Steroid Temptations Part 2
By Myron Mielke
Here’s part two of the article series about the psychological temptations bodybuilders go through in their quest for the perfect physique.
If you’re even reading this article, you have some sort of interest in the world of bodybuilding. You might be a diehard who is a walking encyclopedia of bodybuilding history and trivia or you might be a person who goes to the gym twice a week and wants to drop a few pounds by utilizing a bodybuilding-style diet or training techniques. Whatever the case might be, you’ve heard that some bodybuilders take steroids. The big questions who takes steroids and who doesn’t? Why do they take them or why don’t they?
Us Against Them
I’ve seen and spoken to a lot of bodybuilders over the years. From getting to know hundreds of bodybuilders over the years and reading the message boards of today, I’ve easily deducted that there is an unmistakable “us-against-them” attitude in the world of bodybuilding. It’s the drug users vs. the non-drug users.
Drug-free or “natural” bodybuilding means that an athlete does not take steroids, growth hormones insulin, diuretics or any other substances that are deemed illegal to use under US laws. It also means an athlete is not using pharmaceuticals than can only be purchased through the black market or can only be obtained through a prescription. In other words, anabolic steroids, human growth hormone, prescription diuretics and other substances banned by the International Olympic Committee.
Non-drug-free bodybuilding with non-tested events are defined as using any drug or substance that is illegal or it legal to possess under U.S. law.
If a bodybuilder has a good physique, he’s considered “all drugs” by the “naturals.” If a guy claims to be “natural” and has a good physique he’s labeled a liar and guys go on and on about how they know what he’s “on” and which drugs he’s taking and so forth. And what about the guys who are ripped with minimal muscle size? The steroid users call those guys “swimmers.” And so goes the battle.
Drug Testing Issues
Legitimate drug testing is an issue in itself. And whenever money is involved in a sporting event, athletes will find a way to cheat the tests. Performance-enhancing drugs have been used by athletes for decades. In the spirit of competition, athletes are always looking to gain an edge against their opponents.
It’s very upsetting to legitimate “naturals” guys who really do not use steroids when obvious steroid users compete in tested events. What do I mean by obvious steroid users? When the winner has a pronounced case of gynocemastia, I consider that obvious usage. And, no, I don’t believe that those lumps occurred naturally because of a medical condition.
While it may come as a surprise to a few, but there are bodybuilders out there who really choose not to take steroids and compete. They do not take illegal, performance-enhancing substances and they still compete. These guys abide by the rules of their federation and are careful not to take any substances that are on their federation’s banned list.
On the other hand, there are guys who time their steroid cycles and various drug usage to beat the tests. Now tell me, why does the guy who takes drugs want to compete with other guys who don’t take steroids in a drug-tested event? It’s silly. It reminds me of junior high kids thinking they’re really dominant in the grade school T-ball league. Do these same guys feel like a champion when they sprint to the finish and blow everyone away in the “March of Dimes Charity Walk” too? What’s the point? It doesn’t make sense.
Allow me to state the obvious. Here’s the way it should be: guys who do not take steroids should compete in the “natural” events. The people who take “minimal” steroids and look just a little bit better than the “natural” people, should compete in the novice divisions of non-tested events. The open events are for anybody who wants to compete in them, whether they’re “natural,” “minimal users” or full-blown abusers.
Okay, I know what some of you are thinking. Yes, it’s been argued that supplements and herbs from health food stores are not “natural.” Even though we’re bombarded by ads that make outrageous claims about how fast their products will pack on muscle mass, the reality is that it takes time to add muscle size. That’s not to say that nutritional supplements do not work. Some work very well, but even at their best, none are a magic bullet. Nutritional supplements will not produce the results of performance-enhancing drugs like anabolic steroids. They never have and they never will. I’m not going to get into whether or not taking certain supplements still considers one natural in this article. That whole topic will be an entire article by itself some day.
Give It Time
As a teen, I competed in the Viking Classic in Minneapolis. It was a drug-tested event and sanctioned by the NANBF. 150 bodybuilders (no fitness or figure) competed in the event. It was the largest bodybuilding event in the state at that time. The drug testing included a polygraph along with blood and urine test. Many federations will only drug test the finalists, but in this competition every competitor was tested before the prejudging. Polygraphs were done about one week before the event; the blood and urine samples were collected immediately before the prejudging. This was not a place for guys to cheat a drug test easily and it seemed to be a level playing field; there really wasn’t anyone who was that far superior to everyone else.
I really needed a contest like the Viking Classic to keep things in perspective too, because one week prior to the Viking Classic I competed in the AAU Mr. Twin Cities. I was in way over my head for that competition. Two former Mr. Minnesota’s, a Mr. Iowa and Chuck Sanow, who is now a current IFBB pro, were in all in that show. It was a non-tested show and I was blown away by the caliber of physiques in the Mr. Twin Cities, even though I was in good shape for a non-drug user anyway.
At the Viking classic I met John Moore, 1983 Mr. Natural America. He was a guest poser and he handed me my second-place trophy. He encouraged me to keep going in the sport and said I had a lot of potential and I had good structure and shape. Moore told me that I needed more size. I already knew that so I asked him what I could do to gain more size. “Time. Give it time. That’s where you get your size. Be patient,” he replied. To this day, that is the best advice for gaining size that I have ever received.
