The Drug Problem
Now that we have established the history of competitive bodybuilding and the primary influences behind its success, we can address the subject of steroids and the role that they play in Natural verses Enhanced bodybuilding.
As previously stated, the use of anabolic steroids is nearly always accompanied by denial. Athletes simply have no incentive to be publicly honest regarding this issue. The highest levels of competition are randomly tested at best with awards going to the largest and most defined persons in their class. Sadly, many competition sponsors and promoters feign ignorance on this topic while some surreptitiously supply steroids to their sponsored athletes. Professional athletes may be under the care of a physician who will monitor their blood levels for various signs of toxicity and organ failure. Drugs are then cycled in order to minimize the risk of organ failure and yet allow the athlete to maintain a heightened anabolic condition. Even while under the supervision of a physician however, many athletes have died in their quest for an enhanced competitive physique. In consideration of the above, the novice steroid user has little guidance and blindly uses whatever drugs they can get their hands on. Steroid dealers frequent local gyms finding eager consumers for their goods. Additionally, there has been a proliferation of internet retailers, mostly foreign pharmacies, which blatantly advertise an array of oral and injectable steroids to a hungry audience even though steroids continue to be illegal under Federal law. In an attempt to crack down on foreign web sites importing steroids directly into the United States, the FDA runs a series of fake web sites which are designed to look like a foreign steroid provider. U.S. citizens who are caught attempting to purchase steroids form these sites may then find themselves in violation of the controlled substance act. In response to this approach by the FDA, many bodybuilding communities which cater to the enhanced athlete have established what are known as “scammer” list in which details of fake or disreputable websites which front as steroid suppliers are publicized.
Because natural hormonal production is interrupted as the result of elevated hormone levels during the user’s cycle, a host of non-steroidal drugs must then be taken to force natural hormone production to resume. The typical regimen is for an athlete to inject high amounts of synthetic testosterone for the duration of the cycle (elevating serum testosterone while causing testicular atrophy), immediately followed with additional drugs to combat the effects of estrogen and to maintain muscle gains. The above scenario, repeated daily by tens of thousands of hopeful athletes, is the equivalent of playing Russian roulette with your endocrine system. Male athletes who fail to “jumpstart” their testicles on time will often be greeted by the hasty retreat what little muscle mass they may have gained, coupled with a condition known as gynecomastia, the formation of male breast. Research by the National Institute on Drug Abuse has shown that among male steroid users, over 50% will experience testicular atrophy and that over 50% will develop gynecomastia (www.drugabuse.gov). As a result, many hopeful aspirants find themselves with less muscle mass and lower self esteem after a cycle then before they began. This however, feeds the cycle which causes many bodybuilders to make second and third attempts hoping to get it right this time. Many will suffer from broken relationships, poor health, reduced self esteem, fines and jail time, and some will die.
Disregarding the above, the dominant influence in online bodybuilding communities revolves around the acquisition, and subsequent use of anabolic steroids. Currently, the most visited forum at Elite Fitness is the “Steroids Discussion Forum”, with over 1,316,813 post and 134,565 threads. Other topics at the forum include “Counterfeit Steroids”, “Pictures of Steroids”, “Anabolic Steroids and HIV”, and “Post Steroid Cycle Recovery”. Represented in the above are nearly 1,500,000 individual posts. In stark contrast to this, the “Natural Bodybuilding Forum” at “drugfreebodybuilding.com” has had less then 70 individual posts in the last four months.
To what can we attribute a disparity of this magnitude? The casual observer may surmise from the above that there simply is not enough interest in the subject of Natural Bodybuilding to sustain a viable online community presence. Considering that people tend to support what they are passionate about, the lack of support afforded the present online Natural Bodybuilding community would seem to suggest a lack of passion or interest in general. The writer of this study contends that the roots of this disparity go far deeper than a general lack of interest, but are a direct result of the NPC / IFBB culture of “bigger is better”.