USADA’s Lance Armstrong Report Suggests Hypoxic Chambers Can Fool EPO Tests
Last year, then-World No. 1 Novak Djokovic caused a stir when he mentioned using a hypoxic chamber called CVAC in his training.
The USADA’s recently released report on the findings in the Lance Armstrong doping case suggest that Armstrong’s doctor, Michelle Ferrari, advised the use of hypoxic chambers to fool EPO tests:
Dr. Ferrari recognized that the EPO testing method works through separating and measuring the quantity (known as “intensity”) of various types of EPO and comparing the ratio of EPO bands in what is known as the “basic” region (where the bands tend to be caused by the administration of synthetic EPO) to bands in the acidic region (where the bands are naturally produced).
However, because the test operates by measuring a ratio, the test can be fooled to a degree by increasing the amount of EPO in the acidic region (i.e., those produced naturally), which can be accomplished by stimulating natural production of EPO either through going to altitude or by sleeping in an altitude tent (also known as a “hypoxic chamber”). Dr. Ferrari advised the use of hypoxic chambers to reduce the effectiveness of the EPO test in detecting the use of synthetic EPO. Regular training at altitude (such as at St. Moritz, Tenerife or Aspen) would achieve a similar result.
The use of such chambers is likely common among professional athletes, including other tennis players, but the information is nonetheless interesting.
Here is the full report from the USADA: