Another Steroid Question? 

OK, Here’s My Answer . . .

By Phil Kaplan

Steroids.  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.

“I’m only 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.”

Now 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 removed. 

“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 decisions.

The common line of thought among amateur bodybuilders breaks it down to an oversimplification.

Want size?  Anadrol and/or sustanon

Want minimal side effects?  Primobolan

Want hardness? Winstrol and clenbuterol

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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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 hormonal production.

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 adequately recuperate. 

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 and education.

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 achievement.

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.

The Layman's Guides to Anabolic Steroids

Mick Hart's No Bull Collection

* Note - 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 being.

Related Pages:

Steroid Questions - Q&A
Gray Market Drugs Sold on the Internet
The Dark Side of Bodybuilding - "New" Drugs Being Used
Women Using Anabolic Steroids
The Layman's Guides to Anabolic Steroids
Mick Hart's No Bull Collection

The TRANSFORM! Program

Want to get the training and eating strategies down?
Listen to the audio track sharing
the information you need to take control of your body!

Want to spend four weeks incinerating body fat?
Read The Ultimate Fat Loss Strategy

Other Pages To Explore:

[ Fitness Superstore ]
[ Site Menu ] [ Update Menu ] [ Best You've Ever Been Audio ] [ Programs ]

[ Quick Weight Loss ]
[ Feedback ]
[ Home Page ]

e-mail Phil Kaplan

site designed and operated by
Phil Kaplan
Phil Kaplan's Fitness Associates
3132 Fortune Way, #D-1
Wellington, Florida 33414
(561) 204-2014
Fax (561) 204-2184