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I recently read that Lance Armstrong used EPO to win cycling championships. I wish to improve my ability to run long distances quickly. Will taking EPO be good for this, and are there any negative side-effects?

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If you aren't entering a race or cycling event sure go ahead. Results should be positive. –  user5025 Jan 18 '13 at 6:24
    
    
I was linking to that discussion on meta to show that questions like yours are debated to be on or off topic and to enable you to take part in the discussion. This is what a beta is for. –  Baarn Jan 18 '13 at 9:14
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The comments are not made for prolonged discussion, please come to Physical Fitness Chat so I can explain what I think. –  Baarn Jan 18 '13 at 9:23
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@Chris Please see this meta question as well. –  Matt Chan Jan 18 '13 at 17:08

1 Answer 1

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Erythropoietin (EPO) is a naturally occurring substance in the body that aids in red blood cell (RBC) production. It was originally developed as an external drug in the early 1900's to aid people with poor RBC production or other disease pathologies such as anemia.

By itself, EPO will do nothing to enhance your running ability. What it does do, is enable you to do more work by making available more oxygen to working muscles. This enables you to work harder, which in turn should make you faster. It is an enabler, not an instant result.

However, there are quite a lot of drawbacks to EPO supplementation in an otherwise normal person. One of the biggest is that when you artificially increase the RBC count in blood, it does not also increase the plasma/sera (liquid portions of the blood), so your blood becomes thicker. This makes it harder for the heart to pump the blood through the body, and when coupled with a lowered resting heart rate (A very common side effect of being fit), you highly increase your chance of stroke and death, especially when sleeping. There have been over 20 deaths in professional cycling in recent years linked to EPO use.

Obviously, people make their own choices, but if you are considering supplementing with EPO I would highly encourage you to research it thoroughly and understand the dangers and the risks that you take with your life by doing so.

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I'll move my comment to this answer.. I wonder if the performance increase you get by using EPO makes the hard work easier, so that you don't actually adapt in the way you would by doing that work without the EPO? –  Kate Jan 18 '13 at 17:52
    
I don't think that aspect of it has ever really been addressed, and it would be an incredibly difficult study to design. That's one of the big debates in anti doping as well, if you dope for X years and are off for Y years, how much extra benefit because of the work you DID put in during doping still lingers? –  JohnP Jan 18 '13 at 18:05
    
Thankyou for your comprehensive answer. –  Mew Jan 18 '13 at 19:03
    
@Kate There's no such thing as making the work easier I think. When you go and exercise it will always be hard if you are going to get results. If you took something that could make it easier and you didn't work as hard to get results then you wouldn't get results anyway. Taking EPO will work for those who are able to always push themselves to the limit, but will not be effective for people who want to take it easier and expect results –  Ben Aug 5 at 10:35
    
That is not debated. Riders also EPO to train harder. Lance entered limited races so he could dope as part of training. –  Frisbee Aug 6 at 4:31

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