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Armstrong's Bio Passport Critic Speaks

Tue, 09/08/2009 - 7:35am by Andy Shen

I've been unable to get anyone to comment on the record regarding Jakob Moerkeberg's statements about Armstrong's Tour blood values, so I went to the source himself.

Andy Shen: How did this story come about? Did you approach the newspaper, or did they approach you?

Jakob Moerkeberg: There was a journalist from Denmark’s Radio that approached me, called me last Tuesday. He asked if I had seen the results posted on Armstrong's website, and I had. Then he asked me how I interpreted the data, and I told him what I saw, and he asked me if I was willing to say that on television.

AS: So you didn't initiate it? The typical criticism is, "He must need a grant, he's trying to make a name for himself."

JM: In 2007, when Michael Rasmussen also posted his values, there was another journalist who approached me. I took a stance on that also.

AS: So you were known as a blood researcher who was willing to take a stand publicly.

JM: Maybe.

AS: Can you tell me about your background?

JM: I'm an exercise physiologist, Copenhagen University graduating 2006, and I have just written up my PhD and submitted it one week ago, the PhD is about detecting autologous blood transfusions in an anti-doping context.

AS: And you have published with Damsgaard and Ashenden.

JM: Yes.

AS: Are you on the bio passport board? Do you have access to that information?

JM: No.

AS: Were you able to look at other values from the Tour?

JM: I've only seen Bradley Wiggins' values.

AS: Some have said that Wiggins' values are also suspicious. Do you agree with that?

JM: He hasn't published as many values, but his values are not following a pattern that you would expect from a physiological point of view.

AS: Part of what you find suspicious about Armstrong’s values is that the hematocrit stays very steady, with a couple of spikes in the middle?

JM: Yes. Usually I'm referring to the hemoglobin concentration, because that is what's used nowadays. People are more and more interpreting hemoglobin concentrations instead of hematocrit because of analytical reasons. So what I see is that his first value is the same as his last value, and when you look at those individual values during the race, it's going down in the beginning, then after the rest day the values increase, then they go down again, and then on the second rest day it increases again. I am well aware of the analytical and biological variations in the hemoglobin concentration, that is why I have emphasized that the important point when interpreting these values is that the last value is not lower than the first.

AS: Is hematocrit and hemoglobin somewhat interchangeable?

JM: Yes, there is a good correlation between those two parameters.

AS: The other thing you find strange is the reticulocyte count, that it's too low, and that's indicating that he's not producing his own red blood cells?

JM: If you look at his values during the year up to the Tour, the reticulocyte values are pretty much what you would expect, around 1%. There are analytical variations and biological variations to that parameter as for any other parameter. Then at the beginning of the Tour, it's half, .5%, which is producing half the red blood cells that you would expect. The reason why you get a decrease in your reticulocyte values is when you have an increased amount of hemoglobin. Your body does not have to produce as much as usual.

AS: What's the margin of error on these numbers? Is a .3 in hemoglobin fluctuation significant?

JM: It's not significant. That's why I'm not going into detail with every single number. I'm just saying that the first value and the last value are almost equal, and that the decrease you would expect is beyond the margin of variance for those numbers. That's the take home message.

AS: Michael Ashenden talked about a signal to noise ratio, there has to be enough of a fluctuation to be significant. Are these fluctuations beyond the range of 'noise'?

JM: The variations are within the noise, but that is if you're not doing anything. If you're not doing strenuous exercise, you wouldn't expect these values to change. You would expect these small variations that you see, but the reason I'm saying these values are suspicious is that he's doing strenuous exercise, and then you would expect to see a decrease, as you see in his values during the Giro. That's what's suspicious.

AS: So the important values to you are the beginning and the end, not the fluctuations in the middle?

JM: I would prefer not to get into details about the variations in the middle.

AS: Of course, now I'm going to ask you a question about the variations in the middle. Jonathan Vaughters and Frankie Andreu, in that famous IM session, referred to a 'rest day blood refill'. Also, Sinkewitz said he got his transfusions on rest days. Is it significant that the spikes in the middle occur after the rest days.

JM: Prefer not to comment on that.

AS: What kind of a spike in the numbers would you expect to see from a typical unit of transfusion?

JM: 0.8 grams per deciliter. For half a liter of blood, an increase in the hemoglobin concentration of 0.8 g/dL.

AS: There's also a spike in the off score before the Tour, is that something significant?

JM: If you apply it to the cutoff that they use, no.

