The Dead Pool, 2005
Part 7 of Bodybuildings Most Infamous Internet Series
by Osama Ben Rotten
When this feature made its debut back in 1998, it lit up the emerging bodybuilding message boards like wildfire, and subsequent versions continued to do so in the following years. Everyone was determined to guess who these drug abusing, "at risk" bodybuilders were. And the bodybuilders who recognized themselves, or thought they did, flew into self-righteous rages and fired off furious rebuttals.
Some of them were quite intelligent in their statements, while others went to the point of threatening TC and other T-Nation staff with bodily harm and/or legal action. Since the last edition appeared on the site over two years ago now, we've received literally thousands of inquiries and requests for another Pool.
The casualties of the muscle world have continued to grow. Hopefully, the intentions of the Dead Pool will come across for what they are: a cautionary commentary against drug abuse.
Steroids: No Longer Bodybuildings Dirty Little Secret
Since the last Dead Pool ran in 2003, we've witnessed an unprecedented media blitz surrounding steroids. First came the BALCO scandal where the public learned that a high-profile laboratory, which produced legitimate nutritional supplements, was also manufacturing new "designer" steroids that were being used at the highest levels of amateur and professional sports.
Huge sports figures like Marion Jones and Barry Bonds were implicated, and the timing— several months before the Summer Olympics in Athens—couldnt have been more opportune for reporters in need of attention-grabbing headlines.
Last spring at the Arnold Classic and again in the fall at the Olympia, DEA agents subpoenaed big name bodybuilders in relation to BALCO and other steroid distribution cases they were building. In most cases, this was tactfully done in their hotel rooms, but pro-bodybuilders Dennis James and Milos Sarcev were confronted by federal agents right on the expo floor of the Olympia in front of hundreds of onlookers.
Following this came the release of Jose Cansecos book, Juiced, which many feel directly led to congressional hearings about steroids in Major League Baseball earlier this year. So to say that awareness of steroids among the public and inside the government has increased exponentially in the last two years, would be an understatement.
But we here at the Dead Pool arent terribly concerned about all the legal issues and whether or not some slugger deserves to be banned from the Hall of Fame. Our chief mission is to point out the health risks of steroid abuse, using notable bodybuilders as examples. The names are always changed to protect them, though in many cases it doesnt take an FBI code-breaker to figure out who they are.
To those we may happen to offend, we apologize in advance, and ask that you please understand the intention of the Dead Pool, which is to discourage bodybuilders, bodybuilder wannabes, and guys who just want to look jacked in a tight shirt from going overboard and risking their health.
Big muscles are great, but they arent worth dying for.
An Unfortunate Prophecy Comes True
In early April of 2004, Trevor Smith passed away at just 33 years old. Trevor was one of the subjects of the 2003 Dead Pool. In case you missed it, heres what was said about him (using the name Shiver Schmidt):
"This man isnt even a competitive bodybuilder. He has achieved some degree of notoriety by publishing an obscure magazine, having his own supplement company, and promoting himself as one of the biggest and strongest men who's ever lived. All well and good, but get this—Shiver is six-one and carries 400 pounds on his strained frame! Let me say it one more time: 400 pounds.
"Though he swears up and down his bodyfat level is around ten percent (and he stays covered up to conceal the truth), his bloated face and enormous gut make me think its more like twenty percent or better. Shiver is seen at some of the major contests, and sweats profusely at all times even in cool temperatures and standing still. Being a very well-educated man, Shiver has said on his web site and magazine that his own personal choice is to indefinitely cycle steroids eight weeks on, four weeks off.
"Whether this is any healthier than other drug protocols is up for debate, but what isn't arguable is that weighing 400 pounds is very dangerous. That poor heart must be working like a sonofabitch to pump blood through that humongous body. Several other men of this size have died young of heart attacks. Shiver, if you read this, please dont be another one to add to that list."
Trevor was found on the floor of his home by a real estate agent. No official cause of death was ever released to the media. Trevor was in the midst of a divorce and many speculated that he had taken his own life. Later reports mentioned a brain aneurysm. Since his estranged family and ex-wife never made an official statement, I suppose we'll never know if Trevors steroid use and/or inhuman dimensions had anything to do with his untimely death. But you sure have to wonder.
Another more recent death was that of Robert Benavente, a former overall champion of a large regional contest in Florida called the Southern States. Robert was just thirty years old. The cause of his death was listed as a massive heart attack. Thousands of people die of heart attacks every day in the USA, but for someone so young and seemingly healthy to die this way does raise questions.
