Armstrong has long been accused of having used banned substances, such as steroids and the blood booster EPO. The interview with Oprah ends the cyclist’s decade-long denial of doping allegations.
Dr. Carlos Hamilton is a professor of internal medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. He says EPO is a hormone produced by the kidney and because it’s used legally for people with impaired kidney function, it’s readily available.
“But the reason it’s used in situations that are inappropriate is that because it does increase the red cell count, one’s hemoglobin and one’s red blood cell count, it increases the ability of the blood to carry oxygen and of course carrying oxygen to the muscles is critical for somebody that is doing some sort of very strenuous endurance physical activity.”
Hamilton has served on the World Anti-Doping Agency committee overseeing the prohibited use of performance-enhancing drugs. He says in order to bust doping users, tests need to be conducted randomly.
“Are we able to detect this well enough to deter people from cheating? And the answer is maybe, because we certainly are better at detecting drugs of all sorts than we have been at any time in the past. But are we perfect? Probably not. And there will always be people that will try to cheat the system.”
Hamilton says he’s especially worried about doping because it can cause severe side effects, especially for young athletes.
“Unfortunately, peer pressure and coach pressure and parent pressure and so forth sometimes are working against us and that’s one of the reasons why we think that’s such an important issue, is that we don’t want to give young people the idea that in order to win you have to cheat.”
The World Anti-Doping Agency publishes a list of prohibited substances each year on its website, www.wada-ama.org.
Oprah’s interview with Armstrong will air in two parts, Thursday and Friday, on her television network OWN.