Sorry I've been busy for the last few days but still wanted to respond. Again, my simple statement is that EPO is unproven for elite athletes at longer distances. Arguing that evidence cannot be collected seems to support an idea that not enough evidence has yet been collected. If sufficient evidence cannot be collected then we should accept that any conclusions carry a certain amount of uncertainty. The strength of any conclusion rests on the collection of evidence that supports it. I don't require clinical studies, but would accept any evidence that remove doubts, or help reinforce a position, before attempting to pass hypothesis as established fact. If we do not have evidence (clinical or non-clinical) that removes doubt, then my assertion that doubt exists seems to be correct. For example, any proposed benefit of EPO on elite marathon runners who have been trained to their natural potential, is at this point, an interesting hypothesis, that still needs to be confirmed or debunked.
There is a study that could be done using the same level of ethics:
- Take the mediocre athletes, and continue the WADA study for 2 more years, and see if the same gap exists. Maybe EPO gains are only short term, and the observed short term improvements can be overcome in the long term.
This would add an interesting data point.
Your instant response to me was to point out the story of Cathal Lombard. Let's put aside I did not have a 30:00 runner in mind when I chose the word "elite". But how you view him depends on an important starting point:
- Is he naturally a 27:30 runner, who miserably failed to reach his potential, or a 30:00 runner who was helped by the increased RBC that EPO provided?
Cathal was doing a lot of things wrong before, if an EPO regime could bring him to 27:30.
Usually for 10K, people speak of something like 40 second improvements due to EPO. That Lombard improved by almost 3 minutes suggests:
- Lombard was not training the right way, pre-EPO
- other things, besides EPO, contributed significantly to this dramatic breakthrough
- he should be considered an "exception" rather than the rule
I thought I answered your repeated question -- Cathal made a breakthrough, because Cathal made many other significant changes to his training, and mentality. Others did not make the breakthrough, because they were not in the same situation as Cathal: blocked from reaching their potential due to bad training, and unblocking this with several radical changes to their training. Others perhaps lacked the potential, or failed to make changes in their approach/mentality that Cathal did. It is not Cathal's new coach that caused the improvement, but rather the changes that Cathal made to his training, one of which was EPO.
I bothered to look now at Hassan Hirt now. I would agree that his improvement could have been largely psychological. He believed he had a problem, and taking EPO made him believe he was addressing his problem. He could have made the same progress with a well timed "hi/lo" training period, if he believed that would work.
With respect to Lance and the TdF, I really believe:
- Cycling for 3 weeks relies on protective and daily recovery mechanisms during the course of the race that do not translate well to running events.
- A stronger case exists for cycling, than for "running distance events" that "EPO was a game changer in the 1990's". But this "stronger case" is still clouded by many other uncontrolled elements.
- Lance's doping went way beyond EPO and blood transfusions increasing RBC.
- Psychology played a significant role in Lance's success. He believed he and his team were invincible, and made others believe that the US Post/Discovery team was unbeatable.
- His doping was always more sophisticated than his competitors. Testimony from others said he was always 1-2 years ahead of the rest of the peloton. For example, we know he was blood doping during the tour, with blood transfusions in hotels and busses. These were risks that they were taking that other teams likely were not.
- Lance couldn't win a single tour on his own, without also doping his teammates, unlike Lemond over Hinault, or Contador over Armstrong.
I never pretended that taking EPO was the only thing that changed because common sense will tell anyone that in real-world circumstances you are not going to be able control things things so closely. Note the use of the words "largely because" in my posts.
Yet again, you are asking for a controlled clinical trial on elite athletes to convince yourself on the effects of EPO but you know that this will never happen with the current ethical regulations in place for scientific/clinical studies.
Despite knowing this you do not want to look more closely at what has been going on with elite athletes who have tested positive for EPO. For you, what happened was not under the conditions of a controlled clinical trial so therefore any explanation is plausible (you say that you don't hold any position) to explain their performance improvements.
For the third time, why did no one else trained by the same coach as Cathal make such a dramatic breakthough? Why did his brother, who was also a decent runner, not make the same sort of breakthrough?
WRT to Lance Armstrong do you really believe that his TdF performances were largely because of a change in "mental state" rather than the sophisticated doping regimen he put in place? i.e. if he could have changed his "mental state" without doping then do you think that he would have still have destroyed all his competitors (who were doping) in 7 TdFs?