Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Lance Armstrong blood values from 2009 Tour de France

There's recently been a big story about how Lance Armstrong's biological passport blood values from 2009 were "consistent with doping". My response was "this is news?"

It was news back in 2009, when Lance was boldly publishing his blood values on-line to prove his cleanliness, perhaps thinking people would pay attention only to that his hematocrit was well under the 50% limit, until it was pointed out by Jakob Mørkeberg, a Danish researcher, that the blood values he was posting appeared consistent with doping. His response: "What do you call a guy who graduates last in the class in medical school? Doctor." Funny, dude, but it did nothing to address the analysis.

You don't need to be a medical expert to see something was amiss. Here's a plot I made at the time:

Lance came out of the second rest day that Tour raging. A year later, out of contention, he came out of the second rest day fatigued and uncompetitive. Lance skipped his supplements, was the obvious interpretation at the time. I don't think there was anything subtle about it.

Here's what Michael Ashenden says in this recent article in VeloNation:

His reticulocyte levels were below the average of the rest of his reported results...consistent with the use of blood transfusions.

It doesn't take a degree in statistics to analyze the data in that plot.

There's a nice article on this matter on The Sports Scientists Blog.

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