The Two Faces of Juarez - Part 2

Steroids, Culture, and Subculture

This is part two of an article about Chris Shugart and Cy Willson's trip into Mexico to check out the steroid scene and bordertown culture. If you missed part one, you can read it here.


The figure stood in the desert, her hands at her sides, her burgundy factory smock moving against her in a wind that was too hot to call a breeze. I knew her name was Maria, though I'd never met her and never seen her before.

In a mescal haze, I saw her lips moving, but I couldn't make out what she was saying. I moved closer. Her clothing was stained and torn, her neck dark with bruises. Her lips moved faster, but still, there was no sound.

Her name is Maria Sagrario Flores. She is 17.

How did I know these things about her? What was I doing out here? She reaches out for me, pleading, telling me... something. What was it?

She had traveled here from Durango with her family, searching for a job on the Juarez assembly lines. She found one. She makes three dollars a day.

Frantic now, she grabs my shirt, falls to her knees. She glances behind her and back at me. There is no sound, but I can read her lips, por favor, she says, please. Her body jerks and her mouth opens in a silent scream. The panic disapears. She's calm now and stands up, looking up in my eyes. She moves closer as if to whisper in my ear. For the first time, I can hear her voice, but I can't quite make out the words. She's trying to tell me something very important. She's trying to tell me...

She's trying to tell you who killed her.

...and I'm looking at the ceiling of my hotel room, awake but not rested. The sun was creeping through the curtains and Juarez was waking up on the streets below. After being awake for over 21 hours, I'd slept for only five, each of them filled with tortured dreams. The whole time we'd explored the city the first day, I hadn't thought about the young women. You see, Juarez isn't just known for its pharmacies and steroids; it's better known for its murders.

Since NAFTA, Juarez has exploded with maquiladoras or free-trade factories. Since 1993, the women that work in these factories have been disappearing. Their bodies are usually found in the desert, raped, strangled, stabbed, and often mutilated. So far, almost 200 have been found murdered. Hundreds more aren't found at all.

Police have made several arrests, mostly members of the Mexican gang called the Los Rebeldes or The Rebels, and linked many of the murders back to a wealthy engineer at one of the factories. A few bus drivers who transport these young women to their factory jobs have also confessed to a few killings, some reportedly paid to do so by the engineer after his arrest. Other murders are thought to be the handiwork of Angel Maturino Resendez , the "Texas Railroad Killer," who's now in custody. But the girls are still disappearing and the bodies litter the desert like discarded bags of garbage.

It was day two and we had more work to do, more pharmacies to visit, and more contacts to make. But today, walking through the broken streets of the city, I'd look into the faces I passed on the street. I'd remember the young women.

I'd remember, most of all, that Juarez is haunted.

Mike and the Mule

Cy spotted the small pharmacy from across the street and we went in to check it out. Something told us we were in the right place. It looked like a tiny tornado had blown through it. Steroids and other drugs were scattered all over the counter along with copies of various steroid books like the WAR (World Anabolic Review) and Anabolics 2000. The pharmacist's name was Mike; his English was perfect and included many creative variations of the word "fuck."

Mike liked to talk shop and he knew plenty about stacks and cycles. He wasn't just some clueless pharmacist who carried gear because he knew it sold well; he was a bodybuilder's pharmacist and quick to share info. Like many of the human pharmacies, Mike carried a wide variety of veterinary steroids. There was no bullshit doubletalk about your "pets," either.

While talking with Mike, the feisty pharmacist simultaneously continued to do business with other customers. His pharmacia was obviously a hot spot for Americans, probably because of his language skills. Once, two young American guys, maybe 19 or 20 years old and obviously juiced up, came in and dropped over $500 on winny tabs. I tried to talk to them but they ended up freaking out and beating a path to the door. (I guess they thought I was a cop, even after I gave them a T-mag business card.)

Then another American walked in. This guy looked like a corporate executive, maybe in his mid-30s, wearing glasses, and sporting the latest in pastel-colored Polo casual wear. He certainly didn't look like he lifted weights, so I was curious to see what he wanted. Mr. Causal Friday walked up to the counter and asked for Nubain (nalbuphine hydrochloride), the addictive pain killer that's often used "recreationally" multiple times a day by bodybuilders of the hardcore-stupid variety. Mike was out of Nubain, which he called a "best seller." He said that Mr. Casual Friday was a regular customer. Whether he was a user or a dealer, I couldn't say.

