by Mike Arnold
Progression of Drug Use in Retrospect
Cycling vs. continuous use. This topic has become quite popular over the last 10 years, as more and more BB’rs are asking the question…“What does it take get big?” Given the incredible amount of conflicting information circulating around the Net regarding the role of drug use in bodybuilding, this is not surprising. In truth, the answer to this question is not as black & white as some people make it out to be. With personal goals, genetics, life circumstances, and work ethic all playing a role in a BBr’s ability to grow and maintain muscle tissue, adopting a narrow-minded position on this subject may lead one down a less than ideal path. We will be addressing some of the above factors shortly, but before we do so, some may find it useful to take a minute and reflect back on the history of drug use in our sport; particularly the practices and belief systems of previous generations. As the contrast between the different generations becomes apparent, hopefully the reader will be provided with a fresh and clearer perspective as he searches for the answer to this question in his own BB’ing journey.
From the beginning, there have always been BB’rs who have pushed the envelope, choosing to break away from the traditions of their day and pursue a more vigilante path in terms of drug application. Still, each time period was marked by a set of generally accepted guidelines, which helped form the pattern of steroid use for the majority of individuals during that time. For decades, the idea of cycling (a practice in which the BB’rs administers steroids for a pre-determined amount of time, followed by a certain, usually equal, amount of time off) was employed by almost all BB’rs, both amateurs and professionals alike. Cycling was viewed as an integral and necessary part of the steroid sub-culture. This continued all the way through the 80’s and into the beginning of the 90’s. In reviewing the literature of the day, we see this sentiment echoed by the late Dan Duchaine (a well known and highly respected steroid guru) in his ever-popular publications, such as the Underground Steroid Handbook. Not recognized as one to be mild in his approach, Dan was responsible for ushering in many of the more extreme practices in BB’ing, yet, in nearly all of his recommendations, he suggested using steroids in “cycles”.
As we made our way into the 90’s, we witnessed a sharp rise in the dosages employed and the length of time BB’rs remained on drugs. Still, most BB’rs, including professionals, would take time off at various points throughout the year. While the amount of time off may have diminished relative to the amount of time spent on, the belief that at least some time off was necessary in order to allow the body to detox and for health markers to return to normal, was readily accepted and followed. Even today, many pro BB’rs continue to take time off according to their needs, with medical check-ups being a regular part of their routine. Often, their usage is based around their contest appearances and therefore, those BB’rs who do multiple shows throughout the year are by necessity going to remain ON for a greater amount of time, while those who compete only once per year or less have no need to maintain such a rigorous PED schedule. In looking at the progression of drug use over the last 50 years, it is undeniable that there has been a trend toward more extreme use.
A Change of Perspective
I am of the strong belief that one of the main reasons we are seeing such a large number of recreational users choosing to stay ON long-term is due to the loss of fear regarding AAS and their potential side effects. Roughly 20 years ago, the primary motivational tool used to dissuade individuals from AAS use was fear. However, this fear-based initiative was not cultivated from an honest evaluation of steroids and their side effects, but rather, it relied on misinformation in an effort to steer people away from these drugs. It was not uncommon for school-level educational programs to paint steroids as death-drugs, in which it was inevitable that the user would either lose his life or suffer serious/life threatening side effects. For some time, it was even claimed that steroids did nothing to build muscle tissue or increase performance in athletes. The propaganda machine was in full swing by the time that Lyle Alzado died, with the educational system, the media, and even some within the medical community proclaiming that steroids were the cause of Alzado’s brain cancer.
However, as history has shown, once trust is lost, it is hard to regain. With such limited untarnished information available from these sources and with few places to go in order to get the truth, much of the information taught by theses organizations was questioned and/or rejected by the target population. Unfortunately, this often included those things which were true, as well. As the years passed and the steroid using community grew, our knowledge of these drugs and their side effects increased, with both medical researchers and anecdotal evidence contributing to this ever-expanding knowledge base. As happy as it has made me to see steroids represented in a more balanced light, it appears that some of today’s generation have gone too far in the other direction, denying steroids the respect they deserve. This is troubling given the fact that these drugs, if abused, can result in serious side effects, including death. In the same way, if these drugs are used responsibly and in accordance with a measure of sanity, serious problems can be largely avoided.
Another big reason we are seeing so many BB’rs choose to remain on drugs long-term is the influence of the internet. At no other point in history have we had the ability to reach such a large number of people within such a short period of time. When the information being disseminated is accurate and useful, it is blessing, but when it is inaccurate and harmful, it is a curse. Ironically, along with this greater ability to influence people comes a complete lack of accountability. Pre-internet, if you hoped to have a voice in this community, you had to prove your credibility and competence to the outlet giving you that voice. These days, everyone has a worldwide pulpit from which to preach their message. All it takes is a bit of intelligence, some charisma, bold claims, and an heir of believability to set the agenda of these individuals in motion, drawing the attention of the gullible and ignorant. Unfortunately, not all who claim to bring the light to the masses are as beneficent as they appear. Nowhere is this truer than in the realm of performance enhancing drugs. It is easy to see how a drug dealer or one connected to the industry might benefit by amassing a throng of “followers” who are eager to follow their recommendations. Regardless of intent, the World Wide Web has provided a powerful platform for circulating information and with no one to police this information for accuracy, falsehoods are easily propagated.
Aside from those with personal motives, the Net is loaded (almost entirely with opinion) with claims regarding what it takes to ascend to the pro ranks, in terms of drug use. It is actually quite comical that 99% of those who claim to know what all pro BB’rs use have never known or even spoken with a single pro BB’r about their PED regimen. For most of these individuals, their only source of information on this subject comes from other ignorant individuals who gather their information from BB’ing message boards (some of which is true, much of which is false). This incessant chatter has had an almost universal impact of the belief systems of the uninformed, leading many to believe that all pro BB’rs use 2-3 grams of testosterone weekly, 15-20 IU of GH daily, and 100 IU of insulin daily (or thereabouts). It is easy to see how this would have a significant effect of the PED habits of today’s BB’rs.
It has been said before that this generation lacks patience and with so much of society geared towards instant gratification, the accusation is fitting. We can’t blame a BB’r for wanting to progress as quickly as possible; this is only natural. However, when it comes to BB’ing drugs, the desire to make progress should be tempered with a degree of moderation and self-control. This is especially true for beginners-intermediates, who have no need to go all-out at that stage of development. It wasn’t long ago when it was commonplace for a steroid novice to start low and gradually work his way up in dose as he continued to develop. Dosage was based on need. Employing advanced dosages right from the get-go was not even a consideration. Of course, not all BB’r followed this path, but by and large, this is how things were. Things have changed drastically since then. Now days, we see stark beginners injecting 2 grams of more of various steroids, often with additional drugs added on top of it. Safety aside, the overwhelming majority of less advanced BB’rs would not even be able to take full advantage of these massive dosages.
Continued in Part 2…