What: Book signing for “The Doper Next Door”
When: 7:30 p.m. Monday
Where: Boulder Bookstore, 1107 Pearl Street
Cost: $5, includes $5 day-of talk coupon
More info: boulderbookstore.indiebound.com
I’ve tried a lot of new things since becoming the outdoor recreation reporter. I’ve gone fly fishing, stand-up paddleboarding. I’ve taken (a humiliating) lactate-threshold test and tried to improve my form on telemark skis (fail!).
I haven’t tried doping.
But Andrew Tilin has, and he’ll be at the Boulder Bookstore tonight talking about his book “The Doper Next Door: My Strange and Scandalous Year on Performance Enhancing Drugs.”
Tilin, a fortysomething journalist, father and amateur bike racer, started out hoping to write about an average-joe cyclist doper.
“Testosterone is reportedly a billion-dollar industry,” he said. “So I’m wondering, well, who’s taking all of this stuff? I went looking for a citizen doper, someone who would tell me his or her story.”
After searching for a source for a year, though — dopers aren’t eager to talk to the media, whether they’re pros or Joes — and researching performance-enhancing and “anti-aging” drugs, Tilin got sucked into the idea of becoming a juiced guinea pig himself.
“There definitely were moments when I asked myself, am I taking the drugs to write a book, or am I writing the book to take drugs?” he said. “Now that I’m not on the drugs, I can say I did it so I could write the book.”
The book and his actions — he took legally-obtained and prescribed testosterone and DHEA and raced during the 2008 cycling season — are not without detractors, obviously. And I’m certain I’ll receive emails saying I shouldn’t be giving this cheater and his book any more press. But I’m halfway through the book as I’m writing this, and I have to confess that I’m morbidly fascinated by his story. It’s a cheater’s tale, but it’s also a look at the anti-aging movement, hormones, dubious doctors and how it all hits home for an aging average athlete and his relationships.
Also, my conversation with Tilin was intriguing because he’s now comfortable discussing the taboo. When I called, he answered from a noisy café. What did the folks at the next table over think when they heard him say into the phone that “the first metric, if you will,” of doping with T is morning erections six weeks in?
“As much as the book is about cheating on my bicycle, the book is about middle age,” he said.
About two months into his doping regime, Tilin realizes he’s recovering quickly from hard workouts and thus can train harder and more. “That’s definitely a cheater’s privilege,” he said.
But, he added, “I’m not a very good bike racer.” Tilin didn’t win a single race while doping, but he had better-than-usual results in races, like placing tenth as a Cat-4 road racer in the Cascade Cycling Classic (“I’ve never cashed my $20 check from Cascade,” he said).
“When you’re racing on this stuff, you’re beating people who you don’t normally beat,” he said. “In the middle of it, you’re just having fun… but you’re also feeling like a fraud.”
Tilin’s been roasted online and heckled at book readings. But he’s OK with the latter.
“I wish they’d show up so I could try to reason with them and try to explain myself,” he said. “I don’t mind losing an argument with them in a public place.”
He says he’s proud of the book.
“It’s a very honest book,” he said. “I think it shines a light on something very much in pop culture, doping, and something that isn’t known at a personal level — what’s its effect on relationships, what it’s like to go to a doctor to try to get it.”
As someone with cat-killing curiosity, I’m glad he wrote it. But as an occasional guinea pig myself, I’ll stick to stuff like fly fishing.