Here’s My Answer . . .
By Phil Kaplan
They’ve been a topic of discussion in my life for over 25
years. Do I recommend them? Never! Have I worked with
athletes who have used them and found at least short-term
benefit? Absolutely? Have I helped people get “off the juice”
by helping them better understand training and eating? Yes,
and that feels good!
I am often asked about steroids
via e-mail, and the questions are usually related to specific
drugs and dosages.
“How many mg. of sustanon should
I do per week in an 8-week cycle,” or “is it better to mix
Winstrol and Primo for a 12 week cycle, or should I start
with anadrol to get some size first?”
It alarms me that teenagers, non-competitive
athletes, and those who are new to weight training get caught
up in the language of drugs, believing they’re about to make
positive changes when they’re teetering on the brink of perhaps
permanently screwing up the hormonal system that regulates
body composition, sex drive, and a sense of well being.
Because of the number of steroid
questions I started receiving, and because each question answered
seemed to lead to a follow-up question, I decided as of 2002
that I would no longer answer steroid questions. Despite
my decision, they keep coming in. Today I received one that
prompted me to write this article.
22 and I want to get my pro card next year. I don’t really
know who to ask, but I’m having a hard time. I was hoping
you could help. My training is great, my diet is clean all
year. I am 100% dedicated to bodybuilding and know I’d make
a great pro! I started out cycling cypionate, 400 mg per
week, and deca 400 mg per week for 8 weeks and then switching
to oral winstrol and primobolan depot for cutting. It worked
great. For contest prep I use some thyroid hormones and it’s
pretty easy for me to get stripped. Here’s my problem. I
know you’re supposed to stay clean for a few months before
doing another cycle, but I know guys who are “on” all year
and they keep making gains. I decided I’d go back to the
cypionate right after my last show, staggering 400 mg with
600 mg. on alternate weeks. During my first cycle my sex
drive went through the roof, but since my last contest it
dropped to nothing. I keep telling my girlfriend it’s the
diet, but she’s smarter than that and it’s affecting our relationship.
While I’m still making gains, my testicles are tiny, which
seemed to happen suddenly, which even more makes me avoid
sex. I don’t know if I should stop now, go through a few
months of recovery, and let things get back to normal, or
if I’ll lose too much muscle. Or is it better to use some
clomid or HCG on top of the cypionate? I get very confused
by everyone’s advice. I know everyone says there are long-term
risks of staying on the stuff, but right now I really don’t
care what happens to me after 30. I just have to be at the
top of my game right now, and I want to keep my relationship
with my girlfriend. I’ll admit I haven’t been the easiest
guy to live with, but she’s been solid and I don’t want to
lose her. Every time I inject my test, I get this feeling
I’m making a mistake, but I’m afraid it’s a bigger mistake
if I stop. Any advice you can share would be appreciated.”
This is the type of email that
throws me. My first instinct is to ignore it, but I can’t.
It’s someone reaching out for help. My second instinct is
to try to get this kid to get himself clean and start to readjust
his priorities. The catch there is, there’s so much psychology
involved, and he’s so caught up in the importance of winning
at all costs, if I urge him to abandon the anabolics, he’s
likely to disregard everything I have to say. I decided I’ll
write an article that I can now direct people to that will
share some of my take on anabolic steroids, and then, I’ll
give them a resource for information so if he, or other readers
of this article, do opt to use, they can at the very least
be educated to make responsible decisions.
I remember the first time I eyeballed
steroids. A new gym opened in Flushing, New York, just a
few miles from the weight training dungeon at the YMCA where
I was first bitten by the bodybuilding bug. Some local muscleheads
were sticking flyers on cars in and around the “Y.”
Open! Champions Gym!
My buddy AJ and I went to check
it out. It was in the basement of an apartment building.
