PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling : Retro PEZ Talk: Edward ‘Eddie B’ Borysewicz Part 2

Retro PEZ Talk: Edward ‘Eddie B’ Borysewicz Part 2
Retro Interview: Eddie B has been called the “father of modern American cycling” and he brought many successes to US cycling with his extensive knowledge. The man behind Armstrong, Lemond and so many others has own ideas on doping and 'blood doping' or as he would call it; 'blood boosting'. Part 2 of cycling according to Eddie B.

In Part One of the interview we discussed Eddie’s early racing days in Poland, his route into coaching, his move to the US – and Lance. In Part Two we talk about ‘power’ training, ‘blood doping,’ his record haul of US Olympic cycling medals in LA 1984 - and the methods he employed to get them.

Bobby Livingston and Edward Borysewicz, Colorado Springs 2000

PEZ: What do you think of the current 'training on power' methods?
Eddie Borysewicz:
That’s great stuff. But I have a different, I think better, method. Most important is your heart and blood. The heart tells you whether you’re tired or not. A power meter tells you how much wattage you can produce, but you need to understand why. Recovery is very important - in recovery you see your fitness.

Not just power but power for what?

Power for a few minutes recovery or power for six hours? That’s different power. The best thing is recovery.

My way is: Rest is second in importance to hard work. Without hard work, no results. But without rest - no results. People don’t believe you have to rest. My best thing is, with your program is after a race, rest there. The next day is resting, sprints. And you see and check all the time. In Colorado Springs, everyone, every day, listed their heart rate for that day on the door of their room.

Next, when I’m your coach, I see your face, I know. You can’t fool me. You ride the bike, when you’re tired, you’re riding differently. So, power meters are excellent, but can only be a part of the whole picture. Alone, they cannot give you enough information.

Going for a drive the 'Eddie B' way!

PEZ: In the 70's/80's the East Europeans dominated amateur racing - how much was doping and how much was attitude and character?
Poland did not do doping, 100%. In Russia and Germany, I heard rumors, but did not see proof. I did not see it. It was much harder to know about things like that in those days. Everyone saw if suddenly a rider was winning races overnight, but could not prove why. In Poland, we were highly educated in our program to know and understand our health and our blood by watching our numbers and keeping them strong. A rider cannot ride well if they are anaemic. Anaemic means low red blood cells. This can happen by training too hard or not eating right. Some people have anaemia naturally and must watch closely to monitor it.

Athletes need oxygen to perform and oxygen is carried by the red blood cells. If red blood cells are low, a rider cannot ride well. If they are at maximum, a rider can ride best. For me, that is basic to performance, so I always watch. I told my riders, when they come and have 4.8, “You are athletically anaemic. When you come and are not over 5, I don’t want to talk to you. You come, I won’t select you, I give you advice, you must be close to 5.5 and upwards.”

Hemoglobin: 18 is maximum, you must be 17 plus. It’s a little different for women. I didn’t check all the time, I told riders, that’s their business. Some riders come and ask me about these numbers and I explain what it means for haemoglobin and hematocrit, what is red blood cells, what is white blood cells. I say when you have below 5000 white cells, you are healthy, because white are your soldiers. They kill and eat bacteria, so when you are high, more soldiers are released from the base. That’s simple.

First haemoglobin goes up and red blood cells follow. This is no secret, everyone knows this. Not my idea. Blood boosting is not doping. Doping means using a drug, something artificial. We didn’t know anything about blood boosting in the 60s, but we did know that the blood needed to be at high levels for good performance.

If red blood cells were low, we knew to eat red meat, spinach, other food that built blood. It takes time, but blood levels go up with healthy diet. Drugs destroy over time. Things like testosterone destroys your body. Amphetamines destroy your body. Athletes go to high altitude to increase red blood cells, even today. This is blood boosting naturally, by high altitude, and is still legal. It doesn’t destroy your body.

Transfusions are done every day for people who cannot clot blood (hemophiliacs) and used in hospitals and many places. When it’s done right, which is very important, it is very safe. It can help anaemic riders be more healthy. When I was racing on the National team, we monitored blood and everybody was compared to me when they had blood tests. Always I was ahead of everybody. But, after a 15 day stage race, I went from 5.5 - 5.7, a balance like this, to 4.4. I know my numbers; I went from 5 to 4.

Athletes cannot race well when their blood does not deliver enough oxygen. They are not robots. Blood boosting was something Ed Burke brought to me after reading about Lasse Viren’s performance in the 1972 and 1976 Olympics. [Although Viren refuses to discuss it to this day most put the Finn’s two Olympic ‘doubles’ – 1972 and 1976 over 5,000 and 10,000 meters down to his being a pioneer of ‘blood doping’ where red cell rich blood is drawn off the athlete some weeks before an event then re-injected just before the event to boost the athlete’s blood’s oxygen carrying capability, ed.]

It made sense. It was legal. Freezing and storing an athlete’s own blood when red blood cells are high, then adding them back when they are depleted makes sense. When done right, it makes a rider healthy and does not cause harm. It is faster than altitude and diet in building blood, but with the same result. More red blood cells so he can get enough oxygen to perform at his best.

It “evens the playing field”, in the same way as athletes who need medical help for asthma or other health conditions receive help.

