Then I started to realize that my eyesight really was improving. I'd been thinking about getting glasses to read fine print on maps, but now there was no need. The glasses I used for night driving stayed in the glove compartment, unused, unnecessary.
Dr. Jones had a specific protocol he wanted to follow, partly for safety reasons and partly so I could discern what each drug was doing. After the HGH, he added testosterone, giving me a 200-milligram injection and a pump vial full of Testocream, white stuff that I rubbed on the sides of my stomach. "It's like with a bathtub," Dr. Jones explained. "The shot fills the tub. The cream keeps replenishing it every day to top it off."
For most men—and women—testosterone production peaks in your twenties and slowly declines. Testosterone urges the RNA, or message center, in muscle cells to create more protein, hence more muscles. Higher testosterone levels have been shown to increase energy and aggression, in both men and women. Anti-aging types believe that testosterone decline is a big factor in the loss of muscle and the increase in fat that are standard signs of getting older. Not to mention a loss of libido. There can be side effects from taking it—ranging from acne to high blood pressure—but the drug's many fans think the trade-off is worth it.
I walked out of Dr. Jones's office smiling broadly, then waited for a werewolf surge. And I waited. But the truth is, I didn't feel much of anything. No irresistible bursts of lust or rage, no particular feelings of omnipotence. That afternoon I went home and celebrated my newfound energy and aggression with a long nap.
IT WASN'T UNTIL I ADDED EPO to my diet, two weeks later, that I began to notice serious differences.
"You have to be careful with this stuff," Dr. Jones warned after explaining the routine: three injections a week of 1,500 IU each. I was expecting a lecture on the dangers of thickened blood, but he meant something else: he wanted me to take it easy while racing, lest people catch on.
"One of my bike racers who isn't really a climber went on a training ride and dropped the best climbers on his team," he said. "They were like, 'Um, what are you taking?'"
It wasn't cheap—$2,000 for ten vials totaling 100,000 IU. At my prescribed dose, each vial would last two weeks. Before the first EPO shot, my base hematocrit level was 43.8 percent, well below that magical 50 percent disqualification level. That seemed like a reasonable goal—hematocrit levels high enough to be bounced from the Olympics. Sweet.