

Interestingly, Bjarne Riis also claims he was first approached about EPO in 1992 whilst at Ariostea.
 
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Then, boom, Bugno, Argentin, Giovanetti, Ballerini and Chiappucci are performing at the top level in 1990, the best Italian season since.......who knows.
To go back to Italy and 1990. I'm not trying to say the claim is wrong, I'm more interested in finding strong evidence to support the claim. So here's a challenge: name the team doctors.

Argentin - Ariostea
Bugno - Château d'Ax
Ballerini - Del Tongo
Chiappucci - Carrera
Giovanetti - Seur

Correct me on these:
  • Ariostea IIRC was Ferrari, he'd been kicked out of Château d'Ax the previous summer and joined Ariostea at the start of 1990. Luigi Cecchini was also associated with Arisotea, there was a point when he and Ferrari were both there, but that was 1992, wasn't it?
  • Carrera was still Giovanni Grazzi, wasn't it, and with him access to the wider world of Conconi and co in Ferrara?
  • Château d'Ax I'm at a loss on, I don't know who replaced Ferrari
  • Del Tongo I also don't know. They were between Yvan Vanmol's stints, I think he might still have been with ADR in 1990 and didn't return until 1991
  • Seur I've no idea, those smaller Spanish teams totally confuse me
 
I'm not sure that Dutch sources offer more detail. The references in both the CN stories and that Dutch outlet suggest 1990 to 1995 was more likely to have been the scope of the actual inquiry, and not specifically when he started and stopped buying EPO.
One extra layer causing confusion is that there are many incentives for many people to believe that it was actually 1990 when Wim Sanders tried to obtain the hormone, the year 1990 didn't sound implausible in 1997 because it was almost unanimous view that the substance had killed the cyclists. Even Paul Kimmage tends to take it at face value that 1990 was a crucial year in the Sanders- story in his interesting article on the death of Johannes Draaijer (an article that reminds us that he had a life before that one sorrowful night):
The investigators' dossier made for interesting reading: Sanders had been providing amphetamines, testosterone and hormones to cyclists, body builders, ice hockey players and track-and-field athletes. But it was the timeline that jumped off the page: between 1990 and 1995, Sanders had secured at least 178 ampules of Eprex from pharmacies across Holland and Belgium.

Eprex is a brand name for EPO; 1990 was the year he joined PDM.
Available with Wayback Machine:
Bill Mitchell, who ran CN when these stories came out, in some of his reporting appears to mix up that 1990 claim up with the 1991 Intralipid story. But there is an actual Dutch source for the claim here:Google's pidgins give that as "blah blah blah between 1990 and 1995 bought 178 ampoules of Eprex blah blah blah an Eprex order of 1,200 guilders from the German chemists, Pharmacy Selfkant , which he took to the 1990 Tour de France."

Any Dutch speakers willing to go through the rest of the above link and note if it offers anything relevant, that'd be great.
I don't know how public record the evidence of the Wim Sanders tax inquiry case is, but this would be an interesting item for a Dutch journalist to write about particularly when in a few weeks it is 30 years since Rob Pluijmers (who was alive at least a year-two ago) revealed knowing that 2-3 cyclists took the hormone. And Independent also find the topic interesting enough to republish the Draaijer-article referred to above when the Dutch inquiry into the deaths started also thirty years ago.

Another thing I am not sure is how "suckers for the truth" people fundamentally are and whose side the truth is in this case or in the other tales (e.g. Epo-deaths), but I always hate these "Rorschach test"-type ambiguous stories that are interpreted in a manner that usually tells more about the interpreter than about the issue.

As an interesting anecdote, Dr. Björn Ekblom has told me in passing having being surprised that some athletes used rHuEPO before his spring 1989 clinical trial and he didn't quite know how they got the substance, because he and Bo Berglund had to go through a lot of red tape before obtaining the hormone for their test. If someone is interested in writing about the topic, I could try to find out whether he had first-hand information or whether he was only thinking that the Calgary-Soul-death cyclists gossip was reliable enough.

All I know is that he has been in the media somewhat skeptical about rHuEPO being a contributing factor in the cyclists's deaths because there was next to no rHuEPO available in 1987.
 
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On the subject of the EPO deaths: for a long time it was something I took at face value, without questioning it. Particulalry after Festina it became the orthodoxy and there was an almost holier than thou air to it, it was "Look at me! I care about the innocent dead! You don't!" You also had people playing the Arthur Linton card and the Knud Enemark Jensen card. Anti-doping was a losing fight and the emotional cards were being played out of desperation.

After a time though you noticed how the details in these tales always changed in telling to telling, folk couldn't just play the cards straight, they had to embellish them - still do if you look at Oldermanish's daft claims - and eventually you begin to check for yourself, and you find that Linton was a lie, that Jensen was a lie, that the EPO deaths were a lie. And, thankfully, academics and journalists have written about these stories being lies.

But there is a basis to these lies, all of them. Take the EPO deaths. Go back to 1990 and 1991 and there are newspaper reports linking a cluster of cardiac-related deaths to doping. There was clearly a feeling that something was changing in the sport and people were scared. Go back a decade and a half and the cluster of deaths around 2004 and there was a feeling this was payback for a genration of excess. Look at the present, we've had what, seven or eight cardiac-related deaths in five years, but there's no such fear associated with them, we write them off as SAD events, cause we know about SADs now. These clusters happen and we try to explain them using the knowledge we have at the time.

The challenge for us today is to do as you are trying to do: to actually look at where and how EPO was available, to look under the bed and see just how real the monster under the bed was.

One other thing: I don't think the fear was just caused by EPO. The medicalisation of sport was stepping up a gear, there was a generational change and the old generation were scared that the next generation was too willing to push too many boundries. So while the deaths are all ascribed to EPO, it wasn't EPO itself that people were scared of, rather it was what EPO stood for.
 
A couple of those contemporary reports on the athletes EPO was supposed to be killing:

* Le Soir (Belgium), 11th October 1990
Les cyclistes meurent trop d'arets cardiaques - le hasard a bondos - haro sur L'EPO
Like a black shadow, the doping problem hangs over cyclists. Today, the brutal death of some of them has reopened the debate.

Patrice Bar, Geert Reynaert, Dirk De Cauwer: these three names click grimly. In the space of a few days, these Belgian cyclists died, victims of heart problems. Like thirty of their peers, in less than twenty years.
* The New York Times (USA), 19th May 1991
Stamina-Building Drug Linked to Athletes' Deaths
Doctors and blood specialists say the drug may be implicated in the deaths of as many as 18 European professional bicycle racers in the last four years.

Drug Called a Factor

Only anecdotal evidence links EPO to these deaths. But the specialists say they believe the drug was a factor in at least some of the deaths.
 
still do if you look at @Oldermanish's daft claims -
"daft"...thankyou for the delightfully olde school British characterization. I usually get "senile", in keeping with my name.
By the way...the US National team staff was warning riders about EPO in 1989. Surprisingly as an item to avoid and dangerous; this due to concerned inquires from parents of Junior team members. I never proposed that either US riders or Theunisse used it in '89. Most information about PDM suggested bad blood transfusions.
 
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