Recently, I was chatting with a friend about the widespread use of steroids in the lifting community. Because I am used to being surrounded by people that take steroids, I forget that most people are pretty naive when it comes to the subject.
When most women start out lifting weights, they fear that they are going to bulk up like a man. They are told that unless they take steroids, it will not happen. However, if someone takes steroids, it doesn’t mean they will look like a she-hulk, either.
It is not always obvious when a man or a woman is taking steroids. I know many women who are, and you would never tell just by looking at them. I know a few men who are asked if they are on steroids less often now that they are, compared to when they were not. Not every steroid taker runs around with roid rage, ripping off their shirts to reveal their bubbled muscles and extreme vascularity.
The majority of strong men and women I know are either taking or have taken something. I am speaking within the UK here, but I can only imagine it’s worse in the US where lifting and strength sports are more popular.
At some competitions I have attended or competed in, it has been more of a shock to find out who is not on steroids, than who is.
My personal experience
The last two guys I’ve dated seriously were/are on steroids, which may be another reason why I’m basically unfazed by it. One of them is a well-known strength coach. I asked for his advice back in March, as I had just pulled 135kg for the first time ever and I needed to rep it at a competition in June.
I was expecting him to offer me some awesome advice, or point me in the direction of a groundbreaking deadlift program, but he simply (and disappointingly?) told me to take Anavar. I said I didn’t want to, but he kept pushing it. He pointed out that Var has minimal negative side effects in women, and it would be the only way for me to get stronger that fast. Well, I showed him! Haha.
I have never taken steroids and I doubt I ever would. Firstly, my hormones are enough of a mess as they are, so I don’t need to further complicate them. Secondly, I view competing as a fun hobby. I feel like I’m not serious enough to invest the time and money into taking steroids – especially given that, at the moment, I have no idea when I will compete again.
That said, I do not judge those that do take them. It’s a personal decision and I think the stigma surrounding it is unwarranted. While I don’t actively encourage it, I do have numerous clients who are on steroids, and I program their training accordingly.
I don’t view it as cheating, if you are in a non-tested federation. I compete(d) in strongwoman, which is a largely untested sport, and the GPC, which is an untested powerlifting federation. They are the sports I choose to compete in, so I can’t bitch and whine about others having an unfair advantage over me because of what they are taking.
Last year, I came seventh in England’s Strongest Woman. I knew that if I wanted to crack the top 3-4, I’d have to take steroids. Boosting my placing a couple of points just wasn’t worth it, in my opinion.
If I wanted it to be a completely level playing field, I would compete in a tested federation (which doesn’t really exist for strong(wo)man, though).
But, I really don’t care that much. If I had competed in June and only got one rep, I would have been happy knowing that I didn’t crumble to the temptation to take something. And, trust me, it is there.
Everyone has off days where they feel weak and frustrated. When you combine that with being surrounded by people who take steroids (and two people have offered to inject me literally right then and there), it can be tempting to just give in.
All that said, there are some amazingly strong athletes out there who are natural. So, by the same token, I can’t use that as an excuse for why I suck. I know that taking Anavar, or anything else, wouldn’t automatically add weight to my lifts.
A world of dishonesty
I understand that most people wouldn’t walk around with a flashing sign on their chest advertising the fact that they are on gear, especially in the US where it is illegal, However, I wish more people would be more honest about it.
There is nothing I hate more than when people who are taking something lie about it. I can think of several instances where certain competitors have posted something online in the vein of “this is for all my haterzzz who think I’m on roids”, when I know for a fact they are taking steroids.
Rather than own it, they claim that their results are a matter of hard work. Of course, I am not downplaying the effort that must be made to get stronger – regardless of whether or not one is on something. By taking steroids, you will not automatically become super strong overnight; you will still need to work hard to reap the rewards.
I think it is wrong for people, especially those with a large social media following, to lie about how they have progressed. Many people look at others’ lifting videos and feel discouraged. They assume that these people are natural and wonder why they are so weak in comparison.
If someone has gained a lot of strength over a relatively short period of time, and they are not a complete newbie, it is likely that they are on something.
I’m not only talking about those that lift for strength, but also bodybuilding competitors and fitness models. Steroids are not only useful for gaining muscle and strength, but also extremely beneficial for dieting to low levels of body fat.
The increased prevalence of steroids is changing the face of bodybuilding. Now, it is common to see women juicing up for local bikini competitions. I’ve worked with numerous former bikini competitors who were pushed into taking steroids by their previous coaches, and are now dealing with the negative repercussions.
People look at these competitors, who often claim to be “all natty”, and feel frustrated that they can’t get their bodies to look the same way. When I’m scrolling through the shredded bodies on my Instagram feed, I’m not being a jealous hater by mentioning the fact that they are on steroids. I’m simply reminding myself that it’s not realistic for me to aspire towards the same kind of physique.
After my conversation with my friend, I realised that not everyone would pick up on the fact that so many people out there are taking something. I wanted to write this post to bring awareness to the issue. It’s easy for me to talk about it, because I’m not taking anything, but I wish more people would be honest.
So, in conclusion:
- More people are on steroids than you think. If someone seems too good to be true, they are probably on something.
- Roids won’t make you stronger without hard work.
- Roids won’t automatically turn you into the hulk.
- There are strong/ripped people out there who don’t take anything, but a lot of them do.
- I’m not dating any more roidheads.