Being patient is not the advice, however, that most people want these days. Everyone wants everything now. We don’t like to wait for anything. Everything is fast-paced and microwaves are too slow.
I’ve gained a considerable amount of muscle over the years. I weighed about 120 pounds when I started training and now I weigh about 185-190. Granted, that’s not as much muscle as someone like Dennis Wolf or Dorian Yates, but, nonetheless, it’s a lot for me. Early on in my beginner years I saw the arm measurements of many pros before they started training and then again when they were competing in the Mr. Universe or Mr. Olympia competitions. Many had doubled the size of their arms. That was what I wanted. I still do. My magic number is 19 inches. It doesn’t matter if they’re pumped during the offseason; I want them to be 19 without steroids. (Hey, I’ve hit 18 and a half so I don’t have that far to go.)
The progress made without performance-enhancing drugs is slow. Sure, I could have had 19-inch arms by the time I was 20 years old and maybe even 21 inches by the age of 23 or 24 if I would’ve taken steroids, but I chose not to. I knew from early on that bodybuilding was going to be a part of me for a lifetime, so I decided to take it as a challenge. I set out on a journey to see how far I could take my physique without taking the drugs that were rapidly changing all the guys around me.
I’ve often wondered if the current top IFBB pros would still be on top if they were drug-free. It’s been stated that if drugs were eliminated from IFBB pro competition if no one really used them the same guys would still be on top and winning shows. It’s been argued that the work ethic is more important in becoming a champion rather than the drugs used. I agree with that to an extent. My question is would a current IFBB Pro continue to train and diet hard if he was only able to step on stage at 175 pounds and lacking diuretic-induced dryness? Would his work ethic be the same? Genetics play a huge role. Some guys grow like bamboo; they seem to grow bigger by the hour. Let’s not forget, however, that there are two types of genetic responses in non-drug-free bodybuilding. One response is how well the muscles react to progressive resistance training. The other is how well the muscles respond to performance-enhancing drugs. In the current pro ranks, the guys who have been gifted in both genetic responses are the ones winning competitions. If you take the performance-enhancing factor away would they still be winning? Maybe, but would they have the motivation to keep going only to be 175 pounds and ripped? Perhaps they would have given up the endeavor long ago.
Paying Your Dues
Although thinking of your body as a living sculpture is not by any means an original illustration, nonetheless, it really does sum up what a bodybuilder is trying to achieve. The barbells dumbbells and machines are the tools to carve and chisel your sculpture. Food is a way to add extra mass and size to your sculpture. Steroids, in essence, are a means to speed up the process. They allow a person to transform their sculpture to that of a He-man action figure instead of a Greek statue. Whereas it might take decades to mold and sculpt a perfect your physique with out drugs, it might take a steroid user only six months to match what you’ve taken decades to achieve.
It isn’t always an easy journey. Seeing guys that are a lot bigger is frustrating, but I know that with a few cycles of whatever they’re taking, I’d be the same size.
As I get older, it’s sometimes really frustrating to see guys on the Olympia stage who are 25-28 years old. I’ve been training longer than they’ve been alive. Some of these guys have been training less than 10 years. And I know I’ll never achieve that look ever.
Early on I realized that the physique of Frank Zane was more attainable. I never had the desire to actually look like Lee Haney back then or Jay Cutler of today. I’ve tried to build a ripped physique that is 165-170 pounds. That has always been my desire and it’s realistic.
You might ask why I continue to be a fan of pro bodybuilding if it creates frustrations from seeing the unachievable. Well, I’m still inspired by those physiques more than it frustrates me. I read an article by Arnold when I was 14 years old. He stated that he envisioned his biceps to be mountains and fill up the entire room when he was training. He thought big and didn’t set any boundaries. That’s the way I see pro bodybuilders. I appreciate the physiques and see what someone has obtained and I strive to get close to that. For instance, seeing the armor-plated look of Jay Cutler’s chest makes me train harder to fill in my upper chest so the split between my pecs is more pronounced. My chest won’t ever be the size of Cutler’s, but I can add a little more clay to my sculpture to get closer to do what I want.
It’s inspiring to watch a Battle for the Olympia DVD or Jay Cutler’s One Step Closer DVD while I’m doing cardio. Seeing the shredded physiques makes me want to peddle the bike a little harder or a little longer to burn off just a bit more body fat. I know I won’t be as big, but I can still get freaky lean with lots of striations popping out.
The last time I competed I was 19 and I won my class and the overall title. I weighed a whopping147 pounds. Looking back at my condition, I could have even been about two to three pounds lighter for the best conditioning I could achieve without drugs. 20 years later I still train four to five days per week and, if I were to really diet down and compete again, my weight would be about 165 pounds with the same level of conditioning. That’s 20 pounds of muscle in 20 years. Compared to reading how some IFBB Pros gain 20 pounds in one year, it doesn’t sound very impressive does it? Not really, but I’m okay with it and that’s the path I’ve chosen. And I’ll continue on it.