There were a couple of squat racks, some benches, and a rack
of dumbbells going up to 120 pounds. There was a lat machine,
a few scattered Olympic bars, and a few thousand pounds of
weights. There were pictures of Sergio Oliva, Frank Zane,
Arnold, Franco Columbu, and the AAU Mr. America Ron Teufel.
I remember paying particular attention to Ron. He was around
180 pounds, looked incredibly muscular, and was only three
years older than I was at the time. If three years of intense
training could bring me to that level of physique, I’d be
a happy camper.
AJ and I decided we’d pay the $15
a month and work out there for 30 days. We met a few of the
locals and a few days after we’d enrolled, the guy who had
the best abs in the gym asked us if we wanted some “stuff.”
We knew what he meant, but we hadn’t ever used, touched, or
seen steroids. A bit scared, but more curious, we asked,
‘whaddya got?” “D-bol.” He took out what looked like a prescription
vial and showed us our first glimpse of dianabol. “All the
guys here are on it.”
It wasn’t the glance at the vial
of pills that struck me, it was the comment. I started to
see things differently. AJ had the best deadlift in the gym,
and he had never used anything that was even near the fringe
of legality, and I was squatting a respectable 365 for 8 reps
and I could hold my own on any beach. When we heard “all
the guys are on it,” rather than finding temptation, we found
satisfaction in being “natural.” At the time I was naive
enough to believe that if we kept training and kept eating
right (which we barely understood at the time), we could develop
physiques that rivaled Arnold, Franco, and the other greats
of the period. We turned down the D-bol offer.
Later that month we went to watch
Steve, the owner of the gym, compete in the teenage Mr. Metropolitan
contest and decided right then and there we could do better
. . . drug free. We started learning about competition and
I was amazed how back then, in the late 1970’s, even among
teenagers and twenty year olds, there was this language of
“cycles,” and “needle gauges” and “milligrams” and “cc’s.”
I’ll admit the curiosity resurfaced and there was the lure
to cross that line of temptation returned with it, but within
the next few months a few experiences caused me to shut out
the possibility of crossing that line.
Diamonds Gym opened, and this was
a real gym. While it didn’t have the heart of the
dungeon of a weight room at the YMCA, it made Champions Gym
all but obsolete. There was an entire room of leg equipment!
There were two dozen benches, eight squat racks, power racks,
and every type of machine I’d seen in the Muscle magazines.
My first day at Diamonds I ran
into a guy I had known from the neighborhood for years. He
was a skinny kid who suddenly grew traps, pecs, and quads.
He told me had just gone in for surgery to have breast tissue
“Yeah. I didn’t wanna take
the stuff that’s floating around here so I went to a doctor
who gives prescriptions for testosterone. I’d been going
for shots and I started growing tits!”
That was the first time I’d heard
of gynecomastia. To me, at the time, it was the most bizarre
thing I’d ever heard. My buddy grew traps, quads, and tits?
There were some serious powerlifters
who trained at Diamonds. Massive, solid, strong. My 365
squats were laughable compared to what these guys were doing
in the power cage. The strongest of the powerlifting squad
was a biker weighing near 350. The nicest guy in the world,
but watching him deadlift and squat was the equivalent of
watching pure rage in motion. Veins popping out of his neck
and forehead, his skin turning purple, teeth clenched, chalk
flying from his body. It was a sight. He was in his 20’s
when he died. The rumor was liver failure.
A few days after the powerlifter
stopped coming to the gym, AJ and I went to another contest
as spectators to cheer on a couple of the locals. One “regular”
from Diamond’s, whose name escapes me (it was 25 years ago),
was being “counseled” by a local steroid guru for his contest
prep. He showed up at the prejudging looking drawn and lifeless.
His face was gaunt, his skin had a yellow pallor. The whites
of his eyes were yellow. He quivered as he tried to hold
the mandatory poses. We spoke to him backstage as he sucked
on an ice cube and it was as if we were speaking to the walking
dead. He never made it to the evening show nor did we ever
see him again.
