Follow Up to Yesterday’s Post (Steroids: Is it Really That Easy?)

mareby: Kevin Larrabee, CSCS

Thanks for all of the comments everyone. I think I will explain myself a bit more.

First off, people who do use performance enhancing drugs like steroids are not bad people because of it. I am looking at it in the world of the gym, period. Not about what kind of person they are in the real world. To me, it is still taking the easy road in the weight room. Yes, users may still put the time into the gym. But their programming could look like a first grader’s math quiz and they would still get results that others couldn’t without the drugs.

Look at it this way. You are a Major League Baseball Player that first sees Mark McGwire break the home run record. A few years later Barry Bonds destroys McGwire’s record. In the meantime you are hitting 8-10 home runs a year and barely holding a starting position. How would you feel if other players that were making tens of millions of dollars more than you are getting an advantage by juicing? I look at it the same way in the gym, although I am obviously reacting more than most would. That being said, I can see how others don’t see where I am coming from, and I totally understand.

Can one use steroids safely? Yes, I didn’t say you couldn’t. Many of the people in the Bigger, Stronger, Faster documentary used steroids most of their lives and have been perfectly healthy.

Again, I don’t think using makes you a bad person, or that I am a better person for not using the stuff.

Lastly, steroid use is illegal in the United States. Do I think it should be put along the lines of heroin and cocaine? No. But is it still illegal.

Thanks for listening everyone, and please know that I do value your opinion, and that I am not saying I am “right” about this. It is just my opinion.

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12 Responses

  1. Tyler says:

    I think I’m beginning to appreciate where you’re coming from more, but my view point still doesn’t match yours, so I feel the need to further address some of your points.

    “To me, it is still taking the easy road in the weight room.”
    “But their programming could look like a first grader’s math quiz and they would still get results that others couldn’t without the drugs.”
    I don’t disagree with this for MOST steroid users, but people who listen to The FitCast should know a lot more than people who are at least a bit knowledgeable. So it makes the hard road easier, or perhaps a nearly impossible road doable.
    Analogy: I drive a car because it helps me get to places faster, even though it is the most likely way for me to die.

    “How would you feel if other players that were making tens of millions of dollars more than you are getting an advantage by juicing?”
    The same way as most people as these people have agreed not to do it in the context of their sport.

    As for the legality, I do (Rarely) illegal things to increase the quality or value of my life. It doesn’t necessarily mean that these things are immoral or outright wrong because they are against the law.

    “I am not saying I am “right” about this. It is just my opinion.”
    Aren’t journalists always supposed to KNOW their opinion is the right one?
    Perhaps you’re just setting a higher standard of journalism. 😉

  2. Colleen says:

    I dont exactly remember who said it on the fitcast this week but it was like a, ‘holy sh#t, I never thought of that’ moment for me. One of ya’ll mentioned that all the suggestions and stories in the muscle head magazines are just to try and make it seem that the bulked up guys in the pages aren’t on steroids when they really are. Totally makes sense but never crossed my mind before.

  3. The think I tend to think about regarding steroid use is: Why is this different from other methods of performance enhancement supplements.

    Is it it because steroids incredibly effective? Or is it because they are illegal? Why are they illegal? Is a strong pro-hormone cheating? Why or why not?

    And yes, steroids can be safe if you know what you’re doing. But if you don’t they can be dangerous.

    Let me ask you this Kevin, what about the people who are prescribed steroids for hormone replacement therapies? If it is then legal in the eyes of our government, is it still cheating?

  4. Chris says:

    I’d just like to point out that there are guys with great programming and knowledge about training that are also users. Sometimes it comes down to the fact that to compete against the best in the world, you must do what the best in the world also do; which is using performance enhancing drugs. Now, I didn’t say, “which is sadly using..”

    I really don’t believe it’s that big of a deal for anyone to use steroids. It’s a relatively harmless drug and compared to other drugs out there, it’s abuse potential is rather low and it isn’t much different in my eyes than taking a the multitude of other drugs/powders/and pills that a lot of regular joes take.

    Should gatorade be banned? Should we stop researching food’s effects on an individual’s hormones? You know, if we do that, we just get into the same territory as steroids. Eat to produce hormonal results, etc. Steroids are just a really effect way of achieving a result.

