It wouldn't be too much of an overstatement to say that talking to Dan was an epiphany of sorts. This is the man! The Michael Jordan, the Babe Ruth, the veritable Da Vinci of modern day bodybuilding. Although we spoke at length on various topics, the crux of our conversation was about, what else? Steroids! I took full advantage of every moment to pick Dan's brain on the subject that he almost single-handedly brought to the forefront of the bodybuilding community.
As many Testosterone readers may already know, Dan has written countless articles and several books, including the well-received diet bible, "BodyOpus." But none are more infamous than the original "Underground Steroid Handbook." This modest 18-page pamphlet was the very first piece of literature on the practical application of steroid use for bodybuilding purposes. Although there are a few inaccuracies in USH, it presented an innovative, brutally frank, and often brilliant blueprint of steroid descriptions and their applications. He also offered what was, at times, a "crudely humorous" yet startlingly eloquent philosophy concerning the use of performance-enhancing substances. To this day, there is hardly an iota of information written on the subject of steroids that hasn't in some way stemmed from Dan's original observations.
At one point during our conversation, I stopped being an interviewer and became a fan. You can't really blame me, though, as it was a chance to get a first-hand account of history from the guy who literally "wrote the book." I asked Dan, "Are you aware of the impact you've had on the public's understanding of steroids?" Dan's response was succinct, yet sounded as if it was one he had answered many times. He said, "I simply took the subject of drugs out of the doctor's office and placed it on the kitchen table."
When Muscle Media abandoned its hardcore stance and attempted to succeed as a "fitness" magazine, Dan's irreverent opinions were silenced. But that's all over now! Dan is free to speak his mind.
It should be of no surprise to anyone that he has a lot to say.
NM: Dan, I understand that you've been working on some new material. Any hints on what's up?
DD: To tell you the truth, I'm not sure what the hell I'm doing next. I've had offers, but nothing is certain at the moment. I would just like to replace the income I was making at Muscle Media.
NM: So your tenure with Bill Phillips is over?
DD: As of April, yes.
NM: Any chance of Testosterone stealing you over?
DD: I'm not sure you guys can pay me enough! Not to work exclusively, at least. But I can do some articles as long as I'm not tied up.
You guys need to sell more products! I know Tim and TC are against being too aggressive with the sales, but that's what you need to do to make a lot of money. Lots of products and lots of advertising. That's what Pump is doing. They'll sell anything they can!
NM: Well, we are trying to be a bit more selective in what we promote and to whom we promote it.
DD: I don't doubt it, but marketing towards an educated readership can be financially limiting.
NM: Now that the Muscle Media reign is over, any thoughts about what's going on over there?
DD: Muscle Media 2000 started out as a great catalog, but now it isn't even a magazine. It's more of a newsletter to service their transformation contest. Their readership is down from almost a quarter of a million to about sixty thousand readers. Most of them are contestants in the contest and that's how they get people to subscribe.
NM: What do you think is starting to hurt them? Is it the promotion of too many products?
DD: That's interesting, because I've been there from the beginning and my thoughts are that it doesn't matter if they win that miniature battle between Ironman and Muscle Mag. The emphasis should be to beat the big guys. That means outselling Muscle and Fitness.
NM: Wasn't that the impetus behind the "change?"
DD: I think so, but I will be the first person to say that it is almost impossible to find another 100,000 somewhat sophisticated hardcore readers like Muscle Media originally had. In an effort to broaden the appeal, they went for a bigger piece of the big pie.
Unfortunately, you can't gauge success on the quality of your readership. It comes down to who has the biggest numbers. I don't want to pretend to know exactly what's going on in their heads, but I feel Bill Phillips and Kal Yee ruined a great magazine by trying to make the new version "classy" looking—but it was at the expense of all the excitement that was part of the original Muscle Media. I guess it doesn't matter too much because EAS supplements are doing very well.