In America, cycling coaches do not usually have the intense medical training we must take in Poland, so it scares them to think about such ideas as working with blood, even though they know about the effect of altitude and diet on blood. Crazy diet programs can harm athletes’ health if they are not educated and monitoring effects. Athletes who go from sea level to 5000ft altitude find out how bad they feel without their blood adapting to get enough oxygen.

Blood boosting was cancelled was because it was a scandal in America. It was in the press! Needles in bodies! And they pushed the UCI, so UCI bent on this in 1986. That was a big problem. When blood boosting was banned, so came EPO. EPO increases red blood cells too, but it is by adding a substance to the blood, not natural. Riders would have been healthier with blood boosting.

EPO kills riders if done wrong. With EPO, guys don’t have any experience. Check this history. Their blood clots and this can kill riders in their sleep. Young professional riders died from EPO. Injections of EPO makes red blood cells glue together when you are not doing exercise. Glue together, in the night and guys clot and not wake up. So for me, banning blood boosting caused the murder of about 20 guys, Dutch and Belgian riders. They tried to keep this quiet. It’s all about having enough red blood cells to carry oxygen needed by the athlete to perform and stay healthy.

Blood boosting is not a bad idea. I never recommend it now because it’s illegal, but it makes sense. People who talk like it’s a bad thing don’t know what they’re talking about.

A young Lance with Subaru

PEZ: The '84 LA 'fall out' must have hurt – they wanted medals and you delivered.
My greatest achievement was the 1984 Olympics. I had heard about the new drug testing program in 1983 and I was happy because I knew that suddenly we would have an advantage. The teams that boycotted knew that they couldn’t pass the new drug screening, that’s the real reason they didn’t come. I knew our team could pass all the tests. Testosterone with oil stays in your body for years. As far as I knew, no one on my team had taken anything that was illegal. The year after my greatest triumph was my most difficult. I looked for every advantage for my riders and we were very successful. More than I expected, too!

Everything we did was legal and was not illegal until 1986. People were jealous and all they could do was criticize and talk as though what we did was not legal. It was legal, and they knew it, but only talked about it after we won so many medals. Three of the four Gold medal winners did not use blood boosting, so that was not the reason they won. Maybe they were at altitude. Maybe they ate good food. There are other ways to boost blood. The negative talk was my reward for hard work. But it’s been over 30 years and no one has gotten results like mine. I am proud of the athletes I developed. I still would look for every advantage, everything that is legal. That is what top performers do, they look for advantage. As a coach, I can’t control everything my riders do, but I advise them on what’s legal, what’s healthy, and what is not. After that, they make a decision.

Greg LeMond: Yellow Jersey Racer by Guy Andrews
Young Greg Lemond with a few of his medals

PEZ: Which achievement by your riders are you most proud of?
The 1984 Olympics. I developed riders from the time they were Juniors until they were National, World, and Tour champions. I am very proud of the riders I developed. Lance Armstrong was with me for two years, I developed him, too. Mike Fraysse told me about him when he was still a triathlete. I coached him as a Junior and a Senior, for two years, then he went on to other teams. I am proud of all my riders, whether they liked me or not. I never forget my boys I developed. Rebecca Twigg was special. I discovered her and developed her. Lemond was always the diamond for achievement.

Hoogvliet Nederland - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - Rebecca Twigg (USA) archives - stockphoto - archief - photo HR/Cor Vos © 2016Rebecca Twigg 'special'

PEZ: What's your main advice for a young rider just starting out?
Especially for parents: don’t push. Young riders have to work on technique, pedal stroke, next power comes and distance last. When parents push, bad habits may develop. Even Lemond, in my book, you see his pigeon toes? He rode like this, but he listened, was no problem, boom.

Develop technique slowly. In a kid’s first race, it’s a race for candies. It’s fine when not training. Exercise. For kids it is exercise. Serious cycling is supposed to be from age 16. It’s wrong to push children too young.

PEZ: Any regrets?
My regret is: I was crazy for cycling. My heart and my mind were dedicated to cycling, like nobody else. So for this reason, I put everything on cycling. Too much.

Effect was: I was divorced in Poland and I was divorced in the U.S. Here, my wife, now my ex-wife wife, told me every year during the Christmas Eve dinner how many days I was away from home. The average for these 12 years was 255 days. How you can keep marriage going like that?

Same in Poland, well a little bit different in Poland maybe, because it’s a small country, I went back home often. Here, when you go to Europe that’s a minimum of four weeks, maybe six weeks. In America, even if you go to the race in Texas, you are not coming the day before or leaving the day after. I was too dedicated, spending too much time coaching and not enough time with family. When I have many meetings now, when I speak to the people, I say “Follow me for everything except work load - because first is family, and second is job. Not first is cycling and next is family.”

That’s my big mistake. That’s what I’d like to tell to everybody. It’s about limits, and different priorities. Family first, then cycling.

Eddie B with Connie Carpenter Phinney

# Thanks to the great Eddie B for his time and his collection of personal photos and to Sandra Wright Sutherland, without whom this interview would not have been possible. #

It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he's covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,500 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself - many years and kilograms ago - and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site where more of his musings on our sport can be found.


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