Dutch doctors have their say

Guido Costongs, a Dutch doctor and chemist, who works for Stein Partners in Monchengladbach (Germany) where they do 200,000 blood analyses per day told the press on Tuesday: "I need 5 minutes, no more, to prove EPO use. My colleagues and I have been looking for a method to find erythropoietin. We are ready now to do the tests. This week we shall contact the UCI."

Why the UCI and not the International Olympic Committee?

"I know Hein Verbruggen. Three years ago, I did the first health controls in the Klautertour in Sweikhuizen (Netherlands). We can detect artificial EPO use. In the blood, you can easily detect non-mature blood cells. Normal human beings have between 17 and 27 percent of these cells. After injecting with artificial EPO, that percentage will be around 80 to 90 percent. When someone stops injecting EPO they can see their non-mature blood cells count go down to below 10 per cent. This is because the body's own production stops while the artificial EPO is being injected. We use this method of analysis in kidney-dialysis patients and as a test for sportspersons. These figures are not applicable to people with anemia. But then I don't think that anemic people are riding in the professional peloton."

What about Pantani?

"Bring me the blood of Pantani. Send it to me at 8 degrees and I will tell you within 5 minutes whether he has been using EPO."

Ton Verhey, a cycling doctor from Doetinchem also commented on the EPO issue: "I will explain Pantani's reading one more time. When you sleep above 2500 meters, you can make so much EPO that your hematocrit level goes above 50. When you ride a Tour after 1 to 2 weeks the level goes from 45 to 40."In the night, when you are dehydrated, especially after a day of cycling in the mountains in warm weather you can go above 50. Pantani was prepared the night before and "tuned up on 48-49". But because of the dehydration (which is stronger in the mountains than at sea level) this reading went to 52. It represents a major error by his support crew.

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