Cyclist: Growth hormones, EPO part of riders' staple diet

Former Kelme rider Jesus Manzano on Thursday said that professional cycling is awash with growth hormones and the banned blood booster EPO -- and that testers are regularly fooled by astute team doctors.

Manzano, who is making the claims in Spanish newspaper AS in a bid to avenge his sacking by the Kelme team last year, said for many riders the practice of doping and blood transfusions was openly available.

"It's like an open bar when it comes to growth hormones, and you get injected with EPO (erythropoietin) almost every day," said the 25-year-old Spaniard in the second part of his interview with AS.

Manzano backed up his shocking claims by naming several brands of human growth hormone -- Humatrope, Norditropin, Genotonorm, as well as IGF1, which he describes as HGH mixed with insulin.

"There are piles of the stuff because each laboratory has its brands," he said.

The first part of Manzano's revelations claimed that he was injected with an unknown substance on last year's Tour de France which left him "on the verge of death" after he collapsed during the seventh stage.

Manzano also said he had to contribute 3,000 euros to a team kitty before the three-week race for the stocking of blood, which was used for transfusions during the race.

During his interviews Manzano showed reporters how he extracted blood from a vein to test his own haematocrit (ratio of red blood cells to whole blood).

Current doping tests in cycling centre on a rider's haematocrit count. If the haematocrit in pre-race blood tests is on or above the permitted threshold of 50, the rider is prevented from racing for two weeks because it is an indicator, although not proof, that doping has taken place.

In Thursday's edition of AS he showed how he used to inject EPO. He said it is used "to fight fatigue and oxygenate the blood -- you use it over long periods and it has long-lasting effects."

Manzano also said blood was taken out of his body when his red blood cell count was high -- his maximum reading was 56 -- and transfused back into him if needed.

"If it wasn't for EPO I don't think the average speed at major tours would be 41 kph," he said, adding that blood testers -- whom riders call "vampires" -- can be fooled when they turn up at team hotels.

"You get around half an hour after the testers turn up because they (team) send down the riders with low levels first. The team doctors are prepared," he explained.

"The rest of the cyclists who have higher levels are given blood plasma and glucose products and then do the controls -- these can lower your haematocrit level by four points."

Manzano decided to lift the lid on what he alleges goes on in the peloton because he claims to be living on the breadline since Kelme did not renew his contract for this season.

He was effectively sacked at the end of last season by Kelme for having sex with a woman in his bedroom during the Tour of Spain in September -- which he denied.

Both the Kelme team and the Spanish cycling federation (RFEC) have rubbished Manzano's claims and have promised to take legal action.

However Manzano is set to make further allegations which could further harm his ex-team's chances of winning a Tour de France wildcard invitation this year.

He added: "There is also cortisone, nandrolone, synthetic haemoglobin, Actovegin -- there are a lot of things to explain, but I'll talk about them in the coming days."


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