"Let's start with human growth hormone," Dr. Jones announced that first day in his office. I wasn't surprised. HGH is the foundation of his anti-aging regimen, and it's one of the hottest banned supplements in sports. It's a protein produced by the pituitary gland that's involved with various strength- and growth-related body processes, including normal growth during childhood, adult sexual function, bone strength, energy levels, protein formation, and tissue repair.
"Between 20 and 30 years of age," Dr. Jones explained in a long, impressive presentation, complete with fancy computer graphics, "our growth hormone is at its absolute peak. And then all of a sudden, it drops."
He ticked off the negative effects of low HGH levels: "Total cholesterol goes up, good cholesterol goes down, bad cholesterol goes up. Reduced body tone, decreased muscle strength, reduced lean body mass, increased total body fat, reduced exercise performance, decreased mental function."
It was the bit about "reduced exercise performance" that athletes seized on in the mid-nineties. If lower HGH levels hurt performance, the reasoning went, then higher levels would help it. And while there are sophisticated tests for steroids, there is still no means to detect HGH. It was so widely abused at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta that athletes joked about renaming them "the Human Growth Hormone Olympics." Dr. Jones started me out small, with only 0.1 international units a day, five days a week—about what he would give a Rodeo Drive matron. (The international unit, or IU, is a worldwide standard calibrating the effective dosages—which vary in volume depending on the drug—for substances like hormones and vitamins.) I told him I wanted more, and I wanted more than just HGH.
"We have to introduce one at a time," he said firmly. "That's the only way to monitor what each does. We start slowly and build."
I asked him what to expect.
"I really can't promise you anything about the growth hormone except that it costs a lot of money," he said with a smile. (My HGH cost about $750 a month.)
"Do you take it?"