Steroids have been available within the sporting community for at least 50 years, with their use increasing in line with added pressures placed on athletes to perform.
Developed in the late 1930s to treat hypogonadism (a condition in which the testes do not produce sufficient testosterone for normal growth, development, and sexual functioning), steroids, as they are commonly known as, are actually a class of drugs (variants of the naturally occurring male hormone testosterone) that stimulate, through various hormonal pathways, an anabolic, tissue-building, process.
In their class categorization, steroids are termed androgenic (promoting masculinity) anabolic (tissue building), hence their full title: androgenic anabolic steroids. The androgenic effects of steroids are typically experienced naturally by males during puberty.
Anabolic, on the other hand, refers to the anabolism that occurs due to steroid enhanced protein synthesis. It is the anabolic effects of steroids bodybuilders and other athlete's desire.
In light of research and anecdotal reports concerning the pros and cons of steroid use for bodybuilding purposes, it seems there are definitely two major camps, each with fundamentally differing perspectives regarding the merits of these drugs.
The pro-steroid camp would say that steroids, taken under a doctor's supervision, will enhance one's health and well-being and, of course, keep them ahead of the pack in terms of bodybuilding success. This camp sees no ethical dilemmas associated with steroid use as these drugs, in their view, are a reflection of progress and the belief that one should keep up with all the bodybuilding trends to excel to the fullest possible degree.
Given steroids are synthetically derived versions of the natural male sex-hormone testosterone, it is thought they could actually assist the male who, for whatever reason, experiences declining levels of this hormone, they say.
However, firmly positioned on the opposite side of the fence are the anti-steroid camp who strongly regard steroids as dangerous drugs to be used only for the purposes for which they were originally intended (to improve weight loss due to severe illness, control breast cancer, treat anemia and treat osteoporosis).
They say steroids have dangerous side effects, which could even, in extreme cases, result in death. The anti-steroid camp also feel that the use of steroids in bodybuilding unfairly disadvantages those who choose to go the natural route (steroids used in this context is commonly referred to as cheating).
Steroid detractors also site the fact these substances are illegal and can only be obtained legitimately with a doctor's prescription. Illegal steroids are sourced primarily from dealers who smuggle them from certain countries. They are also diverted from pharmacies or synthesized in clandestine laboratories.
Steroids Are Here To Stay
Whichever view one has, the truth is, with pro sport increasing its grasp on society, coupled with the pressures placed on athletes to win at all costs, steroids are here to stay. The best course of action for anyone undecided as to whether steroids are for them is to make an informed choice.
Read the research and various case studies concerning these drugs to help determine what is the right choice. Above all, don't take advice from unqualified sources as to whether steroids are suitable for you. Everyone is different, and it takes a specialist to determine the effects a steroid will have on a certain individual.
Natural Bodybuilding Advocate.
One man who is staunchly in the anti-steroid camp is Anthony Catanzaro. Anthony has trained for over 20 years as a natural bodybuilder, along the way winning numerous bodybuilding titles. Rather than taking the steroid option, Anthony persevered and through an intelligent approach to dieting and training has crafted a physique anyone would be proud of.
Professing an unwavering level of respect for his health and well-being, Anthony feels putting potentially toxic chemicals into one's body is a sign of disrespect and should be discouraged. Anthony has never been tempted to use any form of performance enhancing drug to accomplish his bodybuilding goals and feels to do so would compromise his integrity.
In this interview, Anthony shares his secrets to building a great physique the natural way and gives his candid views on the controversial topic of steroids in bodybuilding. Given his bodybuilding success, Anthony does talk with a degree of authority, which makes this interview compulsory reading for anyone contemplating steroid use.
[ Q ] Hi Tony. How did you initially become interested in natural bodybuilding?
Hey David. I have always been interested in bodybuilding and the human body for as far back as I can remember. I have always been interested in how the body works and how to achieve greatness in one's physique. The human body was designed to meet the demands of what its environment would shell out.
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Designed To Meet The Demands
Of Its Environment.
In other words, if you are going to sit at a desk all day and the only exercise you get is from lifting your arm to get those chocolates next to you, you are not going to have the body of your dreams. Remember, you become your environment. I'm always looking for ways to challenge my body and in return, that strengthens my soul.
[ Q ] What is it about bodybuilding that you love most?
