Does EPO Cure Vertigo?

Gianni Bugno is joining up with the Change Cycling Now committee in his role as the president of the Association of Professional Cyclists.  Part of his day job is flying helicopters.  His thoughts should be worth reading.

Bugno was once a young pro who showed some promise.  Then he reappeared in 1990 and won the fastest-ever, to that point Milan-San Remo.  And the fastest since.  Maybe it was a tailwind.  The key to his success:  classical music.  A month of music therapy turned him from a “timid rider” into a beast. It’s amazing to think that a guy suffering from vertigo was able to finish the 1989 Tour in 11th place, but by March of 1990, he was able to drop down the Poggio to San Remo like a stone.

That, and “Bugno was remade by psychologists, allergists, racing counselors and, of course, his musical therapist.” And he went on to lead the Giro d’Italia from start to finish, win two stages of the Tour, a second World Cup race, and take the season’s World Cup.  The next year, he doubled up as Italian national champion and World Champion.  While 1990 was his best season by far, his palmares are extensive.

The music therapy is a nice touch.  Credit to Dr. Francesco Conconi for Bugno’s success.  Bugno was never proven to have taken EPO, or the amphetamines that were addressed to him by a Mapei soigneur after he was retired and was working with the team.   But his name was associated with over a 20% shift in hematocrit values in files seized from Conconi’s lab.  Pantani, also a Conconi client, had probably closer to a 40% shift in Conconi’s files.  And Bugno was suspended for too much caffeine in 1994, by too much it was 30% above what was the legal limit.  I can’t find info on this now but I believe the limit was something like 600mg, or six cups of coffee at once.

It will be interesting to see where he stands on whatever the group comes up with.

But I bring up Bugno because he was one of many riders who attributed success to the curing of what seemed to be rather common, simple ailments.  Tony Rominger himself suffered from allergies and had them taken care of by Doctors Conconi and Ferrari en route to winning three Vueltas, taking the 1995 Giro in the same dominating fashion that Bugno did in 1990 and setting the hour record, where Ferrari paint himself as the masterful coach.  Rominger never tested positive for EPO, but according to Conconi’s records, he, too saw more than a 20% shift in hematocrit values.  And Rominger all but admitted his own use in a conversation with David Millar, later recounted in Millar’s memoir.  There’s also the matter of testing positive for Salbutamol at the 1994 Tour, but it was thrown out because even though he had been warned before the Tour, Salbutamol was only illegal in France. Ironically, Salbutamol could possibly help with allergies.

“Hay fever.” “Allergy sufferer.” In the 1990s, these were common rationales for why someone who had been competing for the Lantern Rouge was suddenly winning races. There were other, more exotic ailments that riders had cured to cause sudden spikes in performance.  Maybe with the raft of admissions and documents coming to light, we’ll finally find out about these ailments and how curing them can make a struggling domestique a star.

I love to learn how EPO cures vertigo.

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