Steroids and their Role in Professional Bodybuilding?


by Mike Arnold

Today’s topic was inspired by a fascinating and record-breaking thread at the new Black Stone Labs Forums. In a matter of just 26 days, this thread has generated an astonishing 317,000 views! No other thread in the history of BB’ing websites has accomplished this amazing feat. BB’rs are literally flocking from all over the Web just to be a part of it. What topic could possibly generate such an enormous amount of interest over such a short period of time, you ask?

If you’ve been following the boards for any length of time, it should be readily apparent that the most frequently asked questions are those pertaining directly to PEDs. Many in the community want to know how important drugs are in building a pro physique. They want to know where they rank relative to training and diet. Are they 1st, 2nd, or 3rd on the list? While this is an amateur question, it is not without merit. After all, most individuals in the community are well aware that pro BB’rs use these substances and if they have any aspirations of maximizing their own development, knowing the answer would either affirm their priorities or affect a change in the right direction.

While this question has been asked and answered many times over, not everyone is in agreement, but what if you could ask a pro BB’r and get an honest, untainted answer? When it comes to the topic of performance enhancing drugs, there is something about hearing directly from a pro that fascinates the average person in our little community. It is as if we are getting an answer straight from the horse’s mouth. Side-step the middle man, go right to the source, and you will get the truth, right? Well, if you get an honest answer, yes, you would, but the problem here is that few pro BB’rs, especially ones who are currently active on the circuit, are able or willing to discuss this topic candidly. This is not without good cause, as the negative implications associated with breaching the “steroid” barrier can be potentially injurious to a pro’s career.

Contracts, public image, and an unspoken code of conduct all discourage them from discussing the role drugs have played in building their physique. You can’t blame them. Only a fool would jeopardize his livelihood in order to appease the curiosity of the ignorant. Further strengthening their resolve to remain quiet is the negative reaction previous pros have received when talking about their use. This is especially true when it comes to specific cycles. In all cases, when the claimed cycle failed to conform to the preconceived ideas of what a pro cycle should look like, cries of “liar” are the first thing to be uttered from the lips of the public.

However, if there was a top pro that could speak openly without fear of consequence or ridicule…a top pro who could speak anonymously…where would he rank PEDs relative to training and diet? This question has been and is being answered in the thread titled “Who am I?” at BSL forums. Although the identity of this pro BB’r is kept confidential, his revelations are brutally honest and right to the point. In evaluating his answers, I have found them to be congruent with both my own, as well as the experiences of others. However, keep in mind that one’s beliefs on this matter are largely determined by their point of view.

From one perspective, it may seem obvious that training is #1. It goes without saying that no amount of steroids will build a significant amount of muscle tissue without training, but the human body is certainly capable of building muscle without steroids. We could also place nutrition above AAS, as steroids won’t be able to build muscle tissue in the absence of food. Therefore, training & nutrition are paramount to the muscle growth process, while steroids serve only as an amplifier.
If this is the case, then why did this top 6 Olympia finisher list PEDs as the single most important factor responsible for building a pro physique? Does he not understand that training & nutrition are absolutely essential to BB’ing? As with many things in life, our perspective often depends on the paradigm through which we view the facts. With this is mind, we can proceed.

It is a given that all BBr’s will engage in weight training. I think everyone understands that without some form of weight training, no progress will be made, regardless of drug use. So, when someone says that PEDs area more important in building a pro physique than training, what I believe they are actually implying is that PEDs can play a larger role in building the physique than the amount of effort one puts into their training. This is not to say that effort does not matter or that hard trainers do not have an advantage over lazy trainers. They certainly do, but the truth is that a steroid, GH, insulin using BB’r can often train in a half-ass fashion…not take a single set to failure…just go through the motions…and as long as he eats enough, he can grow quite large. On the other hand, a drug-free BB’r can bust his ass in the gym day in and day out, eat perfectly, and yet not grow anywhere near as large as the lazy, drug-enhanced BB’r. Of course, other factors play a role as well (genetics being one of them), but there are many instances in which I and many others have seen this story play out in real life. Knowing this, we can start to see why a pro BB’r might list PEDs as the #1 most important factor in building pro physique.

PEDs are essential to success. There is simply no way a pro BB’r can succeed…or even turn pro in the first place, without them. Raw size is the most basic requirement. Without enough mass, failure is inevitable. The human body in its natural state simply cannot build or maintain anywhere near the amount of muscle tissue displayed on pro stages today. After accumulating an acceptable amount of muscle size, the competition BB’r must then hone this mass into a rock-hard, bone-dry physique if he wants to have any chance of doing well. How many times have we seen a pro BB’r, who previously failed to place in the money on numerous occasions, nail his peak and storm to victory? Does the newly crowned Arnold Brazil champion, Brandon Curry, ring a bell? How about Essah Obiad at his 1st pro show? What about Ronnie Coleman in 98’.

In all 3 cases mentioned above, the changes in the physiques of these men, within the span of a single contest, were tremendous. In addition, all of them made these changes immediately after switching to over a respected drug advisor. If these men were able to make these changes when they were arguably already using large amounts of PEDs, imagine what could happen when drug-free trainer introduces PEDs into his life? How about the BB’r known as “Big Ramy”? He is now one of, if not the freakiest BB’r alive in terms of sheer size. Making this achievement even more impressive is the claim that he built his physique with only 3 years of serious training! There is no doubt that PEDs played a pivotal role in his success. Whether a BB’r is attempting to build pro-level muscle mass or is trying to step onstage in his best ever condition, it requires the proper application of the various PEDs.

So, where does food come into the picture? I am not going to argue the health benefits of eating whole, raw foods and meat-dairy products derived from animals fed a natural diet, as it strays from the primary point. While the health benefits of this way of eating are being validated every day, the truth is that many BB’rs have built their muscle mass following a diet heavily reliant on processed grains and comparatively lower quality animal products. When Mr. Undercover Pro was asked about the role that food played in building pro-level size, he was quick to point out that food quantity was the single biggest factor, followed by consuming enough protein. He went on to state that (to paraphrase) “food is the catalyst which allows PEDs to do their job”. He later goes on to talk about Kai Greene and the amount of food he puts away, directly correlating his food intake with his massive size. Not only is he 100% correct, but I would even state that caloric insufficiency is the #1 reason why most drug-using BB’rs never come anywhere close to achieving their full potential.

While these lessons are old news to the more experienced BB’rs, many unanswered questions remain among those in the community. In closing, I want to reiterate that I do not and never will advocate the belief that PEDs are all that matters. God knows we have enough people out there preaching this lie; telling others that if they just use enough of the right drugs, they too can get as big as Ronnie Coleman, regardless of their diet or training. While drugs are a necessity, diet & training are influential variables within your control that can either make or break a physique. If you are interested in asking an IFBB pro questions of your own, you can post them at the BSL website in the “Q & A Undercover Pro” forum.