Back in June 2003, a new poster known as Prisoner#22 joined Testosterone Muscle's Steroid Forum. He quickly made a name for himself as someone who knows a heck of a lot about anabolic drugs.
Online steroid authorities are hardly an endangered species, as we all know; virtually every bodybuilding message board has at least one self-proclaimed drug guru. But what made Prisoner#22 different from the other "experts" was that he clearly had some medical training to back up his posts. He even claimed to work in the health-care system.
Fast forward five years and 2,500 posts, and Prisoner#22 (now just Prisoner) has become one of the most popular, if controversial, fixtures on the Steroid forum. But what's the real Prisoner all about? How did he come to know so much about steroids? How does he balance a career in health care with a hobby that so many of his peers would consider unhealthy? And given the conservative nature of the health-care community, how can he do what he does and keep his job?
I sat down with Prisoner at a restaurant just a short drive from the hospital where he works as a nurse in the emergency room. I'll try to be vague about details that could endanger his anonymity, although I think it's safe to say that he's in his early 30s and describes himself as happily married. He's been training for 18 years and has competed in several bodybuilding shows over the years.
Testosterone Muscle: How long have you been into steroids?
Prisoner: I actually trained natural for the first 13 years. In fact, as a youth I was very much against steroids. I thought they were just an easy way out and that you didn't need them to make gains.
TM: What changed your mind?
P: Around the time I turned 26, I just stopped making progress. It was super frustrating, especially when I watched young juiceheads in the gym who didn't know shit about training or nutrition blow past me in a matter of months. Plus, a really good friend of mine had been gearing for years and was always bugging me to try a cycle.
TM: So, tell us about that first cycle.
P: Deca-Durabolin, Dianabol, and Trenbelone. Yeah, a total libido killer! (Laughs)
TM: Ouch. Guess that wasn't well thought out. Was that stack your idea?
P: It's funny — a doctor who's now a senior orthopedic resident at an Ivy League university got me started. He had a few vials of Deca lying around and offered them to me. Another friend had an extra bottle of Tren and gave me that. I just kind of used what I could get hold of.
TM: What were the results like?
P: Fantastic. I went from around 185 to about 210 with just that one cycle.
TM: Did you tell your wife what you were up to? Surely she must've noticed.
P: We were just hooking up that the time, and she was really anti-steroid. So I told her it was creatine! That line actually worked for a while, but the Deca ended up killing my sex drive and she started to wonder what the heck was going on. So eventually, I had to come clean.
Anyway, the libido came back and everything worked out between us, but I always tell people that if steroids are something you're interested in doing, you best make sure your spouse is 100 percent on board. I'm lucky that I have my wife's full support in all of my bodybuilding endeavors. She helps me out when I'm dieting, cooks my food, even sprays on my tan before shows. But for her sake, I will never do Deca without Testosterone again!
TM: How did you come to learn so much about steroids?
P: What really helped me out is my education. Studying pharmacology and physiology gives you an excellent knowledge base in terms of how the body works. I learned about the different responses to medications, drug half-lives, receptor science, and receptor downgrade. From there, I learned a lot on the Internet, and from reading any studies that I could find. Then, of course, there's also my personal experience with steroids, which is considerable.
TM: Is there a lot of published research on anabolic steroids and humans?
P: No. Most of what's out there are older studies, and a lot of them just aren't applicable. It boils down to ethics. It would be a challenge justifying a long-term human study with supra-physiological doses of androgens. So the research just isn't there.
TM: Have you learned much from the doctors that you work with?
P: No. Most docs don't know anything about bodybuilding. My biggest teacher was myself.
TM: So many docs that I run into are hopelessly out of shape.
P: Tell me about it. At work I once had to endure a lecture by a female doc about my oh-so-unhealthy bodybuilding lifestyle. The irony was, she was about 80 pounds overweight and was signed on to spend a month at one of those fat farms.
TM: Do any of the doctors you work with know about your steroid use?
P: I'm sure they must know I do something. But it's never been an issue. They know that I take my job seriously and that I'm highly capable. Once they saw that, I just became part of the health-care team.
TM: You made a very interesting post that's now a sticky in the Steroid forum about what to do in case of infection at the injection site. Was that from personal experience, or something you came across on the job?
