FRIDAY, Dec. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Erythropoietin, more commonly
known as EPO, has been banned from sports due to a belief that it
provides an unfair competitive advantage to users, but new research
found there is no scientific evidence the blood-cell stimulating
hormone actually enhances athletes' performance.
EPO has been in the news recently because of its reported use by
the American cyclist Lance Armstrong, who won the Tour de France a
record-breaking seven times. He was stripped of those titles in
While the scientists who conducted a systemic review of existing
studies on EPO did not find proof of performance-enhancing
benefits, they did find that possible harm from use of the hormone
In their report, published in the Dec. 6 issue of the
British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, they warned that
EPO doping thickens the blood and could increase a person's risk
for clots, which could result in heart attack or stroke.
"Athletes and their medical staff may believe EPO enhances
performance, but there is no evidence that anyone performed good
experiments to check if EPO would actually improve performance in
elite cyclists," lead researcher Dr. Adam Cohen, of the Centre for
Human Drug Research in Leiden, the Netherlands, said in a journal
EPO is a drug used to treat anemia. Patients treated with EPO
are carefully monitored due to the drug's potentially serious side
"So why should the standards be different for the same drugs
used in athletes?" noted Cohen. "Although doping is forbidden, the
pressure to win in sport is so great that some athletes seem to be
willing to try any way of getting ahead of their competitors. When
elite athletes and their coaches discover that there is no evidence
of benefit and clear risk of harm, I hope many may reconsider
trying to cheat. Education may work where attempts at enforcement
have failed," he said in the news release.
The researchers concluded more research is needed to explore the
effects of so-called performance enhancing drugs to improve safety
"If, as is expected, many substances in current use are found to
be ineffective it will help keep our athletes safe and improve
confidence in sporting results," Cohen said.
The World Anti-Doping Agency has more about
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