AS: If you look at the graph, it's a big spike. It doesn't trigger a sanction, but is it something that triggers suspicion?

JM: It is a big spike, but what you have to take into consideration is that the previous value was at the end of the Giro, where his values decreased as expected.

AS: Damsgaard says this is just speculative, he hasn't criticized this on specific points. How do you view his statement?

JM: I really don't want to comment on that.

AS: Hans Erik Heier says the hemoglobin values are too low and couldn't have been manipulated.

JM: I can't follow that assumption. I am not saying these values are suspicious because they are high. That is the whole point. I am talking about a lack of relative low values for that specific athlete, which you would expect from a physiological point of view at the end of the Tour.

AS: Damsgaard also talked about the rights of the cyclist. Do you think it's correct for us to discuss this at all? The blood passport does allow for a lot of speculation, and the rider may not have sufficient recourse...

JM: I would like to emphasize that the passport does NOT allow for a lot of speculation, because the values are NOT publicized. I think there is a good reason for that and in my opinion that is the way it should be. Another thing is, when you as an athlete choose by yourself to publish your values - then it's free for people to comment on them. This was his own decision. If you're not ready for that scrutiny, you shouldn't publish your values. If a journalist comes to me, it's because I've done work in this area, and want my opinion as a scientist. If he has got a problem with people commenting on his values, he shouldn't have chosen to publish them. When he does that, it's an open forum, it's public, and if something looks strange it would be wrong for me not to say that, when I was asked. If I didn’t say his values looked suspicious, I would dismiss the scientific literature, which I have based my comments on.

AS: When a rider publishes his results, in a way, he's saying he must be clean because he's being transparent. So, in your opinion, he should be able to withstand some criticism.

JM: Correct.

AS: So if I were to come to you with Wiggins' numbers, you would say the same thing? Suspicious?

JM: I have seen no exact values, but the pattern on the graph I have seen does not follow the expected pattern.

AS: Bjarne Riis ended Saxo Bank's internal testing program, saying that the bio passport alone is sufficient. Do you think the bio passport is doing its job?

JM: Yes, definitely. I think it's a step in the right direction. I won't say it's perfect, but the bio passport has decreased the amount of doping you can do without being caught. It has decreased the allowed fluctuations you can have. I think it's on the right track.

AS: So doping might still exist, but not to the magnitude it used to be at? People might be cheating, but just not as much, so it might be easier for clean athletes to compete?

JM: Difficult to say, but I hope so.

AS: Have you been contacted by any members of the US media?

JM: The Associated Press contacted me.

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Add a comment
By: Reid Rothschild
Wed, 08/31/2011 - 4:36pm

Forgot to mention, Lance is doing a lot of bottom man work which isn't as arduous. His advisor Mark Fabiani told Dirk that Lance was preparing for Leavenworth.


Sessions to exhaustion
By: Reid Rothschild
Wed, 08/31/2011 - 4:34pm

From many years of experience we know Dirk's hematocrit drops into the upper 30's after a week of filming.

With Lance we haven't seen that and we always suspected he was doing a lot of preparation for his shoots. His equipment also doesn't require much blood flow so that could be a factor.


Reid Rothschild

dutch translation
By: Alexander Saddlebag
Fri, 09/25/2009 - 9:21pm

the description (beschriving) says

"blood design" is the result of a literary and clinical study of the oxygen transport capability of blood relative to sport, with an emphasis on erythropoietin or EPO.

the findings:
-EPO is an extremely valuable medicine which drastically improves the lives of patients with severe kidney disfunction.

-EPO...can improve the performance of endurance athletes from 8 to 12 percent.

-Because of doping, this supermedicine has acquired a particularly bad reputation


anybody sprik
By: Mathieu Kevlar
Fri, 09/25/2009 - 7:16pm
Dueling plots
By: Robert
Tue, 09/15/2009 - 3:42am

Armstrong Hb, ret%, SI off-score by date

significant figures
By: Thomas A. Fine
Mon, 09/14/2009 - 9:55pm

Why is it that all the data after mid-may is only one significant figure and everything before that is two significant figures?


Holy Data Clusters!
By: Andy Bernard
Mon, 09/14/2009 - 7:07pm

wonder what Don Catlin would think?

