La Doping, Peter Wyss
In 2006, Landis apparently used T after faltering badly in one Tour stage and before an epic victory in the next, and his performance triggered questions about how fast testosterone works. (Not that fast.) Subsequently, like the typical busted pro, he spent years denying what he’d done and didn’t offer any insights about doping. In contrast, the whole point of my exercise was to experience testosterone and write about it. Over a nearly yearlong stretch that started in January 2008, I doped almost every day and kept records about the effects the drug had on my middle-aged body.
During that time, I competed in more than a dozen races, and in the end there was little doubt in my mind that testosterone provided performance boosts, though they weren’t as obvious as many people assume. Take what happened during one of my early races as a doper, back in April 2008. It was a sunny, crisp Northern California Saturday, and I was struggling through the third of four laps in an obscure 51-mile contest called the Wards Ferry Road Race, pedaling against a bunch of thirty- and fortysomethings in a category reserved for non-elite amateurs. Sweat running down my back, I waited for the T to kick in—or at least to give me some sign that it was working. Why couldn’t a light start blinking on my handlebars? Or my power meter play several notes of “Don’t Stop Believin’ “?
Near the end of the hilly course’s third lap, however, something happened: I felt a subtle but unmistakable second wind. At the top of a rise, I turned around and realized that our original group of 30 riders was now a group of seven. Everyone else, as bike racers say, was off the back. I finished sixth, which for me was a great result.
Do I credit my training? Luck? The placebo effect? Those were factors, but so, I believe, was the testosterone. As usual, I had applied it, as a topical cream, to my inner thighs early that morning. I knew firsthand what any number of pros would tell you if they could: the stuff is strong medicine. Once you feel what it can do, it’s hard to resist.