The Doper’s Latest Weapon

Tuesday, 27 April 2010


The cheat’s latest weapon: dihydrogen monoxide

Too much doping news at the moment, I’ll try to stay away from it a bit. But you can never escape it in the world of cycling and this story is worth mentioning.


The previous day he had given himself a micro-dosage of EPO for the first time in three months. Frei claimed that if he had drank enough water after the injection, the urine test would not have shown the EPO. However, he did not drink the required litre of water even when the controller arrived at six o’clock the next morning.

So writes cyclingnews.com. My jaw dropped to the floor here. One litre of water and you can fool the testers? For all the talk of sophisticated testing procedures, tightening nets and the bio passport, all it takes is a bottle of water and the EPO user gets past?

Detection is key to catching the cheats and if a drink of water is enough to thwart the testers, then surely the whole test needs to be revisited?


Ah ha?

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{ 5 comments }

Fran Reyes April 27, 2010 at 4:23 pm

If you drink a lot of water, then you dilute your blood and It has less proportion of EPO, hematocrit or whatever… so you don't test positive.
It can't be controlled by any antidoping test, I think…

TheInnerRing April 27, 2010 at 4:31 pm

Indeed Fran. But surely an EPO test is looking for the suspect molecule itself? If we have 5-6 litres of blood then can one litre of water really ruin the test?

curium April 27, 2010 at 10:06 pm

Can they not use a ratio to get around this? Or is the test deemed unsuitable if the urine is too dilute?

Alex Murray April 28, 2010 at 10:17 am

I sense Frei is telling the press what he thinks helped him avoid getting caught. Whether it is actually the case is another matter.

Diluting blood through over-hydrating would reduce his RBC by volume. As I understand it that means it that he would less likely give a sample that sets off the marker flags which would make him an automatic case for further analysis.

I thought that the test was an electrolysis one which produced a screen which would show markers for synthetic v natural EPO.

It's as likely that the reason Frei got caught this time was that he got tested at the top of a new cycle. Given the window of opportunity during which EPO use is most evident, it's plausible that in previous tests he was below the threshold for a failed test, perhaps only just. This time being tested the day after meant that the levels hadn't had time to drop down below threshold.

It's a bit speculative but makes as much sense as his drinking of water explanation to me.

TheInnerRing April 28, 2010 at 10:24 am

Interesting. I know one of the Swiss labs has a new test for EPO but it is not validated yet for anti-doping use by WADA and others. But it is being used for "research" purposes to screen riders for testing.

All the same, whilst the net appears easy to slip through, let's remember Frei had not gone from an unknown to a big contender. Microdosing is just that, no longer will we find "Mr 60%" cranking the 53T up a mountain pass.

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