P: Both. I had a serious infection that developed into an abscess on my leg just three and a half weeks before a show. I had been injecting into my quads, and one day it was sore as hell. I let it go for a day or two and the pain only got worse, and I began to realize that I could be in some real trouble and miss my show.
At the hospital, I grabbed a 16-gauge syringe and a handful of gauze and headed to the washroom. I jammed the pin in and aspirated a whole syringe full of yellow pus. It was disgusting. After that, I hit up a doc that I was cool with for a script for Keflex.
Within a week, I was fine. But had I not known the importance of getting the infection out, and following it up with a full course of antibiotics, I would've missed my show, or worse.
TM: Have you seen steroid-related injuries in the ER?
P: Sure, from time to time. The odd infection, the occasional botched injection. I saw one guy who overdosed on clenbuterol, and I've seen my share of caffeine overdoses. But that's about it.
TM: Not exactly an epidemic. So how else has your nursing background helped you in regard to steroids?
P: As an RN, you're part of a health-care team. We're experts on the body and health, and we have common sense. Unfortunately, it's the "common sense" part of the equation that so many of the so-called steroid gurus out there just don't possess.
TM: You must cringe at some of the things you read online.
P: Oh yeah, which is why I speak my mind as bluntly as I do. Take the people who advocate taking insulin with no carbs, just whey protein. People who give advice like that are going to kill someone. But it won't be them who'll die. It'll be some newbie who injects too much who pays the price.
I mean, if you're going to take gear, take gear. The risks from steroids are minimal and the benefits in terms of physique enhancement are tremendous. But with insulin, GH, site injections — the benefits aren't overly great and the personal-injury risks are tremendous.
TM: Is it safe to say you're anti-insulin?
P: I'm anti-anything that can fuck up your health. Period.
P: If you fuck up with insulin once, it can kill you. You can do it right 100 times and have no problems, but draw too much the next time, and you're done. And again, from a physique-development perspective, I just don't see the benefits as being worth the risks.
If you're healthy and have a functioning pancreas, why not let your body produce insulin on its own? Exogenous insulin was developed to keep diabetics living, period.
TM: Based on your posts, your position on growth-hormone use seems to have softened. True?
P: Yes, but I don't take super-high doses. I take a little GH only immediately after I work out, with a high-glycemic carbohydrate drink like Biotest Surge. The carbs in Surge elicit a natural but very intense insulin spike, which when combined with the GH creates the reactive form of GH, IGF-1. So that's what I do.
TM: You said a little GH. What kind of doses are we talking about here?
P: Around five to 10 IUs every other day. Not much.
TM: That sounds like a lot. Isn't the life-extension dosage of GH something like two to four IUs a day?
P: That's for 60-year-olds wanting to feel like they're 30 again. This is bodybuilding. But five to 10 IUs every other day or so is nothing compared to what some pro bodybuilders use, which is up to 30 IUs a day. And again, I don't stay on all the time. Studies show growth-hormone use can cause cardiomegaly, especially when combined with androgens. It's something you have to be aware of.
TM: You mentioned pro bodybuilders. Are their dosages as extreme as we're led to believe?
P: Honestly, I think a lot of wannabes out there do more gear than some of the pros. People who don't get it always want to attribute a pro's physique to steroid use, when it really boils down to genetics. The guys on the Olympia stage have the best genetics for bodybuilding in the world. No amount of drugs is going to make up for suboptimal genetics. Sure, a pro bodybuilder still does a lot of gear, but not that much more than someone at my level.
TM: Testosterone Muscle ran an interview with Robby Robinson recently, and the steroid use he described seemed pretty low for a guy who was built like he was. Which seems like a pattern: Whenever the old-school guys talk drugs, it always sounds like their dosages are minuscule compared to today's pros. What do you think?
P: Bullshit. Total freaking bullshit. Those guys are just trying to protect their image. Sure, there was a lot less variety of stuff available back then, but guys did a lot of the basic shit that they could get. I remember reading that Serge Nubret used to take Dianabol by the handful. They all did.
TM: So all this talk about the Golden Age of bodybuilding — everyone's just romanticizing that period into something that it really wasn't?
P: Absolutely. There was plenty of drug use back then. But I will also say there was definitely a greater emphasis on keeping the waist tight, which I'm a fan of — another reason I'm so against insulin.
TM: Another item you posted that got considerable attention was your tapering protocol. How did that come about?
