Steroids: Part I

Anabolic steroids.

If you train with and around people that lift heavy weights, you know at least three people that are on steroids. If you don’t, then you are either naïve to that fact or you’re not really training heavy.

This is the first installment in what will be a multi-part discussion on the hows, whys, and what-fors of steroid use. If you’ve been in the iron game for awhile, you’re not going to learn anything new. If you’re reading this stuff for the first time, you’re not going to learn as much as you would from a good site on anabolics. The point of this article is to get the geared up elephant out of the room and clear up one unfortunate misconception.

I’m going to give away the ending so the 70’s Big detractors can quit reading. Yes, Doug Young, Anatoly Pisarenko, and company took steroids. Damn right. Back in the day, they stacked their stacks. Breakfast was meat, eggs, black coffee, and DBol. Lunch was a cigarette and 200mg of Cyp. They had more test than a boy band. But to say that this is the only reason they were champions is short-sighted and ignorant.

Roger Estep could have passed CrossFits drug test but not WADAs

Roger Estep could have passed CrossFit's drug test but not WADA's


For the record, 70’s Big advocates hard, clean training. The guys that are shown lifting on this site—Justin, AC, and Chris—are all natural. I know this because I’ve seen them train and I’ve seen their logs, but mostly because I’ve seen them in person. They are strong as hell and densely muscled, but they don’t have the look (we will talk about the look later).

I want to address a Rip quote that has been taken out of context numerous times. A guy asked Rip about taking steroids while doing linear progression and got this response:

“There are no shortcuts. The fact that a shortcut is important to you means that you are a pussy. Let me be clear here: if you”d rather take steroids than do your squats heavy and drink enough milk, then you are a fucking Pussy. I have no time or patience for fucking Pussies. Please tell everyone you know that I said this.”

Most people cite this for the proposition that steroids are a shortcut and bad in all instances. This is wrong, and it is not what Rip meant.

The linear progression program in Starting Strength works. If you work your ass off in the gym and in the kitchen, you will get stronger every week and add muscle. Thousands of people have figured this out. There is no point in short-cutting a process that gets more weight on the bar every time you lift. Rip took issue with the fact that the guy was looking to avoid time in the gym.

Our co-captains were in a different situation. At the elite levels of sport, there are no shortcuts. At that level, progression is limited by the ability to recover. The Piz didn’t juice so he could miss workouts. He used so he could work more, work longer, and work harder. That is a key distinction.

There are no shortcuts to a 733# deadlift at 220 while wearing short shorts.


The bottom line is that you can and should squat, deadlift, and eat your way to male adulthood (over 200 pounds) and beyond. No alternatives should be considered until you are well into intermediate programming (if ever). We’ll talk about what some people do next in a future issue.

Next: Chemistry, Benefits, Side Effects, and Misconceptions

Leave a Reply

  1. I apologize for the late, short, and crappily written post. I was going to do it last night, but I ate a gingerbread house, drank a quart of egg nog, and watched three movies from the Red Box (not RedTube).

    There will be a lot more content on this subject in the future.

  2. Great couple of articles Gant. I look forward to reading the remainder of your articles on this subject.

    I”ll put in my 2 cents on steroids. I think they belong in the category of stuff that helps you lift heavier weight, like weight lifting shoes, belts, bench shirts and squat suits. Its a personal decision, and just like I don”t see the appeal of wearing gear I don”t see the appeal of using anabolics. Although you”ve very correctly pointed out that steroids only enable you to work harder (like a belt), something about them seems to diminish the accomplishments of those who use them, atleast in my eyes. Thoughts from other lifters?

  3. I”ll clarify my last post a little further. I belt, wear weightlifting shoes, and I”ll occasionally supplement vitamins and fish oil. I modify my diet and drink tons milk inorder to elicit a very specific response from my body. Is any of that very different from using steriods? A very subjective question. I think so, but thats just where I draw my arbitrary line.

  4. Dan, There is a good article that was recently posted on the Starting Strength site. It was written by Gary Gibson and it explains the use of “gear” really well. It”s a good read.

    Gant, good article on a very touchy topic for a lot of lifters. Appreciate the honest and I am looking forward to reading the rest of them.

  5. Its interesting that this subject came up today.Last night at the gym a couple of the body buildong types were huddled around the Smith machine, which is next to the squat rack, talking about the different roids they take.

    I”m not sure if they were dealing in the gym, but two of them went to the single bathroom together and came out 10 minutes later.