I never gave steroids another thought
until I visited Southern California for the first time years
later. The “health food stores” were selling “anything you
wanted.” Clenbuterol was the “hot drug” that “everyone was
on,” and within minutes you could find someone ready to sell
you something in any local gym in Venice. That helped me
recognize how prevalent steroid use was, not only among the
pros, but among even the casual lifters in search of muscle.
Over the years that followed, I
came to know quite a few professional athletes, and I came
to realize that the drug “program” was often more of a priority
and concern than the training. They sounded like scientists,
yet they were toying with science they didn’t fully comprehend,
thus they were human guinea pigs. I set out to learn as much
as I could about the endocrine system, the drugs being used,
the potential benefits, and the potential risks, thus my steroid
education began. Thankfully I’ve been sensible enough to
stay away from the idea of becoming my own guinea pig. I
just interviewed people. Over a thousand people. I learned
from biochemists, physicians, bodybuilders, and the underground
“gurus.” I would not by any means categorize myself as a
steroid expert, but I know enough to help people make educated
The common line of thought among
amateur bodybuilders breaks it down to an oversimplification.
Want size? Anadrol and/or
Want minimal side effects?
Want hardness? Winstrol and
Want to avoid side effects?
Clomid or nolvadex
There are two primary parts of
the endocrine equation that are being ignored in this oversimplified
line of thought.
- We are all biologically unique
and the drugs and dosages that act to “compensate” for low
testosterone levels in one individual might “supercompensate”
in another and the side effects cannot be predicted with
any level of accuracy. Worse yet, many of the side effects,
such as gradual stress placed upon the liver, may not make
themselves known for years. Decreases in HDL production,
increases in Blood pressure, and alterations to the myocardium
cannot be detected in the mirror.
- When you mess around with a
link in the hormonal chain, you are altering the activity
of the glandular system as a whole, and short term increases
in testosterone can lead to long-term decreases in endogenous
If you’ve been sent a link to this
article because you’ve asked me a steroid question, my first
question to you is, “have you carefully examined the specifics
of your training?” Most people I meet who are looking for
their first cycle are simply missing some part of the formula
for ongoing growth. They’re failing to cycle their training
regimens, they’re sticking with the same old workout they’ve
been doing for months, they’re failing to provide a greater
challenge to muscle, or they’re overtraining and failing to
Even if their training regimens
are well strategized, if they aren’t taking in enough protein
sparing nutrients they’re limiting their muscular growth potential,
and if they’re failing to take in sufficient calories and
amino acids for growth, all the training in the world will
leave them frustrated. Whenever someone comes to me for a
consultation before using steroids, we’ve been able to facilitate
new gains . . . naturally.
I will never recommend that anyone
use steroids. Will I understand if someone opts to use them?
In some cases, yes. When we’re dealing with professional
athletes, or aspiring pros, who are thrown into arenas where
superhuman drug-enhanced strength is the norm, anabolic steroids
become almost an absolute, but even the pros need clear direction
I’ve used the headline “people
are dying to get fit” in descriptive articles and releases
related to weight loss surgeries and weight loss drugs, but
we’re at a point in time that the same headline might be used
to describe bodybuilding.
- In 1999 Sonny Schmidt, at 46
years old, placed 3rd in the Masters Olympia.
On January 25, 2004, Sonny Schmidt died.
- In 2003, 285-pound 30-year-old
bodybuilder Scott Klein died of heart failure.
- Remember that picture of Ron
Teufel I told you about at Champions Gym? He died in 2002
at the age of 45.*
These are just a few of the premature
deaths related to users of anabolic steroids at relatively
high dosages. There are also the stories of pros at the highest
levels suddenly dropping out of competition . . . permanently
. . . due to liver failure.
I’ll never forget retired pro bodybuilder,
Steve Brisbois, telling me first hand about the death of Mohammed
Benaziza seven hours after winning the Dutch Grand Prix.