NM: Speaking of supplements, what's your opinion of the attempt on the part of the supplement industry to ease their way into selling what are essentially drugs? A case in point would be injectable prohormones.
DD: I spoke to Derek Cornelius on that very subject, and I told him that I thought it was a bad move. Derek is selling a Syntrax Innovation product that is made to be an injectable. He's marketing it as a cosmetic—a topical solution. If it just contained an eye dropper and he still kept it sterile, it could be considered a "food product" and wouldn't attract as much scrutiny as it's going to now in its present state. As a matter of fact, he may actually turn it over.
NM: Will the sublingual prohormones slated to hit the market be more effective?
DD: More than the oral ones, yeah. I don't think prohormones work very well when taken orally. Women do well on them, but that's about it. The higher progesterone helps in the conversion. Of course, a sublingual prohormone wouldn't be nearly as effective as an injectable version. Taking it in a nasal spray may be every bit as effective as injecting it. Using cyclodextrin for a nasal spray traps the steroid molecule in a water matrix, making it soluble. Then it's easy to be taken up in the mucous membranes. You do have to know which cyclodextrin to use, and the stuff is pretty expensive...over $400 a kilo.
As far as injecting prohormones, people who have the balls to do it will do it no matter what. As long as it's a sterile solution, it's feasible. I'm sure it would be a lot cleaner than that "Pump-n-Pose" stuff [Synthol]. The only thing they have keeping that stuff sterile is a small amount of benzol alcohol.
NM: How effective do you think an injectable Andro would be?
DD: Quite! Very! I think nor-androstenediol would probably be damn close milligram for milligram to Deca durabolin.
NM: Really?! That's a bit of a surprise.
DD: Sure, that particular compound [nor-andro] was looked into several years ago by Organon and found to have many intrinsic anabolic properties even before it gets converted to nandrolone.
I must say, I think it's time for some new steroid information. A new book. There are a few errors in mine, and there are errors in Phillips' book and the World Anabolic Reference, as well. For example, because Primobolan is derived from DHT, people have made the mistake that it converts to DHT with all the side effects associated with it. That's like saying that Deca should turn into estrogen because it's made from sterified estrogen. In reality, Primobolan shouldn't cause hair loss.
As far as what works, what sucks, and how long something works—that hasn't changed very much, but it would be nice to specifically address some key issues that we got wrong when we were first involved in it. I cringe when I see some of the things I said in my old books.
NM: You didn't really have a lot to work with, did you? ...Other than the limited data and your personal experiences.
DD: The odd thing is that whatever research was available, we didn't trust it! I know now that Winstrol tablets, at low dosages, perform better than Anavar at a similar dosage. All of the AIDS studies being done now just confirm what bodybuilders have known all along.
NM: I understand that you're taking a more therapeutic approach to steroid use these days.
DD: I've been somewhat limited in that respect. I can't use Anadrol anymore because it swells my stomach up. I can't use Deca because I'm using Propecia (for hair loss), which is a DHT blocker and, when combined with Deca, the Deca converts to dihydronandrolone...so you wind up losing a lot more hair.
NM: Since Saw Palmetto blocks the enzyme that converts test to DHT, would combining it with Deca have the same effect?
DD: No, it shouldn't happen with Saw Palmetto because it is the enzyme [5-alpha reductase] that is being blocked.
NM: Getting back to your current steroid preferences...
DD: It's interesting...the more muscle you have, the less [steroids] you're going to get by on small amounts. I think that is the reason for higher required dosages, not so much a "shut down" of receptor sites. But you don't need that much D-bol—10 to 20 milligrams will work. My natural testosterone level is below 300 nanograms, so I use a little cypionate just as replacement therapy.
NM: And you cycle the D-bol?
