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Lance Armstrong's doping drugs. Can they really help?

In the history of doping in professional sports, no name is more prominent than Lance Armstrong. A person whom many doubted, but it took longer to prove that he used banned substances. He retired twice in his carrier, once by his own will, and another time due to aggressive cancer. Both of the times he made a successful comeback in the sports of cycling- enough to raise eyebrows of everyone.

Cycling is a grueling sport, that needs a combination of muscle power and endurance to excel. With so many successes again and again and information from teammates, it was clear that Lance Armstrong was using steroids and other substances. The most significant proof that these doping drugs work is the success of Armstrong in various events.

List of Steroids

Below is the list of doping techniques he used over most of his carrier, some of them are simple strategies, while others complex.

  • Blood transfusion or blood doping- it is among the safe and efficient ways to improve the performance. Not dangerous, as in most cases the person uses his or her own blood. The technique is simple, a person withdraws blood and stores it. Before the competition or sessions of strenuous training that blood is transfused. It results in a higher count of red blood cells, this improves the oxygen-carrying capacity of blood, resulting in the higher stamina or endurance. As one can understand that technique works both during the training periods and before the competitions. The method is entirely safe when one’s own blood is used. Earlier there were no tests to catch people who doped this way, however, now new tests can tell about the age of red blood cells, and thus show if such transfusion was used or not.
  • Erythropoietin (EPO)- for cyclist stamina is vital. The endurance of an individual depends a lot on the oxygen carrying capacity of blood and the volume of the lungs. Erythropoietin is a hormone secreted by kidneys, and it acts on our bone marrow to stimulate the production of red blood cell. It is used to treat a severe form of anemia in the medicine. In healthy individuals, it would help boost the number of red blood cells, and thus increasing stamina.
  • Human growth hormone (HGH)- another hormone that is required for gaining height and musculature. It is a potent way to build muscles, strengthen bones, and burn fat. HGH may have various side effects, so it is used sparingly by athletes.
  • Testosterone- is one of the safest of all the anabolic steroids. In the case of Lance Armstrong, it is thought that his doctor used a special kind of testosterone that can be taken orally. It is said that testosterone undecanoate was mixed with olive oil using a unique technique, thus helping it to be absorbed without being destroyed in the liver.
  • Corticosteroids- are not used by many athletes, though they are commonly used in medicine and are among the lifesaving drugs. These drugs are potent anti-inflammatory agents, and they also increase blood sugar levels. It means that they are beneficial both in training sessions (helping recover faster, and reduce pain) and may help improve endurance during the competition.
  • Saline infusions- one may ask how on earth saline solution can help? Well, as you see above that Armstrong used blood transfusions and EPO to increase his red blood cells amount. However, if hematocrit (number of red blood cells) is above 50% in the blood, a person would be caught for doping. Thus Armstrong used saline solution to dilute his blood a bit, and thus hide using EPO or blood doping.

Conclusion

As one can see that all the methods used by Armstrong work, all of them are well tested medical drugs. They are quite safe too and are approved for human use. They cause adverse effects only on prolonged use. Further, one must notice that professional athletes used two kinds of doping. First is the use of performance enhancing drugs, second is the use of ways to mask doping. In short, doping has emerged as a science in itself.