I have to say that it's the one sport where it's all you! You can't rely on a team member, or a coach to get you out of a mess. In other words, if you fail on stage they cannot bring in a relief poser. You have to be confident enough to know you could win.
Read my confidence article to "bring out the best in you." Bodybuilding is one of hardest sports. For example, a baseball team can go get hamburgers and beer after a game. But there is no way a bodybuilder could do that after a workout, or as he or she is in training for a show.
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Therefore, it is a 24 hour seven-day-a-week sport. You have to give credit to bodybuilders as we are probably the hardest workers in sports history.
[ Q ] Why did you opt for the natural approach?
I'm asked this question all the time and I'll tell you the same thing that I tell others. I want to be healthy on the inside, not just on the outside. I know many guys that are using drugs and they have encountered many problems from it. From skin damage to liver and kidney failure: it's pure GARBAGE!
I do not recommend anyone use it, try it, or think about it. It's not what the sport is about! This sport is about building your body and your mind, not destroying it!
[ Q ] When you say steroids destroy the mind, what do you mean here?
What I mean is that it is not physically but mentally damaging. A person on steroids will know in the back of their mind that he or she needs the stuff to be on top. It's like that old saying that I have, "if you are unhappy with yourself being poor, then you will never be happy with yourself being rich."
You must learn to love yourself regardless of your financial status, height, weight and race. It all begins with the mind. Remember, it doesn't take a championship win to be a champion. You can be a champion to your family, and friends and that's what really matters.
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Anthony & His Wife After Another Win.
[ Q ] The issue of drugs in sport has always been controversial. What is it about drug taking for performance enhancing purposes that you oppose?
I'm against the whole thing. I don't judge a man on how he earns a living to put food on the table, but you have to understand the tone you are setting for others like your kids, your family, and your friends.
Do you know that I have fans around the world that look up to the fact that I have never used enhancement drugs and that inspires them to do the same. That alone makes it all worth while for me.
[ Q ] What negative effects of performance enhancing drugs have you witnessed?
Well I see it all the time... a guy will walk in the gym that I haven't seen in a few months, and he would be pumped out with crazy veins and looking like he is flexing when he is just standing there. He also has a look on his face as though he is guilty of something.
I truly feel that a person on steroids and growth hormones has a feeling of emptiness inside them. It's almost like when a person cheats someone out of something. They don't feel as though they accomplished anything. Again, this is my own opinion.
I understand that in order for a lot of them to win, they have to use what everyone else is using. But stop and think about it. What are you gaining? Forget the prize money and the pro card, look inside yourself and ask yourself, are you really a winner? Think about it...
Benefits & Costs Of Steroid Use:
As mentioned, steroids can have a variety of effects - both good and bad. They can be legitimately used to treat several types of disorders, in addition to re-building muscle mass lost through illness. Steroid inhalers have proven very useful in combating death from asthma and local steroid injections are beneficial for treating painful joints and ligaments.
It is clear anabolic androgenic steroids have a legitimate place in medicine. However, they also can cause a variety of deleterious side effects. Anyone using steroids will experience a trade-off between the positive and negative effects these drugs present.
The following is a list of commonly reported costs and benefits. You decide.
In considering the following effects it must be understood that the degree of effect a particular steroid has will depend on several variables. These include: individual susceptability, type of steroid, amount of steroid taken and degree of risk.
Benefits (Positive Effects)
- Increased leanness and muscle definition.
- Increased muscle mass and general weight gain.
- Increased strength.
- Increased effectiveness of training.
- Improved recovery rate.
- Euphoria (feelings of positivity and confidence).
- Increased aggressiveness.
- Increased sex drive.
Costs (Negative Effects)
- Increased risk of mood disturbances including mania and depression.
- Increased risk of psychosis.
- Increased risk of aggressive acts which may injure self or others.
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Increased risk of liver disease and cancer.
- Increased risk of kidney disease and cancer.
- Risk of HIV and Hepatitis B & C from contaminated needles.
- Bad breath.
- Decreased sex drive.
- Water retention.
- Muscle cramps.
- Aching joints.
- Increased risk of muscle tears.
- Increased risk of tendon injuries.
- Increased risk of nose bleeds.
- Decrease in immune system effectiveness.
- Increased risk of prostate enlargement and cancer.
- Decreased testicular size.
- Gynecomastia (growth of breasts).
- Increased risk of cervical and endometrial cancer.
- Increased risk of osteoporosis.
- Irreversible enlargement of the clitoris.