DD: I haven't done a real cycle in some time. You know, I started weightlifting weighing 155 pounds, and today I'm 210. I think that proves that steroids are still your best bet for obtaining and keeping muscle. Once you build muscle, whether it's with steroids or not, you've built it. It's muscle. I wouldn't be surprised when Craig Titus gets out of prison if he still has plenty of muscle on him. Even if he hasn't been training all that much, once he starts training seriously, it'll come back. After you build a foundation, even if you only used steroids for a total of a couple of months, it may be the best investment in building muscle that you will ever make. That doesn't mean you have to be married to steroids for the rest of your life. Build a foundation and go from there. That's a very sane way of doing things.
NM: I'm with you there, Dan. Tell me, do you think there is any advantage to taking oral steroids sublingually so they bypass the liver somewhat?
DD: You want them to go through the liver! The reason orals are so effective is they cause all kinds of growth factors in the liver, like IGF1, that an injectable would not do. [This may be the reason there is so much anecdotal evidence that oral steroids have the ability to "burn fat."] If you look at blood tests, moderate amounts of orals don't screw up liver enzymes all that much.
NM: You were already out of the steroid-dealing business and into the supplement business when you got nabbed the second time for, what...a small amount of GHB, wasn't it?
DD: After my first indictment in '87, I was working at Champion Nutrition. It was considered a federal conspiracy if I was involved at any time with any amount of drugs. Because of my high profile in the sports community and my notoriety for being the upstart of all of this, it was easy for them to find me guilty by association. The funny thing is, the sale of steroids never went "great guns" until long after I was no longer involved in it. I wasn't that big of a player. They got a hold of some dealings that my girlfriend was doing, but of course they wanted me, so I just said, "Yeah, the stuff's mine." They got me on one bottle of Dianabol and a bottle of Cytomel the first time and for GHB and clenbuterol the second time.
It was kind of funny because we fooled around with some homemade clenbuterol, dissolved it in alcohol, added some red dye, and kept it in the refrigerator with pictures of skulls and crossbones on it. The jug had a label with big lettering on it that said "Do not drink!" When the FDA came in to search the apartment, the search warrant read "For possession of clenbuterol." So they went into the bedroom, opened up one of the drawers, and out fall all of these boxes of Mexican spiropent. One narc says to the other, "Forget about that stuff! We're looking for clenbuterol!"
NM: That's hilarious!!!
DD: Yeah, but when they got to the refrigerator and saw the bottles that said "Do not drink!" on them, then they got excited, and that's what I got busted for.
NM: Does Dan Duchaine have anything up his sleeve as far as new innovations?
DD: Actually, I have two over-the-counter thyroid medications coming out within the next few months. I think that's pretty exciting. Pills tend not to be great sellers, but a thyroid product might do well because it would appeal to so many people, not only bodybuilders. Now you don't have to go to the doctor's office to get them.
One of them is the French Triacana which, technically, is a thyroid prohormone—a metabolite of T3. I figured out about a year ago how this could be legal. I had conferences with FDA attorneys who, of course, didn't know what they were talking about, but we got around it and it will be out soon.
I'm working on another thyroid supplement that might be even better than the Triacana, but it's brand new, so there isn't much research on it yet. Because people know more about Triacana, we'll release that first and continue to develop the other.
NM: Dan, I think we have a lot of great stuff for now, but I would just like to say before we go that I've been following your work for some time now, so this has been a real kick for me.
DD: Well, thanks for saying so. Good luck with the launching of Testosterone.
Like all great innovators, Dan paid a price for thinking differently. But it's never the people who "aim to please" that make a difference. It's always the men who stick their necks out and take risks that make the discoveries for future generations to remember. There's an old saying, "No one ever erected a monument to a committee." In other words, it's the individual who's important, the lone voice of reason and madness who breaks the rules and reassembles them in a way that makes it impossible for people to ever view things in quite the same way. Dan Duchaine is such an individual. It's irrelevant whether you think his contributions have been mostly positive or negative. He has forever changed bodybuilding.
I wouldn't be surprised if he does it again.