P: That all started with a conversation I had with Cy Willson. In one of his articles, he wrote about using Androgel as part of post-cycle therapy, which made me realize that most guys simply approach their PCT incorrectly.
A lot of guys will finish their cycles and then start a three-week PCT right away, without realizing that the steroids they were taking have a relatively long half-life. You need a brief waiting period, or you'll just end up wasting your PCT and still won't be recovered. So I figured, why not take a small amount of Testosterone while you're waiting, so your body can get used to an HRT amount of it?
TM: Some people were very critical of that idea, right?
P: People were saying that any amount of exogenous Testosterone would keep your body's natural production shut down. But Cy Willson produced some studies that showed that the body still produces a small amount of Testosterone, even when you're taking a small, HRT-like dosage.
Bottom line, for many people, is that the conventional HCG-plus-Nolvadex method of PCT is ineffective. For those people, my tapering method is far more effective.
TM: Speaking of tapering off, do you ever go off steroids?
P: (Laughs) Well, I try to! I actually went off for a bit last summer. It was okay, and I maintained most of my strength and size. But then I got a two-day flu and lost six pounds. In two days! I then attended a pro-qualifier bodybuilding competition and felt pretty small, seeing all these big guys walking around. I went back on shortly after. I probably should've skipped that show! (Laughs)
TM: Aren't you concerned about the potential health risks of being on all the time? Prostate cancer, for instance?
P: Steroids aren't carcinogenic. If you have the genes to get prostate cancer, you will get prostate cancer. In fact, it is widely believed that every man will develop prostate cancer if he lives long enough. Interestingly, a lot of research is now implicating high estrogen as the cause of prostate cancer, not elevated Testosterone.
TM: Do you use underground lab steroids (UGL), or do you use pharmaceutical gear?
P: I use both. With UGL, you just have to know and trust your sources. I've read reports that some UGLs aren't sterile or are under-dosed. You have to do your homework.
TM: Is counterfeiting still a huge problem?
P: Oh yeah. Anything from overseas, anything with a paper label, I'd be careful. I've had fake Primobolan Depot, fake Winstrol. Some are tough to spot, but some are easier, like some Winstrol Zambons I had that looked like they had dish soap in them.
TM: Are you ever concerned about getting busted, or losing your job at the hospital?
P: I admit that I'm a lot more cognizant of that nowadays, especially since I won my last contest. My career as a health-care professional is very important to me, which is why I take the "harm reduction" approach that I do.
And despite how I may come across online, I'm a very low-key guy. I tend to keep a low profile. I don't hang around other bodybuilders, I don't really go out, and I definitely steer clear of the bar scene. I'm a big believer in only spending time with people who have their act together.
TM: Say I'm 21 years old and I'm itching to do my first cycle. What would you suggest?
P: Don't do anything. Twenty-one is far too young. Learn how to eat and train. Hire a good personal trainer.
TM: Okay, but now let's pick a guy who's more like you when you started — he's in his late 20s, he's been training for more than a decade, maybe he's competed naturally, and he's gone as far as he can with his genetics. What's his first cycle?
P: I don't agree with the "just do a little 'cause it's your first cycle" approach. Let's face it: The first time you do gear has the most growth potential. Don't waste it.
I say Testosterone, Trenbelone, and an oral, followed by my taper. Keep it short — say, six weeks. That's long enough to produce huge gains but not so long as to screw up endocrine levels.
TM: What if I'm 40, and I'm not looking to compete in bodybuilding or anything? I just want to feel better and maybe pump up a bit for the wife.
P: I would just take a little Testosterone, all the while getting your levels checked and adjusting the dosage as needed. That's really all you need. It's still incumbent upon the user to do his own research and make sound decisions based on the risk-benefit ratio of the treatment plan. But life's short, and Testosterone is cheap and relatively healthy. I say go for it.
TM: Wrapping this up, what are your plans for the future?
P: Professionally, I want to continue to get more ICU experience, and I'm thinking about specializing down the road. As for bodybuilding, I do want to compete in the National pro qualifier, but at 5-11 I would need to compete as a superheavyweight. I want to be firmly there, in terms of body weight, not just above the 225-pound cutoff. So we'll have to see about that one. Readers can check my blog for any updates.
TM: Thanks for doing this for us, Prisoner.
P: My pleasure.