A plot I made of some
By: djconnel
Mon, 09/14/2009 - 5:46pm

A plot I made of some values:

If I were Floyd I would find
By: Niccolo Dry Lube
Thu, 09/10/2009 - 12:16am

If I were Floyd I would find those corgies distracting, but maybe Floyd likes corgies, or maybe there's some placebo effect going on with the giant suck-tube in his backyard, coupled with a few odd corgies. Those were corgies, right?

If forget what kind of small dog Cadel has but if somebody were to step on him, he "cuts their head off," and then loses time on GC. Personally, I would prefer a pug to any other kind of small dog, but that's just my own preference to blood boosting schemes-- be it EPO or a home built oxygen suck tank or rocking the Leadville belt buckle/twitter in Aspen.

I'd also like to try the famous In 'n Out Burger these guys find so enchanting, but they don't have that franchise in my area. But that's kind of off topic.

i am so good
By: Oh Greeeegggg
Thu, 09/10/2009 - 12:03am
Re: Homemade tent
By: Douchey McGee
Wed, 09/09/2009 - 9:56pm

I sleep with a plastic bag over my head and I crush it on NYCC rides. Suckazzzzzz!

Home made tent
By: Dropout
Wed, 09/09/2009 - 9:36pm

WTF!! The hypoxico cubicle which is large enough for a double bed and night stand was only 600 bucks back then.

Home made altitude tent?
By: Ethan Cable
Wed, 09/09/2009 - 8:40pm

Home made altitude tent? Come on! Maybe that was the hand-me-down he got from his USPS days.

From Morzine to a decoy in US crits. Nuff said.

Floyd's hip.
By: Reid Rothchild
Wed, 09/09/2009 - 4:17pm

Dear Jacopo Clearcoat,

Floyd has said his hip is just as good as it was before he injured it, and is not an issue.



wow, 3:48. it sounds like
By: Ethan Compliant
Wed, 09/09/2009 - 3:56pm

wow, 3:48. it sounds like lance came and stole one of YOUR balls. do you really care that much about his children's well-being? did his alleged doping effect you both morally and mentally?

"if you can, do it. if not, shut the fuck up."

so landis is an alky, tyler a
By: Florian Seattube
Wed, 09/09/2009 - 3:09pm

so landis is an alky, tyler a manic depressive, clinger's got f'ed up tattoos all over his face. clearly the americans don't know how to do it right. thank god at least boonen's out having fun, going clubbing at night snorting coke off strippers' handlebras.

landis and racing-
By: El boozo
Wed, 09/09/2009 - 3:06pm

Landis is not doing much with his racing these days as he is too busy boozing it up...And can you blame him after a crappy year he has had?

nothin is free
By: Jacopo Clearcoat
Wed, 09/09/2009 - 2:42pm

are you forgetting about the hip replacement?

speaking of free range
By: Florian Seattube
Wed, 09/09/2009 - 2:01pm

speaking of free range organic athletes, what happened to landis? from tdf yellow jersey to nowhere in domestic racing. must be clean now, eh?

To "Drugs don't work"
By: Reid Rothchild
Wed, 09/09/2009 - 1:45pm

Whatup Dude?

Hey man, I just came out of retirement and satisfied 10 ladies in an energetic 3 hour session. This Cialis is GREAT stuff. The only reason I ended it early was because I didn't want to have to go the the ER. One months work in a DAY! There are no rules against PED use in porn so you clowns can tell your ladies that these kinds of performances are only possible with drugs. I don't want to intimidate any of you people.

The same holds true with Pharmstrong. Take away the drugs and your average CAT 1 can probably beat him around Central Park. He'd have a mental collapse without his "crutch."

By: West Coast Reader
Wed, 09/09/2009 - 3:53am

Great interview, good solid questions, too bad he couldn't answer them all.

Maybe next time you should ask, "if I came to you with these blood numbers what would your analysis be?", just never mention who's blood values you're showing and never say who's they are, ask as in a mini-consultation, you can even pay him a nominal fee to have him analyze it so its on the up and up.

Andy is a fame whore
By: Steerer
Tue, 09/08/2009 - 9:11pm

Andy is a fame whore

word sounds
By: Frankie
Tue, 09/08/2009 - 4:20pm

is it KEE lo MEE ter or kill om eta...

The circumstantial regarding
By: Dillon Yakob
Tue, 09/08/2009 - 3:48pm

The circumstantial regarding Armstrong with relation to doping is alarming. People in the USA get sent to death row, convicted of murder on circumstantial evidence.