    I”ve been around flagrant drug use most of my life – part of growing up around a bunch of pseudo bad asses. So stuff like this doesn”t bother me. I just found it kind of amusing that these muscle jacked guys who struggle to shoulder shrug 225 while I”m deadlifting in the 300s feel the need to juice. They must weigh over 200 lbs. I weigh in the 180s.
    Steroid use doesn”t really bother me. I am not there to judge others when I have no idea what their goals are. I have a buddy who bodybuilds. His constant roid use has put him in the hospital with kidney stones. One time we were fishing and we had to rush back to land because he had some sort of skin reaction to the sun. I don”t know if all the roids had something to do with it, but we were all highly suspicious.

  6. Enjoyed this read and I”m looking forward to the rest of it. I know there are several guys for sure who juice at my gym, one who is a pro bodybuilder, but I know very little of the subject.

    Does HGH fall into the same catagory? Maybe you could adress this substance in the future as well?

  7. Gant, great job introducing this topic, which would undoubtedly come up time and time again on this site. I think the timing of your articles is awesome – Sunday, I was looking up info on Kaz, then I wake up Monday to an article. Yesterday, I was talking to some guys in my gym who were trying to sell me on juice, and then, bam, this article. I personally have no reason to juice, and won”t, but can appreciate honest and candid discussion about the subject.

  8. Bluecheese. You and me have similar tales. I have no problems with the legal or moral use of any drugs I just choose not to use them. I have a “buddy” who has been lifting and pinning for years and is currently on a cycle. He commented on my trap size! I told him to pull heavy! A couple days later in the gym I see him shrugging 185 in the Smith machine while I pull 380 for 5! He still hasn”t figured it out! People think the needle makes you bigger,stronger and faster! Do the work Bitches!! Eat,lift and sleep!

  9. Just a question of interest: is the drug testing in Crossfit flawed?

    Is there evidence of some competitors of the CF Games not testing positive while they should?

    As not to turn this interesting article into a discussion about CF, please point me in the direction of some message board thread/article so I can do my own reading.

  10. @skinny99

    “Do the work bitches!! Eat, Lift and Sleep!” I do not think you could have said it any better…….

    @ jacob

    Dude, where do you train at in WA state? I live over in Wenatchee.

  11. I can see why my roid buddy does it though. Back in 03 he broke his neck and jaw in a 4wheeler accident. He had to live in one of those halos with his jaw wired shut for what seemed like forever. I guess he didn”t like that feeling of weakness and helplessness. As soon as his Dr cleared him he started working out with us. This was before I discovered Crossfit or the basic barbell lifts. We were doing the normal split isolation exercises. He could barely bench the bar without a spot. I think that pushed him even further into that lifestyle.
    I can”t blame him. The accident defintely changed his life. We just worry about him hurting himself, you know?

  12. My personal view on steroids has changed and I now believe that if someone wants to do them that is their choice. Just do not try and compete in the events with those of us that are clean.

    Although with steroids you still must do the work, the steroids do facilitate recovery, muscle growth and allow you to work harder and longer than if you did not take them. Now how much different is that than using a belt, 4ply suit, knee wraps and proper nutrition, or even a diet that helps to encourage testosterone production?

    On a side note this clip is great http://www.hulu.com/watch/4090/saturday-night-live-weekend-update-all-drug-olympics

    WA-Apples I am down in Cle Elum, do you know of any events on this side of the state?

  13. I”m with Leeuwer…I”m curious too. Not trying to turn this into a CF discussion, but where else can you ask a question and get a straight answer? They certainly wont let us ask the question over on the CF boards…

  14. I am 38 years old and will be 39 in Jan. I suffered a dislocated collar bone last year and it gives me a lot of problems, especially in my BP.My BP weight has dropped significantly. I refuse to take any shortcuts. I do what I can and hope that the next week I can slide an additional set of 2.5”s or if I am lucky 5lb plates on the bar. To me thats my gain, thats my goal. No shortcuts. I will be back in the 300”s by my 40th bday by putting the work in.

  15. WA-Apples – I train at Eastside Gym in Redmond. Lots of strong (and 70sbig) dudes there. It”s inspiring to see some serious weight being put up on a regular basis. It”s been a huge help to my training. Isn”t the Mead place Justin and Rip went to out near Wenatchee? Kittesmash and I talked about a road trip out there sometime soon!

  16. I don”t do steroids and don”t see myself ever doing steroids.

    To me there is a difference between manipulating nutrients with intention of soliciting a natural response and forcing that response through foreign hormone bombardment. I don”t look down on anyone that does or has done roids but I don”t look at their accomplishments the same as those of the clean competitor.

