He looked deep into Oprah’s eyes and admitted candidly that he used EPO, transfusions and testosterone. He said it with a straight face, as only a person raised in the American media generation can do. He said it sincerely, and he omitted so much of the truth that nothing he said could be taken seriously, but still, he leaves behind him the unending question: what exactly is cheating?
Two of the things Armstrong admitted using — EPO and transfusions — increase the body’s ability to use oxygen. EPO increases the red cell count in the blood, while transfusions, or blood doping, provide extra red cells by direct injection.
Now, as we all know, the Kenyans and the Moroccans are wonderful long-distance runners because, among other things, they grew up at high altitudes.
Any athlete who can afford to take a year out and live in the Atlas Mountains of North Africa, or the Kenyan highlands, will develop a far higher red cell count than someone who trains at sea level, and that athlete will have a natural advantage over a competitor who couldn’t afford the high-altitude year out.
Is that an unfair advantage? Is that cheating?
If I play it straight, avoid EPO and steroids, but I can afford a hypobaric chamber while you can’t, is that an unfair adbvantage?
I don’t know.
What I do know is that money will buy you an advantage, so what precisely is cheating?