Two additional dead bodybuilders make you wonder if the extreme lifestyle of modern bodybuilding played a role. Both happened in January of 2004 as Masters Mr. Olympia champion Sonny Schmidt died at age 49 of cancer, and pro-bodybuilder Derrick Whitsett succumbed to a heart attack at age 37 following a mugging that had resulted in a blood clot in his brain.
R.I.P. Sonny Schmidt
Bring Out Yer Dead!
It's with no joy that we bring you the 2005 candidates for the Dead Pool. We dont want these men to die or have any major health problems, and we arent saying we're positive that they're flouting fate with their drug regimens. How could we know for sure who's doing what? We only report on what we see and make assumptions based on what we know from years of experience and observation.
This man will be the easiest to figure out, since his misadventures with diuretics last fall have been widely reported. It should be noted that while steroids have never been known to kill anyone fast, diuretics certainly have. The late Mohammed Beniziza is a prime example.
Sumtypa collapsed in his hotel room after competing at the 2004 Mr. Olympia contest, blood streaming from his nose, and soiled from his own vomit. It was actually Shawn Ray, summoned to the room by a friend of Sumtypas, who called 911 and saved his life. Mr. BigMuffhead should've learned from his near-death experience, but guess what? Just a week later, the same scenario played out after he competed in one of the European Grand Prix shows.
Though he's clearly a man who's been taking mass quantities of steroids for many years, its his reckless use of diuretics that put him right at the top of the 2005 Dead Pool. Of course, its hard to blame the guy when current judging standards demand that these athletes be as dried-out as a piece of old beef jerky. In fact, "dry" has become a complimentary term to describe an athlete who has successfully managed to rid his body of as much body fat and water as possible, even though this achievement is about as healthy as popping five Vicodins and chasing them down with a quart of vodka.
Sumtypa is a married man with children over in Europe, so we hope his luck doesnt run out, or should we say, his kidneys dont suddenly shut down.
Lets stay right in Europe, Eastern Europe in this case, for Dead Pool front-runner number two. Ivan has competed in just two pro-shows so far, both overseas, and both times he's taken second to Ronnie Coleman. The Weider magazines have put him on their cover and promoted him as the next Great White Hope.
Ivan is just 27 years old, but competes at over 280 pounds at 5'11". In his interviews, he's complained about how tough it is to find quality food and supplements in his country, but from the looks of things, steroids seem to be quite available. Ivan has built a whole lot of size in a very short time, and the pressure on him to live up to the unrealistic expectations set for him could very well lead to throwing caution to the wind with regards to the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
If he saw it as the ticket to stardom and a way out of his crappy country to live in glamorous LA, the temptation would be even greater.
Pustalo had a banner year in 2004, finally breaking into the top three at the Mr. Olympia at a massive 245 pounds at 5'8". Just five months later, he won his first pro-show at 260 pounds. Much of that fifteen additional pounds was muscle, but as critics noted, a lot of it had gone straight to his distended belly. "Pregnant" and "bloated" were just a few choice adjectives tossed around, and Internet boards tore him apart, accusing him of GH and insulin abuse above and beyond even what his fellow pros are all reportedly doing.
But in the modern world of pro-bodybuilding, where bigger is better and where Mr. Olympia weighed in last year just a healthy dump away from 300 pounds with striated glutes, can Pustalo be guilty of anything but trying to keep up with so-called progress?
Pustalo is married with two kids, so nobody wants to see him check out of life early. Lets hope he lives a long and happy life, and doesnt miss out on seeing his kids grow up just because he needed to be a big freak.
Biff probably has more business sense than any other pro-bodybuilder alive today. The guy has tons of contracts and is definitely cashing in on what he knows is a relatively brief window of opportunity. The only reason we're even discussing him here is that he's been quoted many times over the years saying he planned on retiring by the age of 31 or 32, citing a strong concern for his health and longevity. As I write this, he's approaching age 32 and shows no signs or retiring.
Having taken second place at the Mr. Olympia on two occasions, it seems he may not quit until he finally claims that elusive and most prestigious title. Thirty-two isnt old at all, but Biff has been a heavy gear user since he was just eighteen years old, or at least thats the conclusion most of us would draw based on the gains he's made. In that first year of training he went from 180 to 240 pounds and won the Teenage Nationals. Just four years later he won the Nationals and turned pro.
Biff carries 300 pounds on his 5' 9" frame, and his bloated, red, distorted face are mocked by some as being the "poster boy look" for steroid and GH use. We cant and wont say we're certain of the same, but still, he just doesnt look like a healthy guy. Certainly in his off-season incarnation he appears to be far older than what his drivers license would indicate. And if his skull gets any bigger or more deformed, it's going to pop out of his skin!
