Steroid use is rife amongst bodybuilders, powerlifters, strongmen and weight trainers. And it’s rife because it works. It makes people bigger, more muscular and stronger. I’ve seen this first hand at many gyms I’ve been to.
I’ve watched people who were less muscular and not as strong as me, overtake me pretty quickly after six months on steroids, even back in the old days (1980s) when all they really had was Dianabol. I would imagine today’s steroids are much more powerful and, combined with other banned substances such as growth hormones, they make for much bigger, more muscular bodybuilders than the ones who were around in the 70s and 80s.
If you’re dedicated to lifting weights and you use a commercial gym – and partiularly if you want to compete – you will one day have to make a decision about whether you’re going to use steroids or remain natural.
I chose to remain natural and that meant having to put up with being overtaken by lots of folk who chose to take steroids. Yes, that was a little frustrating but it didn’t bother me unduly. Much as I love weight training I never harboured a desire to be a professional bodybuilder, powerlifter or strongman and I always felt, in those circumstances, the risks and side-effects of steroids weren’t worth the gains they give.
I have no particular objection to people taking steroids. I’m not a moralist and you could argue that it’s just another supplement like protein powder, creatine or vitamins. If you take too many of certain vitamins you can get nasty side-effects.
In some ways it’s similar to a bench press shirt. Such shirts give an advantage that means many powerlifting meets run two bench press competitions: one with a shirt and one without. It baffles me more why bench press shirts are allowed than why steroids are tolerated. A shirt is mechanical assistance – where do we draw the line? I could bench press 1000kg with the assistance of a hydraulic jack.
But, getting back to steroids, it is what it is and I don’t see that landscape changing any time soon. As I write in 2017, there is a massive crackdown on steroids going on in most sports but I doubt that crackdown will ever happen with the pro bodybuilding, powerlifting and strongman disciplines. It would wipe out all competitors in the Mr Olympia or World’s Strongest Man competitions.
As I said, I have no particular objection if anyone chooses to take steroids. It’s their body and that makes it their business.
There are only two things I dislike in relation to steroids. The first is the people who deny taking them and pretend they’re natural when they’re really taking them by the bucket load. I don’t know why they deny it because to the experienced eye it’s obvious. They can’t use the law as an excuse because it is not illegal to possess steroids in the UK (although it is illegal to supply them without a license). Yet the many folk, including the pros, are often reluctant to talk about them, almost as if they’re embarrassed. I say they should own it.
The second thing I dislike is when a steroid user castigates a natural for not training harder or longer or not making enough progress. Steroids allow people to train harder and longer and make better progress in terms of stength and muscle and it’s unrealistic to expect a natural to keep up. Furthermore a short spell of steroids can have an effect up to a decade or more later. When you take steroids once you’re never again a true natural.
Beyond those points I tend to take a live and let live approach, although I’d still urge anyone to think very carefully before taking steroids. Once you’ve crossed that line there’s no going back to being a true natural.