I have used EPO, the same drug the top cyclists used to surpass what the normal human body can achieve.
My history with EPO
While it was not my idea, when my doctor first suggested it, I did not protest or fight it, but I let him inject me on several occasions. At one point, my doctor encouraged me to learn to inject myself. He gave me a needle and a nerf football to practice subcutaneous injection. After watching me bury a needle all the way in to the football (far too deep), he decided that trained hands should inject me.
Like the pro cyclists who have testified to the use of EPO at all levels of cycling, we had to monitor the levels in my blood to make sure my levels weren’t too high. That meant more needles, extracting blood to make sure my hemoglobin levels weren’t too high. Once I had two injections within too short of a time period, and my hemoglobin levels were far above normal, raising a good deal of alarm with my doctors. I remember the small vials, I remember the complicated payments for the drug.
I did not tell my friends about this. I did not tell my family about it. It was not something I wanted to share. I did not want to admit who I was cheating.
Why would I do this? What could possibly drive me to let a doctor put EPO into my blood stream?
It’s simple: Both of my kidneys had failed. Your kidneys are responsible for producing the hormones (the natural equivalent of EPO) that tell the body to generate red blood cells. As my kidneys failed and performed only at 5% of their original capacity, I wasn’t producing enough red blood cells, and so I needed EPO.
I’m not alone. Almost every kidney patient out there has seen the small bottles that were our lifeline, that kept us healthy, along with all the other drugs we used to keep ourselves alive. Our health depended on it. My cousin Diane, who gave me a kidney, put an end to my need for EPO to survive. I’m sorry to out all my fellow end-stage kidney disease patients and our past use of banned, illicit substances. Who were we cheating? We were cheating death.