Should Bodybuilders Fully Disclose PED Use?

by Christian Duque

No. End of article. Thank you for reading.

Seriously though let’s talk about how far we’ve come as a sport. Who can ever forget when Ronnie was asked about PED’s and he answered “I ain’t never used no steroids” and everyone in the room clapped for him and heckled the poor bastard who asked a very reasonable question. Back in the late 80’s, then Mr. Olympia Lee Haney would spout all sorts of nonsense about taking vitamins, praying, and not using anabolic steroids. That’s what you had to do. It was a different time and these rather harmless compounds that were largely ignored by lawmakers in the 60’s and 70’s were starting to become demonized towards the tail end of the 80’s.

In the 90’s guys were being busted, prosecuted, and given lengthy prison sentences. Anabolics were in the same category as crack cocaine and heroin so it made all the sense in the world to deflect and deny. Honesty be damned. You try flying the flag of integrity while making license plates for a living and wearing an orange jumpsuit. The fact is guys had to keep their gear use on the down low and if you were a bodybuilder with a solid doctor-connect the last thing you did was broadcast who that was. From all my interviews with guys from the 80’s and 90’s, they often told me off the record that they kept information like that strictly on a need to know basis. A lot of guys would go south of the border, some went to southeast Asia, and many relied on UGL’s (underground labs). The top tier guys were always taken care of, but they still had to exercise a great deal of prudence as they walked around with huge bullseyes painted on them. The government wasn’t about to give any leniency to a Mr. Olympia or a Mr. Universe.

It’s not like the alphabet agencies took bodybuilding seriously. There was Arnold and Lou Ferrigno. Beyond that most average Americans were clueless as to bodybuilding. If the country came down as hard as it did on major league baseball does anyone think any hearts in Washington were going to bleed over some juiced to the gills guy being forced to make the perp walk? Give me a break. To them, bodybuilders didn’t even lift, eat clean, or spend years sculpting their body like a sculptor would a piece of clay. They saw bodybuilders as drug addicts and drug pushers. Therefore, it made sense for guys like Lee Haney to not only deny steroid use but to take a hostile stance towards it. Haney wasn’t just saying he was natural but he was judging those who used performance enhancing drugs. That goes beyond protecting one’s legal interests and borders on downright hypocrisy.

Fast forward to the 2000’s and even beyond when Coleman denied AAS use (he was already long retired). That was really hypocritical, but still somewhat understandable given the fact that steroids were still illegal then (and today). It doesn’t matter that many compounds are legal if prescribed following bloodwork. Many of the compounds fans ask about, however, would never be given by doctors. Some of the PED’s the fans ask about are so exotic and at times so dangerous that anyone in their right mind would deflect. I mean some fans will ask about anything if the bodybuilders let them. And it’s one thing to ask anonymously on a message board or in a private conversation, but to ask in a hall packed full of people, with cameras rolling, that’s pretty ridiculous. What person in their right mind would knowingly incriminate themselves? It’s patently absurd. That said, social media pushed the envelope, even to the point that YouTubers (in particular) released videos that drew all sorts of attention to themselves. This attention also included government scrutiny. And the scrutiny wasn’t so much over their personal use but more so dealing with their extracurricular (illegal) activities. I mean if a guy’s washing money and/or part of a criminal syndicate you’d think they wouldn’t want to go viral in a video pinning themselves in a bathroom. Then again, who knows why people do what they do?

Other guys just thought it was cool to talk about everything but the kitchen sink they were taking – from SARM’s to pesticides to injecting oil and silicon into their muscles. When these guys started seeing their videos go viral and when they started seeing the numbers online translate to getting mobbed at gyms, expos, and bodybuilding shows, they couldn’t get enough. Soon their coaching services were selling like hotcakes, they sold shirts with their sayings on them, and people started name-dropping them in everyday conversations.

As the more established bodybuilders started to see how famous these non-pro-status, even non-competing gearheads were getting on social media and how some of them were starting to get signed by the big companies, they wanted in on that action too. As a result some pretty big names in active competition started admitting to taking test. They wouldn’t admit to tren, slin, or growth, but they’d say they took test. Still, that was a huge break from Ronnie saying he never touched steroids or Lee Haney looking down on them meanwhile he was the biggest bodybuilder of his day.

While I think transparency is good and while more honesty will draw a better understanding of what PED’s are and what they’re not, those who speak about their own use do so at their own risk. Everything you show on YouTube could be used against you in court. While some drugs could be prescribed, many others are illicit. No doctor is going to prescribe Trenbolone. It serves no medical purpose yet many top guys rave about it and say they’re on it. That could be problematic should they ever find themselves the subject of scrutiny. And the scrutiny isn’t limited to government scrutiny. Sometimes open disclosure can lead to civil litigation depending on what’s being discussed.

I’m not here to say which approach is the right approach, rather, to point out that full disclosure can be incriminating and to merely observe that a lot of top bodybuilders in the public eye are far less prudent today than 10, 20, or 30 years ago. Like I said, it’s a different time, and everyone wants to be social media famous. To each their own.

What say you? Should top bodybuilders be 100% transparent about everything? Or should they be more prudent? Whatever your opinion may be, I hope you enjoyed reading my article here at Iron Magazine. I look forward to reading your feedback in the comments.