But as a good friend and cycling legend once told me, it's not worth worrying about it because he'll never ever be sanctioned anyway. Only through time and possibly in years to come will his samples be re-tested and the truth will be known, then it'll be too late anyway.

21 former team mates of LA have either confessed to doping or tested positive. Sure but you don't mix with dopers do you Lance? Most decent road racers like me know the truth - it's your average Fred that just continues to believe the Lance myth.

You're 38 years old man with young kids who need you and miss their daddy, so why the **** are you making this shoddy comeback? You should be taking your kids out for a ride round the local park and watching them smile not living the lie.

It's like Stephanie said, we can see when you lie man, it's obvious, your mannerisms speak volumes.

Now back to the real racers...

Great piece.
By: Jens Cage
Tue, 09/08/2009 - 2:49pm

thank you again for another great interview.

I am assuming that Jakob does not want to comment on certain questions because of fear of being sued by the Lance- Did he comment as to why he did not want to answer these questions?

Drugs don't work
By: liquiguts
Tue, 09/08/2009 - 2:35pm

Todays riders are climbing with a higher VAM and UTTERLY normal HCTs. That just shows that all that 90's EPO was a waste of money and the losers were just that, whinny loser trolls.

Maybe Andy should spend more
By: Sacha Swage
Tue, 09/08/2009 - 2:34pm

Maybe Andy should spend more time working out and less time worrying about what the PROs are doing unless they are local and in my race who gives a shit.

sane and rational
By: Nicolas Wave Ring
Tue, 09/08/2009 - 1:41pm

Sane and rational without mudthrowing. You clearly have no business reporting on cycling.
Seriously, good stuff. All credit to you for putting out quality content. Can we hope for an equally balanced response from LA?

i heard from my father's
By: Florian Seattube
Tue, 09/08/2009 - 1:40pm

i heard from my father's brother's nephew's cousin's former roommate that armstrong takes a lot of advil.

More than plausable - it's part of the public record at SCA tria
By: Stevie tube
Tue, 09/08/2009 - 1:27pm

More than plausable - it's part of the public record at SCA trial - this is from CN - but transcript is out there too.

They both said it was just hearsay so as not to suffer Lance's wrath - but the text conversation hapenned and if you consider that they wrote it never thinking that anyone would ever see it, yeah it's legit:

"But how do they store and hide it during all that time?" Andreu then asked. "I'm sure it's not in the bus fridges." To which Vaughters replied, "It's transported on a motorbike, in frozen cases. Floyd has photos of all of that."

Contacted by Cyclingnews about his statements, Vaughters admitted that the IM conversation had taken place, but said that everything he had said was based on rumours rather than facts. "It was a gossipy conversation between two people," he said. "There's nothing in it that I could prove in court, just stuff I'd heard."

The conversation had been printed out by Frankie Andreu's wife and submitted to the SCA arbitration, according to arbitration, according to Vaughters.

Vaughters said he could not be sure if Floyd Landis really had photographs of the alleged doping practices. "I regret saying Floyd said anything to me in that IM because it was a friend of Floyd's," he continued. "In fact, everything I wrote in that IM was something I heard from somewhere else."

Suck it mainstream media
By: not a sissylala
Tue, 09/08/2009 - 1:14pm

Once again, you put the American cycling media establisment to shame. I've come to the conclusion that their responsibility to the important issue of doping and the tough questions which preclude it has been gone a long time now.

Is that infamous IM between JV and Frankie verified as plausible? The only thing missing are Floyd's photos of it.

Seriously, good interview with shame to the American "journalists".

By: Frankie Wunderpants
Tue, 09/08/2009 - 12:59pm

Re the post above that said "Training at altitude in the run-up to the tour, followed by a couple or more days of downtime at low altitude, should result in a significant drop in reticulocytes at the beginning of the tour."

No it shouldn' at altitude will see an increase in reticulocytes by the beginning of the Tour, not a decrease. LA was at altitude for quite some time and so the high retics should be visible at the start of the race.

Well done to NYVelocity - great interview.

maybe he ate raw horsemeat
By: Florian Seattube
Tue, 09/08/2009 - 12:39pm

maybe he ate raw horsemeat before the test.

Referencing Hamburger Hamlet
By: Florian Seattube
Tue, 09/08/2009 - 12:22pm

Referencing Hamburger Hamlet and Official French Fry indices do not a scientific article make.