Again, we wish no ill will upon Mr. Baxter and have no idea what he does or doesnt do with regards to drugs, but it wouldn't be a total shock if some serious health problem did befall him.
Al is another guy caught up in playing the "size at all costs" game. His physique isnt pretty, but damn, is it big. Smackwood tips the scales on contest day at nearly 280 pounds at 5' 11", resembling a prize Heifer more than a man. His waistline was never petite, but recently it has expanded even further, lending some credence to the theory that he may just be taking things a bit too far, pharmaceutically speaking.
All of these men have people who love and care about them, and Al is no exception. Our fingers are crossed that he doesnt pop up in the gossip section of any of the magazines, with two years separated by a hyphen following his name.
Our final entry in the dubious 2005 Dead Pool is just 23 years old—and he loves reminding members of the bodybuilding message boards of this fact. Vito is just about the most vain, self-absorbed character in a sport made up of just such personalities, starting thread after thread about himself and posting up hundreds of photos. This invariably leads to board members trashing him for his hairpiece and what appear to be arms and calves full of the dreaded site-enhancement oil generically known as Synthol.
Vito seems to thrive on the hatred, perhaps because it's at least some form of attention and publicity. If indeed he's already losing his hair and shooting up his muscles with Synthol at only 23 years old, this doesn't bode well for his future. Seeing as he hasnt even competed at a pro-qualifier yet, one can only imagine the lengths he'll be willing to go to in order to succeed at that level.
Sadly, his ego has made him one of the most hated bodybuilders on the Internet, and there would be many who'd take a sick satisfaction in seeing him get sick, or worse.
The Live Pool Champions
Now its time to recognize a few athletes who are far from belonging in the Dead Pool. We call this group "The Live Pool."
Kevin Levrone and Dorian Yates
At the last Olympia and Arnold Classic, Internet trolls posted up photos of the downsized former champions Kevin Levrone and Dorian Yates, laughing at how "tiny" the once-monstrous men had become. Some of them gloated how the two must have been "all steroids," and now that they had ceased to take them, looked no more impressive than the average natural bodybuilder.
This is a load of crap. Both Kevin and Dorian trained like animals while they competed, and both amassed long lists of top titles, with Dorian having been Mr. Olympia for six consecutive years. Are these guys smaller now that they have clearly decided not to bother with performance-enhancing drugs (or at least use less)? Yes, and they also look younger and healthier.
Dorian owns a successful supplement company, and Kevin has a supplement contract and is trying to break into Hollywood as an actor, where a more athletic build is definitely preferred over his massive former look. By putting the needles and pills behind them, both men are surely adding years to their lives and should be commended. And ironically, I bet both are still far bigger and stronger than any of the idiots insulting them anonymously on the Net could ever hope to be.
Yates in his "prime"
Runner-up: Gunter Schlierkamp
Gunter Schlierkamp was also seen at the recent Arnold Classic expo, noticeably lighter and taking up less sheer space than usual. The Internet trolls were beside themselves with glee as they posted up the most unflattering photos they could find.
But Gunters last show was the Olympia in October of 2004, and his next isnt until the 2005 edition this fall. Rather than stay on a heavy steroid cycle straight through like some of his less health-conscious peers seem to have done, he did the smart thing and cleaned out for a while, giving his body a break not only from the drugs, but from the burden of carrying around 340 pounds on his six-foot frame. In our book, that makes him one wise man!
Honorable Mention: Mark Dugdale
The usual pattern for bodybuilders when they turn pro these days is to do whatever it takes to show up at their pro-debut with an additional ten to thirty pounds of muscle so that they have a better chance against "the big boys." Mark Dugdale won the 2004 USA Championships at a weight of about 195 pounds, with a shapely physique that wasnt the biggest in the show at all, but the best.
Eight months later he made his pro-debut at the Ironman weighing the same 195 pounds, again looking fantastic. Mark owns a multi-million dollar grocery wholesale business and is married with three young daughters. There's obviously a lot more to his life aside from bodybuilding, and he seems intent on competing as a pro on his terms.
From what we can ascertain, his health and longevity are much higher priorities than trying to beat Ronnie Coleman. Good for you, Dugdale!
Who Will Live Until 2006?
Until next time, if there is a next time, remember that steroids dont kill people—people who callously abuse steroids and neglect their health kill people. Steroids can be used safely and in moderation by responsible adults who take care to monitor their health through regular check-ups and blood work. But when youre talking about the Dead Pool and professional bodybuilding, its a whole other world, where getting big and freaky at any cost overrides health concerns.
We dont like having to put out this Dead Pool thing, but if it makes people think twice before dong something stupid, then it has done its job.
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