Either Lance Armstrong’s blood is one-in-a-million or the former world champion cheated, according to new analysis of the Texan’s blood profiles released by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency on Wednesday.
As part of its investigation into the U.S. Postal Service doping conspiracy, USADA asked Professor Christopher J. Gore, head of physiology at the Australian Institute of Sport, to examine blood samples taken from Armstrong between October 2008 and April 2012. Nine were taken by the American regulatory agency and 29 samples were taken by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
What Gore found in 2009 and 2010 samples was an overwhelming likelihood that Armstrong manipulated his blood during his most recent comeback, which included a podium finish in the 2009 Tour de France.
According to the USADA case file, Gore found the samples to have an “unusually” low percentage of reticulocytes, or immature red blood cells that are created naturally by the body. When additional red blood cells are added to the body — via transfusion — the body’s production of reticulocytes is suppressed.
“Gore concluded that the approximate likelihood of Armstrong’s seven suppressed reticulocyte values during the 2009 and 2010 Tours de France occurring naturally was less than one in a million,” the file reads.
USADA subsequently requested “laboratory and collection” information from the UCI to corroborate its findings, but the UCI has refused to provide USADA with any data without Armstrong’s consent, which he has refused.
Gore also examined blood plasma volumes, measured at the 2009 Tour and the 2009 Giro d’Italia. It’s known that the percentage of plasma volume in an athlete’s blood increases with strenuous exercise, and that red blood cell counts fall at the same time.
“During the 2009 Giro, that is precisely what happened to the plasma volume in Armstrong’s blood — it continued to rise throughout the race. During the 2009 Tour de France, Armstrong’s plasma volume also increased over the first seven days of the race,” the USADA file reads.
“However, over the next three days of the race, his plasma volume decreased back to pre-race levels. This would not happen naturally, but would happen if Armstrong engaged in blood transfusion during this period,” the report continues.
USADA says that these findings “build a compelling argument consistent with blood doping.”
1999 EPO tests
The anti-doping organization also recently gained access to the French Anti-Doping Laboratory’s (LNDD) testing results of Armstrong’s now-infamous 1999 Tour de France samples, which the lab re-tested in 2004 when the new EPO test became available.
Those samples surfaced in a damning L’Equipe report that alleged Armstrong tested positive for EPO six times, though the handling of the samples was criticized and never accepted by the UCI.
“The chart shows the results for all of the 1999 Tour de France samples tested for EPO by LNDD in 2004 and 2005, including the six samples subsequently identified in the L’Equipe article as Armstrong’s,” the USADA file reads. “According to the chart, each of Armstrong’s six samples from the 1999 Tour de France tested positive for the presence of EPO on each of three positivity criteria, including the current EPO positivity criteria.”
“USADA now has numerous affidavits that describe in detail the extensive use of EPO by the U.S. Postal Service team in 1999 as well as specific testimony that Armstrong used EPO during that period of time,” the Reasoned Decision reads. “While LNDD’s analysis of the 1999 samples may not stand alone to establish a positive test under the Code, the analysis is consistent with and corroborates the numerous witness statements recently obtained by USADA.”
Armstrong did not immediately respond to requests for comment.