U.S. swimmers take diet supplements that give EPO-like benefits

Jenny Thompson is using a diet that reaps EPO-like benefits  Credit: Todd Warshaw/Allsport
WASHINGTON (Aug. 8) XINHUA American swimmers Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres admitted that they were taking a nutrition program to the benefits of some banned drugs to help them stay among the world's elite swimmers, local reports said on Tuesday.

Under the program, swimmers are requested to take small amounts of the controversial but legal creatine and about 25 daily supplements of multivitamins, minerals, amino acids and supplemental proteins, the Washington Post reported.

"The program, which costs more than 500 dollars a month, will produce the benefits of some banned drugs such as human growth hormone and erythropoietin (EPO) without breaking any rules or jeopardizing the athletes' health," the Washington Post quoted Glen Luepnitz, a Texas-based nutritionist and Immunologist, as saying.

"We know there are all sorts of performance-enhancing drugs being utilized nationally and internationally," Luepnitz said. "I'm trying to look for an edge ... We can get their own body to provide the same type of response in a very controlled manner."

Torres' and Thompson's separate disclosures came in response to questions regarding their training methods and may have been intended to disassociate themselves from suspicions of banned drug use.

Torres, 33, recently set an American record in the 50-meter freestyle despite coming out of retirement just last year after seven years away from the sport. Thompson, 27, has long been considered one of the top Americans in the freestyle and butterfly, with the most Olympic gold medals of five but all from the relays events.

However, neither swimmer was ready to identify their specific supplement routine, citing a desire to protect their "trade secrets at a highly competitive time of year."

Both Torres and Thompson train under U.S. Olympic women's team coach Richard Quick, who said that he not only supports Luepnitz's program, but also is using it for his Stanford swimmers.

Quick said Luepnitz's nutritional work is only one part of a system of trainers, sports psychologists, flexibility experts and others at Stanford who have helped Thompson and Torres prosper.

Luepnitz, a doctor of immunology and nutrition at Austin-based Lone Star Oncology, said that Torres and Thompson use no over-the-counter products without his approval, and take approximately 25 pills, powders or other supplements at different times of the day.

Glutamine, an amino acid that he said stimulates the body's natural production of growth hormone, is taken after workouts to help muscles recover more quickly, and appropriate doses of iron and proper rest are used to maintain a relatively high red blood cell count, mimicking the action of the banned drug EPO, said Luepnitz.

"I think if both women stopped the program they would still do fantastically well. But do I think it helps them? Obviously," Quick was quoted by the Washington Post.

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