Steroids vs Natural Body Building
I started training at a very early age
I started using a gym at the age of 14 but started using weights at 12, training at home with a simple bar and weights, initially to build myself up for rugby, then at the age of 18, the bodybuilding took over.
Once I started work at 19 I was able to afford extra food and started eating 8 times per day and went from 11 stone to a very lean 15 stone in 4 years. All the growth was purely down to hard work and diet.
During my late twenties, I competed in 4 natural bodybuilding shows and started competing again in 2009.
At 51 I still train 4 days per week in my own gym in France and hope to compete again in natural competitions very soon after 37 years of enjoying the sport.
I have never used steroids but have decided to write this hub to try to protect those coming into the sport and coming under pressure to take the quick route of steroids.
My second natural show at 28 years of age
When did I notice signs that steroids were being used around me
At 14 when I entered my first gym, I was extremely lean and just put the fact that some of the guys who were strong and muscular had become that way due to years of hard work and a good diet.
Looking back, although never discussed because it was a small gym in someone's garage there were properly some taking drugs to enhance their gains.
At 17 my family moved house and I joined a new larger gym. I was surrounded by some extremely strong and large men, talk of steroids was more open and actively pushed within the gym. The owner actively sold steroids and constantly asked me if I wished to try as it would speed up my gains. Looking around so many men the same age as myself and older were all on the 'gear' and were so far ahead of me in terms of size and strength.
I did get very close to saying yes but a dream I had one night saved me from taking what would have been the worst decision of my life. Within the dream, I said yes to the gym owner and we went into the changing area where he asked me to pull down my shorts and he produced a needle that was plunged into my buttock, as soon as the drug started to flow into my system I felt dirty and a cheat. The dream had such an impact on me that any thoughts of actually saying yes had vanished and throughout my 30 years enjoying the gym I have never taken steroids.
I appreciate the decision even more after seeing first hand what taking steroids can do.
My first encounter of steroid abuse
My first encounter of steroid abuse was at the gym in question, a guy I trained with when I was 23 years of age was the same weight as me at 15 stone. We were evenly matched in strength, he then started to use steroids and within the next year gained 4 stone.
He became very strong but he looked terrible more bloated than muscular with a face and back full of acne. About 6 months later he stopped weight training completely. He had stretch marks all over his body where he gained so much weight so quickly, he developed an enlarged nipple area ( known in bodybuilding circles as bitch tits -horrible term but that's what it is known as).
He only went to the doctors about his health when he started to urinate blood and was told he had caused major damage to some of his organs. He also became flat-footed as the arches in his feet collapsed with the sudden weight increase.
A year later the same guy was a skinny 11 stone, looked dreadful, stretch marks over his body and had to keep his diet in check or risk additional health problems.
The more years you spend in the gym the more horror stories you see
A few years later another guy from the gym died from steroid-related abuse and around the same time, it was in the press how a bodybuilder during a steroid induced rage and dived into a wall, head first and killed himself.
I then moved to another gym and was surrounded by guys working on the doors at clubs, all were using steroids and for that reason, the whole gym had an air of aggression.
One of the guys a former Junior Mr Great Britain who also place 2nd in Europe suffered a heart attack at the age of 22. Directly after the heart attack everyone said they would come off the gear but a few weeks later the chap who suffered the heart attack put it down with splitting with his girlfriend and very soon all were back on the juice (22-year-old men that exercise on a regular basis do not have heart attacks from splitting up with girlfriends).
How the draw of quick results can change peoples perspectives of whats blindingly obvious.
A year later I was training with a 19-year-old friend who was naturally very strong and making real progress, against my advice he started taking steroids and he like the guy before put on loads of weight but stopped after he girlfriend threatened to leave him because of his changed now aggressive personality, by that time his arms, shoulders, and chest were covered in stretch marks and he had to have an operation to remove the ' Bitch tits' that had grown.
It became ridiculous in that gym, guys were taking huge cocktails of steroids and those getting close to a competition were training on speed and taking cocaine just before walking on stage to give them an inflated self-worth while on stage.
Was this what bodybuilding was going to be all about, I thought it was to promote well being and good health.
Attitudes can change and hope can blossom
I returned to the gym where I first encountered steroids a few years later to find a whole new atmosphere, the death of the guy who trained there was the wake-up call for the owner and all drugs were banned within the gym.
From that day on, the owner promoted natural bodybuilding and warned every one of the dangers involved with steroids. There are now signs posted on all the walls that 'this gym is a natural drug-free gym and anyone found to be using steroids will be banned from the gym'.
My summery of steroids and the benefits of training drug free
In my 37 years experience most people that start taking steroids look terrible and all suffer some form of negative experience, most bulk up and then disappear from the gym scene having looked big for a few years down the pub.
Why is this the case? I think an interview I saw some years back on the television with Tom Platz really summed it up, he said 'steroids don't make the champion, the champion comes from within, without steroids in the sport the same men would be winning the competitions because they have what it takes, to give an example steroids cant turn a Volkswagen into a Ferrari, you have to have the Ferrari to start with, steroids is like just putting the wax on. If taking steroids was the only answer then everyone would blow up and become champions'.
I am fully aware that I do not have the genetic blessing that some seem to have, I've never had what looks like a Tarzan physic where the muscle looks like it has been slapped on as an afterthought, to the extent I have walked on stage in the past to be told, whilst relaxed I was in last position, it was only when I flexed did it become a toss of the coin for first or second place. Being heavy boned also goes against you in weight categories because you are competing against shorter guys that appear fuller.
Would steroids have turned me into a champion, doubtful, because as soon as you step into the arena of steroid competitions you are competing with people on the same gear and against those same genetically blessed guys? If I had gone and used steroids I would not have been any more successful, just a lot bigger and the sport would have probably been short lived with all the health risks to-boot.
Would steroids have made me stronger, yes, but then being able to squat 460lbs for 3 deep reps and bench press 350 lbs for 2 reps is not the results of a weak man.
Being able to still lift heavy weights in my 50s shows the longevity of the natural approach.
There is a guy down one of the gyms mentioned who as a natural is the current world record holder for bench press. At just over 80 kg he is the worlds strongest bench presser for his under 85 kg weight class, benching 200 kg in the unassisted drug-free bench press competition, now that is strength!
My personal opinion about taking steroids is simple, only if you have won a national competition naturally have you proved you have the commitment, the genetics, and they know how to take it to the next step. As a caveat should only do it if it is for a career and then benefit from professional guidance.
I am not a betting man but I would guess that 99% of those that do win National competitions naturally would never turn to steroids because they all have pride in what they have achieved and promote the concept of 'Natural for life'.
Most steroid problems are caused by being ill-informed and not taking professional counselling, from what I have observed, most just take advice from whoever is selling the 'gear' down the gym.
Those that train naturally, train for life and just experience a well being throughout there life's and it is a wonderful community to belong to.
Natural bodybuilding is for life, enjoy and pass the word.
The Tom Platz interview
As a foot note:
There are always going to be guys that just want to get as big as physically possible, take the steroid path and are extremely committed to the sport of Bodybuilding, being very knowledgeable, having extreme workouts, diets and keeping a check on their health. Those guys in my experience are all ways very open about the route they have taken and helpful in the gyms and if you get the opportunity to chat to the champions they are all from what I've seen really nice guys.
It is the guys who think taking steroids is the quick and easy route to size and success that have the problems.It always seems strange that those guys always deny they are on the gear, some even going to the extreme of competing in Natural Bodybuilding shows.....how low is that.