The EPO Fable in Professional Cycling: Facts, Fallacies and Fabrications

HFM Lodewijkx*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    The massive doping schemes that surfaced in professional cycling suggest that riders’ performances, realized in the controversial ‘epo era’ (>1990), are a cut above achievements delivered by their forerunners. We examined this superior performances assumption (SPA) by conducting six historic studies, which all scrutinized archival records of winning riders’ stage race and time trial performances demonstrated in the three European Grand Tours (Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, and Vuelta a España; 1903–2013), including Lance Armstrong’s wins. Findings revealed that all riders’ wins in the epo years are no exception to the variability in speed progress observed in the three races over time and none of their achievements proved to be outliers. This also holds true for Armstrong’s performances. These findings agree with results of a meta–analysis of epo studies we conducted, indicating that the ergogenic effects of epo and blood doping on riders’ aerobic performances and associated cycling speeds are overrated. In conclusion, we argue that our observations render the SPA doubtful. They also made us realize that arguments used in contemporary discussions about effects of doping in cycling often involve psychological biases, false reasoning and fabrications. They are presented in the closing sections of this contribution.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number1000141
    Number of pages13
    JournalJournal of Sports Medicine and Doping studies
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2014


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