- Irreversible hoarsening and deepening of the voice.
- Irreversible increase in facial and body hair.
- Decreased breast size.
- Amenorrhea (the absence of menstruation).
- Uterine atrophy.
- Short Stature.
- Premature ephiphyseal closure.
[ Q ] What are the benefits to being a natural bodybuilder in your view Tony?
You can inspire others to follow in your footsteps you can show people that you can build muscles naturally with proper diet and training. That's why I create customized diets through my web site. I can create a diet to get you where you want to be the right way.
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Just For You.
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Whether you're looking to gain mass or get ripped, I do all the work for you. With my 20-plus years experience, it's the best investment you can make for a lifetime.
[ Q ] What other benefits are there to being a natural bodybuilder in your view Tony?
There are so many, but I think the best reason is the motivation it gives others to go out there and learn as much as they can, and to be able to have an outlook that a champion body can be made without the use of steroids and other drugs. Inspiring others is a true gift.
I would encourage those reading this article to get off steroids and to become one with their body again. You don't realize the effect it's having on you right now. You don't need it! I can guarantee that getting off the stuff will be the best decision you ever made. I promise you that you will be rewarded for it from above.
Just like any other drug, it destroys you mentally and physically. Just think of it as the devil going inside you. Do you think he is out for your best interest? No, of course not. He is out to destroy you! Stay natural and put your hand in the hand of the man upstairs.
[ Q ] What are some of the things a non-drug user should do to ensure bodybuilding success? What kind of attitude do they need?
It's just like anything else, you have to put everything you have into your workouts, your diet and your rest. You also need to have a clear outlook on what you want to achieve. You have to "believe it to achieve it." In other words, if you really don't think that you can make your arms grow two inches, then they won't grow at all.
You need to have what I like to call mind to muscle concentration. Otherwise, you are just spinning your wheels and staying in the same spot. Your attitude should be this: "everyday I am getting closer and closer to my goals". It's like climbing a ladder, keep going up... not up and down.
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[ Q ] Drugs are often seen as an easy road to gaining size. What unique struggles do natural bodybuilders have compared to their drug using counterparts?
Size is always considered a plus in bodybuilding, but I never thought of it that way. You see, I look at the body as an ice sculpture, while one person might consider adding size to his shoulders for a more V-taper look, I would look to make the waist smaller to give even more of a V- taper approach.
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You see, bodybuilding doesn't mean build size it means build a body. That means looking at yourself like a statue, or how a car is designed. I just bought a Jaguar XK8 because I was drawn to the body style. This car in my opinion one of the sexiest body styles I have ever seen on a car! The bottom line is I don't think bigger I think better. Forget the HUMMER!
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[ Q ] Describe the feeling being a good natural bodybuilder gives you?
First of all... don't you mean great? I'm only kidding! It's just a great feeling to know that you are of clean body, mind, and soul.
[ Q ] We know that various drugs make it easy for a bodybuilder to progress in their sport. What does a natural bodybuilder have to do differently when aiming to pack on the muscle and arrive onstage ripped?
Basically the same thing a bodybuilder on drugs would do, gain as much lean muscle mass in the off-season as he or she could. That's lean muscle mass, not bloat, fat, or water.
There are some guys in my gym who compete in drug shows. I have respect for them because they are nice guys, but of course I don't agree with what they are doing. One guy would gain 50lbs in the off-season, which of course he had to lose to make his weight class for the show.
What's the purpose of gaining mass if you can't keep it? I never understood that. I'm never more than 15lbs higher than what I would compete at. Therefore, in the past I have done middleweight shows coming in at 176lbs, which is the top off the class. So my weight in the off season would be around 190lbs.
This year, I will compete for the first time ever in the light heavy weight class. I will weigh around 190lbs on stage so that means I need to be at least 205lbs for my off season. This is how I do it and believe me it works. Why would you want to kill yourself dieting for 12 weeks to get rid of the so called mass you built during the off season?
- 2005 INBF Natural NYC Middle Weight Champion
- 2003 Fame America Model Universe, First Runner Up
- 2002 NPC New York State Bodybuilding, Middleweight winner & overall champion
- 2001 INBF Tournament of Champions, Middleweight Champion
- 1998 Natural Bodybuilding, Middleweight Champion
- 1997 Mr. Fitness Champion
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[ Q ] Have you ever considered using drugs to gain additional size?