    I am not a steroid user, for many reasons, but to demonize their use or call those that use them cheaters is to me, unnecessary. It is what is is; effective and efficient at producing a muscle/strength enhancing result.

    Let’s put a cap on people’s protein intake too, since we’ve banned steroids?

    Why not do away with Pixar’s software, Renderman? You know, because cartoonists should just use pen and paper, like the old days!!!

    Come on…

  5. Shane says:

    doesnt it shrink your nuts? lol j/k. I agree with you Kevin, good post. Actually Sebastian MacLean has some pretty good knowledge on this subject, might make a good interview for the fitcast.

  6. Matt says:

    It’s not cheating. For you to ‘cheat’ implies there is a sort of competition or evaluation at stake: professional baseball, natural bodybuilding, powerlifting, an olympic sport, the SAT, a class final, etc.
    You are only really ‘competing’ against yourself in the gym. If you are angry because there are other people in the gym getting better results than you due to steroid use, get over it, or get on it. It’s almost similar to complaining about being dominated in a pickup basketball game because someone is taller than you, although in this case it’s worse: this is the way things are (him on steroids getting better results than you not using anything) and you can either change your stance, or accept the circumstances. But if this is the reason you are against steroid use (that there are guys out there who are uber-jacked/strong/lean/etc. and don’t ‘know’ as much as you ,or train ‘properly’) then I think you need to re-evaluate a lot of things.
    With regard to competing with yourself, steroids do change the playing field. But given the changes in the playing field, you should expect much better from yourself. Is gaining 2 pounds of muscle/month when using the best you are capable of? Moreover, training hard and educating yourself will always improve your results. Can steroids take the place of learning and proper training/nutrition to provide equal results to the ‘hardworking’ natural? Absolutely. But that is the choice for each trainee to make on his own. As Louie Simmons said, “I’ve got a dozen vials of test in the back room that haven’t lifted shit!’; there are a ton of hard-working, smart-working, dedicated athletes who use steroids to maximize their performance, aesthetics, etc. and to call them ‘cheaters’ is truly a misnomer.

  7. Darrin says:

    Illegal is illegal. And although I don’t think Kevin equated illegal with cheating, I do equate it. I’m not sure if you are cheating yourself, or cheating your peers, or just cheating “the system”. But illegal is a pretty black and white word.

    I could never look my kids in the eye, tell them to obey the law, and at the same time be taking steriods. I’m also one of those people who never copies a CD or DVD from someone else.

    But even if someone wants to argue that there are shades of grey in “illegal”, I really question where people are coming from when they consider steroids. What’s the motivation? Is it just to get bigger in a shorter period of time? Why? Just simply “to be bigger”? That’s sad. Sounds like they are setting up every other male as their “competitor”.

    Is it because they were scrawny as a kid and now want to prove to everyone they can be a big man? Pathetic.

    Although still twisted, I can at least understand the motivation for professional athletes – “everyone else” is doing it, and their livelihoods depend on them performing at an inhuman level. I still don’t agree with it, and it still says something about the weakness of that athlete’s self-worth, but I can understand it.

    For me, the motivation for lifting is to be healthy for my kids and grandkids, to look good, and certainly see how far I can push my body safely. Weight training is pretty much unparalleled in this regard. There’s a real thrill in seeing progress and knowing that it’s purely my willpower and hardword getting me there.

    If you want to take steroids, I think you really need to question your motivation and find something else in your life worth striving for. When you strip down to the basic motivations involved, I would argue that there’s nothing admirable about anyone’s primal drive that would lead them to take illegal steroids.

    p.s. I can hear some people saying “yeah, but adding protein powder to your meals isn’t natural either”. You really can’t compare them. Unless you’re taking some weird shit, protein powder is the same stuff you are eating anyway. And protein powder isn’t illegal.

  8. Rich says:

    The only problem with all this is that so many athletes are on some form of steroid/chemical performance enhancer that it takes away the whole argument of ‘how would you feel if you could only hit 8-10 home runs and Barry can hit x amount’

    Barry Bonds, or Alex Rodriguez are simply superior athletes who used similar means to get the best out of themselves as a number of very good MLB athletes. It is impossible to know the difference steroids made when coupled with the fact that almost every other form of performance enhancement from equipment through to training through to professional environment inevitably leads to higher quality anyway. Some estimates say that up to 80% of MLB used some kind of performance enhancer during the recent era and it didn’t level the playing field.

