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In search of relevance, a Cat. 3 turns to EPO and HGH

  • By Matthew Beaudin
  • Published Aug. 1, 2012
  • Updated Dec. 30, 2012 at 9:45 AM EST

Upping your game

In 2011, Anthony won another race as a Cat. 4, then joined a better team, and knew he would upgrade to a Cat. 3 soon, and he knew he wasn’t anywhere near winning form.

“At that point, I’m like, ‘you know, you’re not going to be that competitive,’” he told himself. “I was like, ‘you’re going to need to up your game here.’ I was looking at everything. My equipment, my coaching, my training my eating… and I came across hormone replacement therapy.”

As the body ages, some of the hormones it produced when someone was younger taper off. Anthony was going to race against younger riders as a Cat. 3, and thought of hormone replacement therapy as a leveling of the field. He did his homework: there were zero side effects if Human Growth Hormone was used in a “normal” range, and it would help him recover from hard training efforts.

“I had this bad justification, which was, ‘all I’m doing is leveling the playing field,’” he said. Anthony worried his new team wouldn’t keep him on the roster if he didn’t produce results. He sought out HGH, which he said was easy to get. It cost about $500 a month, but it was something Anthony was willing to pay.

“I noticed, right away, that I was recovering better,” he said. “I was using the tent, I had a higher hematocrit… I was able to train harder, and recover from those harder training days.

“It was this very slow progression of awfulness. That was the beginning of there being two Davids.”

The private David was doing HGH, and the public David was the guy who’d made the team, who had the great friends in the New York cycling scene.

In the offseason of 2010/2011, he trained like a pro. He had a CompuTrainer and upped his training stresses. He had a coach, but was reading every piece of training theory he could find… in his third year on the bike and as a Cat. 4. But the Tour of the Battenkill was looming.

“The HGH allowed me to really up my training stress. And then I won that race,” he said. “Even though I was doping on HGH, I still got, you know, some satisfaction out of that. Less than two years before, but I still felt pretty good.”

Then, Anthony upgraded to a Cat. 3.

“I was getting shelled as a three. I wasn’t getting any results,” he said. “And that’s when I started to look into the real stuff. The EPO.”

The human body secretes EPO, or erythropoietin, naturally when the body perceives a lack of oxygen in the blood. The chemical enters the bloodstream and eventually finds its way into bone marrow, which then sends a signal to produce more red blood cells, thus allowing the body to transport more oxygen and increase athletic performance.

“There were places it seemed like I could get it on the ‘net, but two things stopped me,” he said. “Number one, I was worried about having some sort of paper trail. I was very scared about that. The other thing I was worried about? How do I know this shit isn’t going to kill me?”

Anthony has since told the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency how — and where — he attained the drugs, but didn’t want to share with VeloNews because he was worried it would offer a roadmap to others. He did find EPO “through legal means,” he said.

Anthony began shooting the EPO into his belly fat. He was his own chemist and doctor, tinkering with dosages so that he could maintain a hematocrit in the low 50s. The dance between EPO and HGH was in step; with the EPO, he could train harder and with the HGH, he could recover faster and stronger. “It took a while to figure it all out,” he said. “There was no light-switch moment. But what did happen is that I could train more.”

And then, in the middle of the 2011 season in a race, the switch clicked. Anthony jumped in a breakaway with another rider, but eventually dispatched him and rode solo all the way to the line.

“I just stayed away for the entire race,” he said. “It was shocking. And everybody was like, ‘holy shit.’ All my friends, everybody else, was like, ‘holy shit.’

“And I was, too. I was, too.”

The next race was a hilly affair, but Anthony didn’t do anything special, landing a top 20.

“Let me put it to you this way: I’m classified as an all-rounder. So, what really happened was, I went up a few levels. And at the next level up, I was still an all-rounder,” he said. “I still struggled to make the selection at the next level up.”

This shit works

Into the 2012 season, Anthony was primed. He’d done “a ton” of base training. Plus, thanks to a revelation in the wind tunnel, he’d found out he had a naturally aero body and position on the bike. A short version of the complicated calculus: due to the exponential quality, his advantage was enormous. His watts were up, and his drag was down. What’s that mean? Explosive time trial results.

“In my case, the EPO and the HGH were actually worth more,” he said. “I was like, ‘this shit works,’ and I was also freaked out. I never expected that. I thought I’d just be a little more relevant.”

To be more relevant, Anthony was spending $1,000 a month.

The Tour of the Battenkill was near — the race he’d won twice before as a clean rider, the one that pulled him into the sport. “I could show you my files. I went over the deep end to prepare for this race,” Anthony said.

The finale came down to a five-man sprint.

“I sprinted out of this group, and I was like, ‘I’m going to die or I’m going to finish this race.’ And I won it. And I got to the end and felt absolutely nothing. I was trying to feel something. I wanted to feel that feeling that I had before. And it wasn’t there. It was completely empty.”

All the while, no one asked him about drugs. No one, he thought, suspected a thing. Anthony never told anyone.

When written out, the mere facts of Anthony’s story are indicative of a deep obsession — something he said his personality lends itself to naturally. He was spending thousands on the drugs, was training under oxygen deprivation and racing three times a week as a Cat. 3. His best result while on the drugs was a 16th place in the Killington Stage Race’s time trial in the Cat. 2 field, in late May of this year. He came into the sport weighing about 160 pounds. Three years later, he was tipping the scales around 144.

“By 2012, my entire life was in the service of racing. It was like, coach, power meters, tent, doping,” Anthony said. “It was just off the deep end.

“The reality is that it was the most important thing to me in the world for whatever reason. I was willing to take drugs and inject them into my belly and do all sorts of other crazy, crazy shit to be the best athlete I could in that situation.”

He received word he was to upgrade to a Cat. 2.

“My body was at the pinnacle of… it was at an amazing level. I was competitive at a Cat. 2 level,” he said. “People were noticing. People were definitely noticing. And I’m feeling, like two inches tall.”

It was then, he thought, that maybe people suspected something. Anthony still hadn’t told a soul, and no one had ever asked him about it, either.

And then came the fondo. Anthony figured he would finish well out of suspicion, because he thought the field would be loaded. It wasn’t. He finished fifth overall and won his category, based on his times up the climbs. And then came the chaperone. It had been five days since he’d last used EPO. It was the first time he’d ever been tested.

“I was thinking, ‘boy, I wonder what’s going to happen here,” he said. “I’m scared, but I’m not that scared.’”

He went home, and then the clouds of doubt started to roll in.

“And now, I’m worried,” he said. “I starting doing research. I spent the next five days deep, deep, deep into research.”

He found a study that noted EPO stayed in the system for seven days.

“I knew I was at five. I was worried. I was pretty worried,” Anthony said.

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Matthew Beaudin

Matthew Beaudin

Matthew Beaudin graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder's journalism school in 2005 and immediately moved to Telluride, Colorado, to write and ski, though the order is fuzzy. Beaudin was the editor of the Telluride Daily Planet for five years. He now lives in Boulder, where he joined VeloNews in the spring of 2012. Music. Coffee. Bikes. That about sums it up.

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