[ Q ] What has stopped you from considering drug use?
It's not what I'm about. I'm not into putting garbage chemicals in my body to win a show or to impress people. It's much more impressive winning a show or looking pumped the natural way. When your body is naturally pumped, your mind will be as well.
[ Q ] Have you ever been offered steroids? What did you say? What would you say?
Luckily, I have never been offered steroids. I didn't start working out at a gym until I was 26yrs old, so for 11 years I trained in that little home gym I made when I was growing up. I think that the decision to use steroids would be made early on in the first year or two of training.
So kids that are 17-18 years old, would be a high risk since the majority of them are unaware of the effects, they would just think that it's normal to use it. I want to speak to those kids right now and tell them first hand: you do not need steroids. Even guys that are using them agree that it's not a wise choice.
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Eat Clean To Be Lean.
Workout Tough To Be Buff.
Like I said before, they let the competition or the peer pressure take a hold of them. You don't need it. Even to this day I don't even know what steroids look like. That is the God's honest truth - remember these words:
"Eat clean to be lean and workout tough to be buff."
[ Q ] What advantages do you have over a steroid user do you think?
Well like I said before, bigger doesn't necessarily mean better. It's the whole package and there are a lot of steroid users that are completely bloated and out of proportion. Then there are also some who are flawless, but the bottom line is that I will never lose what I have developed. That is because I did it naturally.
I don't have to see myself shrink away to nothing. That is what happens when you stop taking the drugs. That must be very depressing to see yourself shrink more and more each day. It's like the wicked witch of the West, I'm melting. Stay natural, and you will have those muscles for life. Muscles don't age so you can always gain, at any age!
[ Q ] Can you think of any specific examples of the adverse effects of steroids?
Like any other drug, it alters your mind. You aren't the same person because your hormone levels including your testosterone levels are altered. Plus who wants to be around a bodybuilder when he's having mood swings?
[ Q ] It has been said that drug using bodybuilders work very hard and make greater sacrifices to reach the top. Do you respect those who use drugs to enhance their physiques?
Like I said before, I don't judge them, that's the decision they made, and yes they do work very hard. I have made plenty of decisions and choices in my life that others would not agree on, but one thing I can say is that any choice I made would come from my love and honesty for something.
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My Choices Are Made
Through Love & Honesty.
If they truly love the sport of bodybuilding they wouldn't need it. It's not what bodybuilding was made for! It gives the wrong impression to those who are just beginning to lift weights.
[ Q ] Do you think steroids have a place in professional bodybuilding? What do you think of compulsory drug testing?
I feel that professional bodybuilding or any professional sport for that matter, would open a path for drug enhancements. We are talking about thousands of dollars. These guys do this for a living, and most of them do nothing else but this. So yes, being the best bodybuilder, football player, baseball player and wrestler would mean they would do whatever it takes to win, but in the end they loose.
[ Q ] What are the best non-drug methods for gaining muscle in your experience?
Diet. You can train until your arms fall off, but like I always say, "If your diet ain't right you'll never be tight". Learning about nutrition is key. I put it all together for you with my customized diets.
[ Q ] Do you think more people will take the drug-free approach, or are drugs becoming more popular?
This is funny my brother-in-law, Anthony, always told me that I'm a legend before my time and that one day people will look at my photos and say this guy did it natural back when. I don't think drugs are becoming more popular.
The look of bodybuilding is changing and there is more information available now than ever before. Men and women are more into the hard lean look so the use of steroids is becoming less and less I feel.
[ Q ] What would you like to achieve as a drug-free bodybuilder?
I have already achieved it. I inspire people all over the world. I have fans in places that I didn't even know existed. I never thought I would have an impact on people like I do. It is truly a blessing from God.
[ Q ] What message would you like to give to the younger bodybuilder contemplating drug use?
Don't do it. I have been training for over 20 years and have learned that within time like wine, your body will get better and better. Understand that bodybuilding is not to impress girls, or to look good on the beach during spring break. Bodybuilding is a lifestyle for you to follow for the rest of your life.
It's like this... a person who does something for the wrong reason will never truly be one with himself. He or she will go on through life looking for ways to get things without the right intention. Remember, when your body is pure then and ONLY then will you be given the greatness from God.
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Greatness Comes With Purity.
- Globalchange.com.(2005) The Truth About Steroids. [ online ]
- Musclenet.com.(20050. Anabolic Steroids. [ online ]
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