"OK" the doctor said when we settled into his examination room. "What do you want to be?"
I looked confused, so he explained.
"You want to be bigger? Leaner? Faster longer or faster shorter? More overall endurance? You want to see better?"
"Human growth hormone does that for some people. It improves the muscles in the eyes." He tried again: "So, what do you want?"
This was quite a concept. Freud wrote that anatomy is destiny, and here was a doctor giving me a chance, in my late forties, to alter my body in the most fundamental way. It was strange, but also strangely alluring.
It had taken me a while to arrive at this moment. I was sitting in the San Fernando Valley offices of a physician whose identity I've agreed to conceal—let's just call him Dr. Jones. For reasons I'll explain shortly, my goal was to experience firsthand some of the banned performance-enhancing drugs that are often abused in the endurance sports I participate in, like cycling and cross-country skiing. The menu I had in mind included human growth hormone (HGH), testosterone, and some variety of anabolic steroid, all of which are used to increase strength and shorten an athlete's recovery time by repairing muscle cells faster. Also high on my list was that powerful stuff called erythropoietin, better known as EPO, a hormone that boosts oxygen levels in the blood by prompting the bone marrow to produce more red blood cells. EPO is known to have amazing endurance-boosting effects; not