Jon Orange, you clearly have a strong viewpoint (not exactly founded in science, but a viewpoint none the less) or an agenda to push. Many readers might find what you write less credible, because so much of your writing is centered around shaky premises which you state to be patently true and form the foundation of your argument.
A "normal" number of RBC (whatever that is!) is the amount you need to preform at your best? If perform is not in running, cycling, or any other sport, that statement is almost true. A "normal" count is not even a guarantee that your body can go through daily functions optimally. We could did deeper and also consider you are discussing RBC when other metrics, such as hemoglobin mass, are far more valuable. There are millions of people in the world who maintain RBC above 6.5-7.0 (i.e. well over "normal") but have hemoglobin counts under 12 (clinically anemic, if male) for their life and are not iron deficient, etc. Is this the homeostasis about which you write? Naturally produced EPO does not magically appear in response to hypoxia, low o2 saturation, low hgb mass, etc. You would not have to attend med school to understand that.
Like others who (rolling eyes) try to claim that EPO could not possibly improve performance, another false premise you offer is that EPO's benefits are explicitly from oxygen transport.
Again, sticking with basic level science and without going too deep, hemoglobin transports gasses both ways--oxygen and co2, for which there are benefits to both. The claim that elite athletes use less energy (you equate to oxygen) to go faster than non elites is not what is in question. The issue about is one individual athlete who now CAN transport more gas (the expel side when considering threshold efforts should not be discounted) but also be more efficient with the oxygen consumed (read on).
Those of you who try to deny that EPO enhances performance by claiming it is all about oxygen usage (do dopers seem to breathe more often than others, since their lung volumes are the same?) ignore that there are other performance enhancing benefits to using the drug, which can last for years. Just like weightlifters just wanting to put on some muscle often find their hct gets out of control from anabolic steroid use (a useful side effect!), EPO does not interact in the body in a simplistic, boost RBC (sic) only manner. EPO has a known role in angiogenesis and vasculogenesis, the performance impact of which should be obvious and would remain for long after blood counts return to baseline levels. EPO is known to also sometimes alter the type of hemoglobin proteins produced in a patient, particularly when relating to increased fetal hemoglobin production in adults which can remain skewed from baseline levels for long periods of time. Hemoglobin F, by the way, binds gasses more effectively than HBA, HBA2, so if you accept there is any benefit to improved gas transport capacity, someone with the same RBC, HCT, and HGB numbers after EPO and with elevated F would likely have better performance than before.