The interview I did with steroid guru Dan Duchaine from his
prison cell has been one of my most publicized radio shows
to date. Dan has since died . . . at the age of 48. Liver
failure. I remember interviewing Scandinavian bodybuilding
giant Viggo Snowhill about his drug use less than 24 hours
after leaving the hospital where he was near death from a
GHB overdose. Bill Pearl, who has been retired from competition
for decades but is without question a bodybuilding legend
made the following comment on my show, “Phil, the guy left
standing on the stage today at the end of a bodybuilding show
is probably the guy in the arena who is closest to death.”
The bodybuilding realities, or
at least the dark side, has been well protected, but it’s
important that those who are lured by “easy muscles, lots
of chicks” understand the whole picture.
Going back to the email I wrote
this article to answer, the line, “I really don’t care
what happens to me after 30,” makes, at least in his eyes,
most of the premature deaths I’ve mentioned meaningless, but
I’d guess that any competent psychologist would identify the
“win at all costs death wish” as a twisted perspective on
Because I know that many regular
“juicers” who come to read this article will turn their noses
at the deaths I’ve mentioned, if you’re asking me a steroid
related question, I’m not going to give you the “steroids
kill you” speech, nor am I going to deny that they can help
to pack on lots and lots of muscle, but I am going to suggest
you can make more rewarding gains naturally. Furthermore,
if you cannot find comfort with avoiding drugs just because
Phil told ya to, at the very least learn as much as you possibly
can, be extremely careful in obtaining what are, in essence,
uncontrolled controlled substances, and err on the side of
caution rather than random experimentation.
Where can you find some reality,
without bias, from someone who is far less opposed to steroid
use than I, but who also maintains a sensibility about sharing
the risks and contraindications? Mick Hart has some products
that are educational in nature and might be considered an
essential primer for anyone considering using anabolics.
I contacted Mick, and shared my apprehension with him, telling
him I want to be able to help people make wise choices, but
I am not in any way comfortable with advocating steroids.
After weighing out whether or not to include the link below,
it was the following statement from Mick that prompted me
to go for it. “We have plenty of others who recommend our
site using the same logic you describe... whilst they don't
advocate them, what they do advocate is getting fully informed
before even thinking of using them. My main objective has
always been safety.”
If I’ve dissuaded you from the
idea of using steroids, great! If you’re still hovering around
the line of temptation, use the links below to visit Mick’s
site and consider at the very least investing in information
before spending money on substances you don’t fully understand.
- Over the months that followed the posting of this article
I received hundreds of thank you's and a few dozen criticisms.
I read each and every one and I try to respond to as many
of the critics as possible. They accuse me of ignorance and
of providing misinformation, but not a one has been able to
respond as to where I presented a mistruth. I remain open
to education, so if I've erred in any way, please let me know.
I consider myself a lifetime learner, so all I can do is share
my educated opinion based on my acquired knowledge at a given
point in time. In this article I shared some of my personal
perceptions related to steroids, and after reading the words
of the critics, I still feel strongly about the message I
intended. Anabolic steroids are drugs, they do come with side
effects, and before anyone makes a decision to alter endocrine
production I believe they should gain as much education as
possible. The only note I feel important to add relates to
Ron Tuefel. My intention was not in any way to tarnish anybody's
reputation, but rather to share observations. I did not say
Ron Tuefel died from steroids, but in relaying the incidents
I know of high level bodybuilders who died prematurely, I
can't help but mention my disappointment in hearing that somebody
I never met but had an early admiration for died before his
time. I don't know the specifics of Ron Tuefel's death and
emails from his friends and family lead me to conclude he
was a wonderful man. I hope his early passing, as well as
the other bodybuilders who died prematurely, can at the very
least drive some athletes and fitness enthusiasts to examine
their decisions and maintain a commitment to health and well
to get the training and eating strategies down?
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