The dangers of steroid use are well known, yet ignored by many bodybuilders, desperate to get bigger and stronger.

  • An estimated 20% of those using gyms in the UK have used steroids.
  • An estimated 5% of British men under 30 in the UK admit to having used steroids.

Gregg Valentino is well known in the bodybuilding world. He was in the Guinness Book of Records for having the biggest arms in the world. Gregg Valentino is an example of what happens when the use of steroids goes wrong.

‘The Man Whose Arms exploded – Hidden Lives’ can be seen on YouTube. It not only follows the story of Gregg Valentino but explores the dangers of steroid use in bodybuilding and the risks bodybuilders are willing to take to succeed.

Reasons why Gregg began using steroids:

  • Felt self conscious about size and stature
  • The bigger he got, the more positive attention he received
  • Small man syndrome – did whatever it took

Bodybuilders began to use the term ‘biggerexia’ to describe a state that is the exact opposite of anorexia nervosa; they always feel that they look small and wimpy. These were the types of people who were much more likely to turn to steroids.

Gregg Valentino’s steroid use became so frequent that he developed infections from using dirty needles. The film shows Gregg trying to operate on himself to remove a haematoma in his arm, pulling out syringe after syringe of blood and puss. After 20 minutes of self mutilation and two tumblers of coagulated blood, Gregg was rushed to emergency surgery. He came extremely close to losing his arm and was lucky not to have died.

Obviously this is an extreme case of steroid use. Steve Michalik – Mr America in 1972 and former training partner of Arnold Schwarzenegger, recalled when a friend encouraged him to take steroids for the first time.

“…just try a little bit…it was the biggest mistake…there is no little bit”

Steroid use started to take over; once he had started he found it extremely difficult to come off them.

“The only way you come off is if tragedy struck. That’s what happened to me.”

Steve first knew something was wrong when he started passing blood in his urine. It was his liver dissolving. It is thought that his steroid use led to:

  • A grapefruit sized tumour and three golf ball sized tumours on his liver
  • Body mass shrinking from 220lbs to 146lbs
  • Having a stroke
  • Being temporarily sectioned under the mental health act
  • Being left with the testosterone levels of a 12 year old girl
  • Testicles the size of peanuts

Dr. Harrison Pope, Author, The Adonis Complex, explains that the short term medical problems with steroids are relatively modest; this is the reason why people are tempted to use them. The perceived benefits and muscle gain outweigh the side effects of acne, mood swings and developing female growth tissue. Most don’t even notice these effects and the long term problems are ignored.

Dr. Pope predicts that in the next 10 – 20 years we will see an increase in cases of major bodybuilders and high profile athletes who develop heart disease or strokes at a seemingly premature age, and this will probably be accredited to the use of steroids.

We live in a world where we are judged on image, the pressures are there and we want results now. Many people who are just starting out may feel pressured to take extraordinary risks and there are those who have trained naturally for years who turn to steroids.

After surviving the effects of his steroid use, Steve Michalik, says that the pill isn’t the answer, and ‘the now’ isn’t the solution. He urges bodybuilders to take some time to get back to the old ways of training, without steroids. He believes that bodybuilders would not only be more successful, but would live longer.

“You plant one tiny seed of anabolic steroid in your body, that seed grows, embedded in every cell in your body…even though your muscles on the outside are big, inside you are rotting, you are rusting” – Steve Michalik, Mr America 1972, Mr Universe 1975.