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SF Doctor Explains Drugs Lance Armstrong Used

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On Thursday, Americans got their answer. Former cyclist Lance Armstrong admitted to using performance enhancing drugs. But how far did Armstrong actually go to win?

Dir. of the National Institute for Athletic Health and Performance Dr. Michael Bergeron said, "I don't think we really know or truely appreciate how many people are using these types of drugs."

Bergeron says we hear the word doping a lot, but most of us don't actually know what it means or how it helps our athletic performance.

"Steroids don't work on their own, you have to actually work hard and if you don't have that genetic gift of being a great athlete it's not going to turn you into one. Really, they're designed and effective to take you a little bit beyond your genetic ceiling," said Bergeron.

One of the ways Armstrong said he altered his cycling performance is through blood transfusions. Bergeron says by doing this you're actually altering your blood content or volume of blood in your body. There's also something called blood doping, or a drug called EPO, which Armstrong also admitted to using.

Bergeron said, "It's a very rapid, effective way to increase the number of red blood cells, which increases the amount of oxygen that you can carry to your muscles. It does enhance endurance."

He says these shouldn't be confused with anabolic steroids that mimic the effects of testosterone. These steroids are man made and increase protein synthesis which build up cell tissue in the muscle.

Bergeron said, "You're playing with a lot of your physiology, you're playing with your phyche and you're playing with potentially some very long term, if not, permanent effects."

Effects that, he says, many are willing to deal with to win.

"If this means that you win a gold medal or you become number one and you potentially are risking your life it's pretty frightening that a lot of athletes, far too many athletes, will answer yes, they're willing to take that risk," said Bergeron.

Bergeron says blood doping can thicken the blood even further and cause blockages in the blood vessels to the heart and even the brain. He says using steroids can cause changes in blood pressure, cholesterol and to the heart. It can also alter our mood and make us more agressive.
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