PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2012, 9:58am

It seems the French were right after all. After years of accusing American cyclist Lance Armstrong of taking performance-enhancing drugs, it now appears certain that Armstrong's record seven straight Tour de France titles were won through an intricately planned doping conspiracy.

According to the US Anti-Doping Agency, which has stripped the cyclist of his Tour titles, the Texan used banned substances throughout his cycling career. And he forced teammates to dope under the threat of dismissal from his squad. Armstrong, 41, retired last year.

The banned blood booster erythropoietin, or EPO, was one of the key drugs taken by Armstrong and provided to teammates, the agency says. Testosterone and blood transfusions were other performance enhancers used.

Armstrong is certainly not the first to be done for taking EPO - many other top pro cyclists and American sprinter Marion Jones are among the high-profile offenders.

EPO is a peptide hormone that is produced naturally by the body to stimulate red blood cell production. An increase in red blood cells improves the amount of oxygen that the blood can carry to the muscles.

EPO can also be synthetically manufactured and injected into the skin or directly into the blood stream. In medicine, the drug is used to treat anaemia caused by specific chronic diseases or by chemotherapy medications that suppress bone marrow activity.

Find out more about the drug by taking this quiz.

1. EPO is naturally produced in the …

a. Kidneys

b. Thyroid gland

c. Brain

2. The main benefit of EPO is an increase in …

a. Speed

b. Concentration

c. Endurance

3. For EPO to be effective, the athlete would need to take it within how many days of competition?

a. One to three

b. Three to five

c. Five to seven

4. The inappropriate use of EPO can lead to …

a. Heart disease

b. Stroke

c. Cerebral or pulmonary embolism

Answers: 1. A; 2. C; 3. C; 4. All are correct