Or LA could be posting up
By: offthebackhack
Tue, 09/08/2009 - 12:21pm

Or LA could be posting up bogus data that is supposed to appear to be normal and this guy is just plain wrong (or just pointed out that LA's clan can't even get fake data right). Come on, do you really think his army of PR people are going to publish values that indicate doping? I think his 3rd place finish this year is more evident than his 'public' blood values.

P.S. Some where in the cyclingnews forum someone already pointed out where one of his 'public' values changed from back earlier in the year as compared to a more recent report that was publicized on Livestrong. However, I think it's already been removed from the site.

to anti-doper at 8:06 AM
By: Kyllian Wave Ring
Tue, 09/08/2009 - 12:04pm

Anyone who uses "clearly" so much is obviously not "clear" on the data. They are all within normal limits and this guy even says that the fluctuations are normal. All he is saying is that he expected H/H to go down over the course of the Tour. There is nothing else this data says, he even says the OFF score is normal and has an explanation of the big change. So nothing is clear, that is why nothing is being done by UCI, WADA, USCF (whatever it is now). That is why it is not front page news. All they can say is some Ph.D. candidate in Denmark thinks that LA's blood values didn't do what he thought they should during the Tour. Quoting Andy Shen's bias is more informative than that.

Interesting interview
By: Sacha Polished
Tue, 09/08/2009 - 10:49am

Well done. It's also nice to see him acknowledge that the bio passport has some value, even if it isn't a silver bullet.

i now combine power training
By: Florian Seattube
Tue, 09/08/2009 - 10:38am

i now combine power training on my computrainer, while ensconced in my high altitude tent in my 33rd floor apartment, to succeed in placing top 20 in cat 5 races regularly. it's been a marked improvement since doing the same while living in a 5-story walkup.

Training at altitude in the
By: Thomas A. Fine
Tue, 09/08/2009 - 10:29am

Training at altitude in the run-up to the tour, followed by a couple or more days of downtime at low altitude, should result in a significant drop in reticulocytes at the beginning of the tour.

So why is it typical for crit/Hgb to drop during a tour? Is it presumed to be an increased die-off rate due to stress, or is it presumed to be decreased replacement rate due to stress? And if it's the latter, can you remedy this through legal means, such as simple iron supplementation?

More generally, is there any data on how unusual it is to maintain crit/Hgb during a grand tour? In other words, while it's considered normal to have a drop, is it considered mandatory? WADA would have this kind of data, but they aren't exactly transparent.


Re: Witch hunt
By: Stevie tube
Tue, 09/08/2009 - 10:23am

Try reading a little about cycling's recent past before getting your fanboy panties all up in a knot. Start here:

Witch Hunt. Shame on you.
By: Sacha Swage
Tue, 09/08/2009 - 9:42am

Witch Hunt. Shame on you.

Wheel of Life
By: bystander
Tue, 09/08/2009 - 9:19am

CFAdies, Velocity rises.

ALti SIm best products
By: Mtn Goat
Tue, 09/08/2009 - 9:06am

from Alti-Tech...

Micah Cloteaux

"My hematocrit went up to 51.2% after using your system. That little portable machine really works!"

- Micah Cloteaux, Professional Cyclit

By: Ken Harris
Tue, 09/08/2009 - 8:51am

I doubt science will ever trump faith for those who buy into the cult of the transfigured Lance, but thank you for pursuing this.

follow up please investigatorally
By: Zoolander
Tue, 09/08/2009 - 8:46am

AS: Some have said that Wiggins' values are also suspicious. Do you agree with that?

JM: He hasn't published as many values, but his values are not following a pattern that you would expect from a physiological point of view.

An ok piece but doesn't go
By: anti-doper
Tue, 09/08/2009 - 8:06am

An ok piece but doesn't go far enough for me.
Hats off to Jaekob for having the balls to scrutinize the findings in the first place.

What has to be said though, is the distinct lack of coverage this story is receiving in the English speaking media. Clearly LA's results are out and open to discussion as the values clearly indicate something isn't right. It's clear to see from the forums on that this deserves to be published.

If these results belonged to any other rider the media would be on it straight away without hesitation. The Wiggins statement is worrying also., etc please wake up and at least have the balls to publish a (worthy) story. What happened to investigative journalism? It's not as though you're accusing LA of doping - you're just scrutinizing the results HE published. So why don't all you journalists become TRANSPARENT in your work?

Remember you all have a part to play.

great interview
By: Gregorio Bartape
Tue, 09/08/2009 - 8:03am

probing questions that definitely make you think twice.

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