Earlier this week I wrote about Lance Armstrong being accused of cheating by using the banned substance EPO during his 1999 Tour de France win. Le Ann Welty commented on EPO by describing what it was:

Just for some background information:
EPO is a naturally occurring hormone found in the body. It is produced in the renal cortex of the kidneys whenever red blood cells start running low. It can also be triggered by anemia, lack of iron in the blood due to … oh, let’s say chemotheraphy. Yet another trigger that causes it’s production is training hard in high altitude conditions where lower oxygen levels stimulate increased EPO levels. This is something any first year anatomy student learns.

For those interested in exactly what EPO is, it stands for Erythropoietin.

Erythropoietin (pronounced, ah-rith-ro-poy-tin, and abbreviated, EPO) is a relatively recent entry into the deceitful pursuit of glory. EPO is a protein hormone produced by the kidney. After being released into the blood stream it binds with receptors in the bone marrow, where it stimulates the production of red blood cells (erythrocytes). Medically, EPO is used to treat certain forms of anemia (e.g., due to chronic kidney failure). Logically, since EPO accelerates erythrocyte production it also increases oxygen carrying capacity.

EPO can be dangerous because it will cause athletes to have thicker blood than normal due to the increased red blood cells, so that when they exercise over a prolonged period and begin to get dehydrated, their blood gets too thick to travel through the veins efficiently. It gets sludgy and can cause a stroke or heart attack, and has been known to kill people while they sleep and go without rehydrating themselves over a prolonged period. Repeated injections can also cause antibodies to form that target EPO, which will also attach the naturally occuring EPO in our bloodstreams.

Despite a simple Google search for EPO bringing up quite a few paid advertisements about where to acquire it, I have to recommend against it. Not only is it illegal in competitive athletics, but it is dangerous and there are no real benifits for non-competitive use.