    Whether someone does or does not agree with using steroids (I haven’t decided) it is totally and completely unfair and unethical to single out only those who were the most successful and ostracise them for it. Barry Bonds would have been great with or without steroids and the proof is in the number of people who used and never came close to his production. Athletes like Mike Mamula on one end of the scale and any number of NFL guys who fail to impress physically at the combine but go on to be studs have proven that strength and physical development are not linearly correlated with success.

    Just my 2 cents.

  9. Marlon says:

    Kevin, I love your work on this site but couldn’t disagree with you more…

    Although I understand the need for keeping competitive sports clean, the argument that it’s cheating simply does not stand up for someone who is looking for positive changes in body composition.

    Who is the casual steroid user cheating?
    Where is the competition I am missing?… Is it between clean gym goers and the guys who take drugs?

    Beyond that, who is to say that hormone supplementation is different from protein supplementation? How about phyto-androgens (like tribulus) to boost endogenous hormone levels? Or products like Biotest’s Res-V that control estrogen?

    If you think about it, creatine supplementation artificially provides muscle energy and strength. If you forget about the mechanisms and concentrate on the fact that it’s sythetic, how is it different from performance enhancing drugs?

  10. Nick Pisano says:

    why are steriods illegal?
    Is it because there bad for you?
    Then why do they use them for people who are sufering from cancer and aids and other illnesses?
    So apperently… steriods are only good for you if your sick?
    but there bad for you when your healthy??
    Give me an article in wHich sientific studies where done that says steriods are bad for you…
    It can’t be done.
    When Congress got together to talk about steriods, all of te experts said they were not bad for you.
    but they diregarded them, and banned them anyway.
    Yes, side affects include..
    Shrunken testicles
    Reproductive harm
    hair growth (all over the body)
    but there are WAY worse side effects in medicines like sleeping pills and over the counter drugs!!
    In men, those are ALL reversable!
    The man who propsed the idea about banning steriods in baseball, did not know many things that a 5th grader should know.
    He thought
    the drinking age was 18!
    and for most questions the interviewer asked, the senator asked his secretary wat the answer was.
    i’m not saying Steriods are good
    I’m not saying steroids are bad…
    But HOLY CRAP!
    If people can take botox, and have plastic surgery to look better then why can’t other people take steriods to look better?
    My personal opinion?
    I think steriods should be banned from sports, but i think anyone should be able to take them if they want to. as long as they know the correct way.
    And, steriods are not “The Easy Way Out”
    People who take steriods usually work harder in the gym then other people do.
    I have never taken steroids, nor do i plan on it, but if i want to, why shouldnt i?
    People are aloud to drink alchohol, and smoke, an those ARE EXTREMELY more dangerous then steriods.
    Birth control pills are a form of steriods… so why aren’t those banned??
    all steriods do are increase hormones…
    Thanks for reading!

  11. Trev says:

    I just had a physical… I’m waiting for the blood test results. I work out a ton, eat right, don’t smoke, drink, do drugs,or even drink coffee. I’m sure the blood work will all look very good.

    However, when I had my last physical 3.5 years ago, my testosterone was low. I discussed that possibility with my doctor this time, and he mentioned something about prescribing testosterone….

    Would THAT be cheating? Aside from being able to build more muscle, what would the medical benefits be from taking it? Would taking a low dose of a legally prescribed medication for and actual deficiency in my body really pose a serious health risk? Would the benefits outweigh the risks?

    As a guy who’s never had a drink in his life, and who’s always intended to see what my natural genetic limits are, it looks like something I’d say no to. However, as guy who lifts 6 days a week, eats right and wants to look like I lift… dude… it sure is tempting.

    Kevin, I’m really curious to hear what you have to say. If you were me, and your own testosterone was low, and the Dr. recommended it, would you do it?



  12. Trev says:

    Just got the tests back – my testosterone is 302.7 – within the “Normal” range of 241-850. However, that would be normal for a 90 year old guy on his death bed. Normal for my age is about 600…