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Did Lance Armstrong Cheat?

This month, some of the favorites to win the Tour de France endurance bicycle race were prevented from entering because of suspicion that they may have taken drugs or had blood transfusions to raise their red blood cell counts. That brings up the accusation that Lance Armstrong, possibly the most dominant endurance bicycle racer of all time, took blood boosting drugs when he won the first of his seven Tour De France victories.

The allegation is that Lance Armstrong’s urine, kept in storage for six years, had a positive test for EPO, a restricted drug that raises blood levels of oxygen-carrying and performance-enhancing hemoglobin. An article published in this month’s issue of the prestigious medical journal, Blood (June 15, 2006) shows that after competing in any athletic event, any athlete could have a false positive urine test for EPO.

The test for EPO is done by injecting the protein, EPO, into animals so that their bodies produce special proteins called antibodies that attach to EPO. The antibodies are put on a special plate, and the test urine is added. If the urine contains EPO, a band consisting of the antibody tied to the EPO appears on the special plate.

Researchers at Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium showed that “this widely used test can occasionally lead to the false-positive detection of EPO in postexercise, protein-rich urine.” Any athlete can have a false positive test with this procedure. Most people with healthy kidneys do not spill protein in their urine, but after strenuous exercise, athletes with normal kidneys often spill protein into their urine. For example, more than 80 percent of runners spilled protein into their urines after running the Boston Marathon. The authors state that the antibodies that are used in the test can attach to any protein in the urine, not just EPO.


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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Do you recommend carrying weights while walking or jogging?

The only advantage to exercising while carrying weights is that you can get more exercise while moving slowly. To strengthen your heart, you have to exercise vigorously enough to increase your heart rate at least 20 beats a minute above resting. How fast your heart beats depends on how much blood it has to pump to your body. When you run and carry hand weights, your heart has to pump blood to your exercising leg muscles and also has to do extra work to pump blood to your arm muscles. That means that you can achieve the same heart rate when you run more slowly.

Competitive runners should never carry hand weights. How fast you run in races depends on how fast you run in practice. Carrying hand weights slows you down, so you become a slower runner. Carrying weights also interferes with the natural motion of your arms while running. On the other hand, carrying weights can help to protect people who develop frequent running injuries. Carrying hand weights slows them down, so less force is directed at their leg muscles while they run. Hand weights will not do much to increase your arm strength; to become stronger, you must lift progressively heavier weights.


Dear Dr. Mirkin: How important is exercise for controlling cholesterol?

Studies over the last 60 years have shown that people who exercise are healthier than those who do not. Over the last 10 years, many studies have shown that the more intense the exercise, the greater the protection. A report from Italy shows that physical activity is very important in helping to control cholesterol (Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine, Volume 44, 2006). Healthy male sedentary controls had their blood cholesterol fractions compared to those of male professional cross-country skiers and professional road cyclists. The athletes had much more healthful numbers for total cholesterol, the good high-density cholesterol, triglycerides, and the bad low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. The concentration of another heart attack risk factor called Lp(a) or lipoprotein(a) was the same in both groups because it is a hereditary factor that is not influenced by lifestyle. Every single scale of susceptibility for heart attacks except the Lp(a) was better in the athletes. More


Whole Grains Made TRULY Easy

This is great news if you have a Trader Joe’s store in your area. They are selling COOKED wild rice and brown rice, in plastic or foil packets that need no refrigeration. Diana is experimenting with them in some of our favorite whole grain salads. Please try them and tell me what you think. Also, if you know of any sources other than Trader Joe’s, please let me know (send an email to )

Wild Rice Fruit Salad
Southwestern Bean Salad
Artichoke-Wild Rice Salad

You'll find lots of whole grain salads, helpful diet tips and more in
The Good Food Book - it's FREE

List of Diana's Healthful Recipes

June 26th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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