Another strange thing was happening as we shot the shit with Mike. Locals would walk in and Mike would open a bottle of pills and pass them one or two. Often, these customers would pay Mike, buy a Coke and take a pill right there on the spot. Others would dry swallow a tablet, thank Mike, and leave the store. Finally I asked what was going on. "Viagra," Mike replied, another best seller. Mike would sell Viagra for $12 a pill, and business was good. (Each 50 mg dose of Viagra sold on-line in the U.S. can run you anywhere from $4.50 to $12 a tablet, not counting a consultation fee.)

Mike seemed to be the most up-to-date pharmacist in town. He carried Loeffler 250 mg Testosterone decaonate, 250 mg cypionate, and 250 mg enanthate, all fairly new products. He also kept talking about a new company called Norvet that was making a D-bol clone and Deca. Since we hadn't heard of that company, ol' Mike was either ahead of the game or he meant to say Mexivet (a hot new vet company coming out of Mexico.)

Mike also had a lucrative mail order operation going. Here's how it worked: You send Mike a list of everything you want and how you want it mailed to you. You add 25% on top of your total, plus shipping, and Mike gets a "mule" to carry the gear across the border and mail it from within the United States (El Paso). The extra 25% is what the mule gets for his services. Remember, factory workers in Juarez make as little as three dollars a day so these mules (or at least Mike's) usually clean up.

To demonstrate his success, Mike went and got the day's mail and began opening envelopes. Sure enough, they were full of lists of steroids, mailing instructions, and money orders. The orders he showed us were all for over two thousand dollars apiece, and one was in the $5000 range. These seemed like huge orders to me so I asked Mike about them. Basically, he said, when he sees big orders he knows he's dealing with a US 'roid dealer who's reselling the products in the States.

Our inside sources tell us that for every $1000 a person spends on Mexican gear, he can expect to turn it into around $3000 back in the US. Of course, any steroid user who does his research and his "leg work" can get better deals than these dealers provide, but if the dealer has taken considerable risks and there are a couple of middlemen involved, you can expect the price to shoot up.

Chatting with Mike, we realized we were probably talking to one of the wealthiest guys in Juarez. In fact, Mike is a bit of a celebrity. He claims to be the favorite source of many professional bodybuilders and athletes. He was even featured on the TV show 20/20 and other US news programs a few years ago. It seemed that Mike was a leading source for "ruffies" (Rohypnol), a sedative known by some as a date rape drug. Because of his past experiences with the media (he had to change the name of his store after the 20/20 report), Mike wouldn't allow me to take any photographs inside or outside of his store.

Besides Viagra and Nubain, Mike also did a great business selling oxycodone by the pill. Oxycodone is an analgesic-narcotic derived from the opium alkaloid, thebaine, and is America's best-selling narcotic painkiller. This habit forming drug is used in products like Percocet, Percodan, and OxyContin. Supposedly, half of Hollywood is hooked on this stuff, which is often taken for recreational purposes.

Others begin taking it for legitimate reasons and quickly get addicted. Hardcore addicts often snort or inject the drug, which produces a quick high similar to heroin. (Purdue Pharma LP, the maker of OcyContin, is currently being sued because people claim the drug is too addictive.) Depending on the potency of the particular product, Mike would sell this drug for 20 to 40 dollars per tablet. He sold a couple while we talked to him.

While we were there, Cy asked to see a bunch of products and soon Mike had the counter overflowing with human and vet gear. After closely inspecting everything, Cy picked up several boxes and tossed them to the pharmacist, "You know this shit is fake, right?" Mike looked stunned while Cy explained why each of the products (Winstrol by Winthrop, Parabolan by Negma, and Masteron) were fake. Finally, Mike admitted that he had his suspicions about those products. As it turned out, he'd gotten all of the suspicious gear from the same source out of Mexico City! I don't think he'll be using that guy anymore!

The incident proved one thing: you can go to Mexico, visit a legit pharmacy and still come back with fake gear. You better know your stuff about the products you want before you go. (Or do like I did and take a budding steroid guru with you.) Many of the "vet" manufacturers provide info about how to spot fakes on their websites. Also check out the archives of T-mag, as we've written about fakes and counterfeits extensively, especially in the "Strasseroids" column.