    I can understand why someone with their livliehood on the line would use for another contract but I don”t understand why some average schmoe would use to increase their pump down at the globo.

  17. @LaHabra

    You won”t be able to look at practically any physical accomplishment the same then. Pretty much all of the world records have been, and will be done by athletes that use AAS.

    And you won”t really be able to compare them to natural feats because no one has even written those down.

  18. The thing about steroids is that until you are at least in the very late stages of intermediate programming or an advanced lifter, they should not even be considered — ESPECIALLY for a novice. There is no substitute for training hard, eating well, and recovering well.

    Skinnier guys will benefit more from drinking their gallon of milk and following directions.

  19. I lift as heavy as I can for the time I”ve been lifting, which puts me at a 1100# total, but I don”t personally know anyone on steroids. Then again, I also don”t know anyone who squats or deadlifts regularly – after 8 months of lifting at my local gym, I”m still the only one.

    I”m increasingly tempted to seek out some roids, as I”m fully willing and able to put in the work and have no trouble downing 6k cals a day minimum. The problem is fat gain. I”m not skinny, nor am I fat, I”m somewhere in between, but adding 2″ to my waist in 4 weeks is a bit disheartening. No I”m not some BB”er aiming for 4% bodyfat or something stupid, but I certainly am not interested in becoming, and looking like a lardass, regardless of how strong I become in the process.

  20. @jacob

    Is that the gym where they had the Barbell Cert. in November?

    Yea the Mead place is in a town called Leavenworth about 22 miles west of here on Hwy 2. If you guys road trip definitely let me know.

  21. I thought it was in Sultan WA-Apples? Sky River Meadery? Either way, sounds badass. We will have to get together all the WA 70 s Big guys for some excessive mead drinking! Perhaps try some log lifting in the woods after. Could get ugly.

  22. You might very well be right. I know they have it in Leavenworth as well. Either way, lets get together soon and partake of large quantities of Mead and mass destruction of timber…..

  23. Leavenworth has killer German food, too. I”m there – we should arrange something soon in case I actually move back to TX. I”m down for log lifting/tossing/whatever, of course. We could do a log-across-the-back-Rocky-workout in the snow, too.
    WA-Apples, actually, the cert was at CF Eastside (one of Rip”s favorite gyms), with Carey (the SS model) and Mike Street (uber coach). Unfortunately, as awesome as CFE is, it”s about $150/mo with no open gym time, whereas Eastside Gym is $199/yr with a bunch of experienced PL”ers and they gave me a key to the front door so I can work out anytime. You can guess which way I went a week after getting laid off.

  24. Bummer…I love those guys at CFES, but as a self employed contractor I know exactly why you train where you do. Hell, I trade out my membership dues at my gym by fabricating racks, sleds and other stuff to make the gym more user friendly. When do you and KittenSmash want to road trip? Maybe we could destroy a little iron at the gym and then head out to Leavenworth for an epic 70s big feast….

  25. There was a younger guy, late teens, that used to workout at my gym. He put on a lot of muscle over a few months and was getting lots of compliments from other lifters for all the hard work he had been putting in. There were also a lot of rumors of steroid use being thrown around. One day, he comes up to me, clearly hurt by all the rumors, and asks “you don”t think I”m taking steroids do you?” I told him I didn”t think so, and to keep up the good work. Then he drops this bomb on me, “I mean, it”s frustrating because I”m in here working hard all the time, eating everything in sight, but, I mean, I”ve never taken steroids! I only take creatine, protein shakes and testosterone.” He was clueless, and I didn”t know what to tell him.

    Great site, guys. And thanks for not skirting the big issue.

  26. Pingback: Friday 2009.12.25 | CrossFit Virtuosity | NYC, New York

  27. Steroids are not wrong as long that they don”t provide
    an unfair advantage .. when steroids brings unfair advantage to an athlete then it becomes wrong and
    unethical

  28. Right ON! Those who train big AND eat BIG will dominate.

    Pop Tart for breakfast (notice there is NO plural there) and the school lunch doesn”t cut it.

    Those who do the “training” outside the gym win the most.

    I”ve been around many who take steroids, GH, etc from my early bodybuilder days.

    Still, those who worked the hardest and busted their ass in and out of the gym made the best gains.

    I don”t like to worry or care about what others do or don”t do regarding drug use.

    NO excuses necessary.

    We all know or have come across some strong and beastly mother f***ers who never touched drugs.

    –z–

  29. Pingback: Latest Steroids Auctions : Body Building Blog | Free Fitness Tips & Body Building…