Although Mike was definitely a hot source, he was generally overcharging for most of his gear. I think he got away with this because he spoke excellent English. Americans would rather deal with someone who speaks their language, someone they can call up on the phone and talk to easily. Because Cy and I were from Testosterone magazine, Mike offered us a lot of deals and freebies, but we found other pharmacies whose regular prices beat Mike's "deals."

Still, I was thankful to him for talking to us openly and honestly for several hours, so I picked up some finasterida (Proscar) and clomifeno (Clomid) from him. By the way, it's perfectly legal to bring items like Proscar and Clomid back across the border as these are unscheduled drugs. Steroids and narcotic pain killers are another story, of course.

We were about to leave when Mike says, "Wait, you need to meet my mule!" We waited. Soon, a hugely fat Mexican man walked in and introduced himself. He was a friendly guy and joked about being Mike's mule. With all those rolls of fat, I began to wonder exactly where the mule hid the stuff as he crossed the border. (I pictured ampoules and bottles tucked neatly under his back fat. Ewww!) But what really surprised me was that the mule had his five-year-old son with him. Apparently, catering to American desires and addictions is a family event here in Juarez. The mule picked up a few packages loaded with 'roids and left the store, his son tagging along.

We asked Mike if he'd had many packages popped. He said sure, but not very often. He said he'd mail packages to you any way you requested, but he preferred to use FedEx. Then he told us a theory he had regarding FedEx. He said he noticed that all the packages he'd had popped contained redijects or were full of pill bottles without boxes. He theorized that FedEx randomly x-rayed packages. For some reason, when he shipped things in their original boxes they didn't get confiscated. He thinks maybe some products show up better on the x-ray than others. We have no idea if his theory is correct, but it's something to think about.

Mike wasn't the last pharmacist we talked to who ran a mail order operation. Several who spoke decent English offered us their services. Usually, they would charge a little more for each product, then tack on a shipping charge and a mule fee. Some admitted to having packages popped; others said they never had stuff confiscated.

As for regular prescription drugs, you can usually get a good deal in Mexico. For example, Prozac will run you about $48 a box for 50 pills. Ordering online in the States through legitimate channels, the same amount would set you back about $230. On the other hand, cholesterol meds like Lipitor (atorvastatin) are often more expensive in Mexico than in the States.

After visiting dozens of pharmacies we came up with a pretty good list of what you can expect to pay for juice and other drugs in Juarez. You can find that list at the end of this article.

Legal Cycles: A How-To Guide

Now, of course, if you bring steroids back into the US, you could be stopped at the border and busted. You are smuggling scheduled drugs, after all. Maybe you'll get your gear confiscated and fined. Maybe you'll get put in jail on top of that. Shit happens. But remember there's nothing illegal about buying gear in Mexico and using it while you're there. In Mexico you usually don't even have to ask for syringes; they're right there beside the deodorant. Five syringes will run you about $2.50.

Some bodybuilders who live close to bordertowns simply walk over once or twice a week and inject, then walk back with the goodies in their bloodstream. Not illegal at all. (No wonder everyone is San Diego is so damned buff; it's the Tijuana connection!) In fact, while using the little boy's room at one pharmacy I noticed something unusual in the trash:

This was a common site in Mexican pharmacies. But most bodybuilders don't have that luxury. If you're not opposed to steroid use (other than for legal reasons) and you want to use while in Mexico on vacation, here's what one of our experts, Bill Roberts, suggests:

Two Week Vacation

If you're staying in Mexico (or any country where steroids are available legally), Bill suggests you do a serious two week cycle with continuos injections right up until the last day. Here's a sample Sustanon cycle:

Day 1: 1000 mg Sustanon plus 300 mg Clomid (50 mg taken 6 times)

After this, Clomid use continues at 50 mg/day.

Days 4, 7, 10: 500 mg Sustanon

Day 14: 1000 mg Sustanon

It'd be a good idea to bring Clomid back into the US so you could use it for another four weeks.

Weekend Vacation

Now in the case of someone staying just a couple of days, they can't accomplish very much. If you're only a weekend visitor, Bill suggests you inject 2000 mg of Sustanon and that would be about all that could be done.

If staying three days, inject 1500 mg on day one and then another 1000 mg on day three. This would be done concurrently with Clomid and preferably finasteride (1 mg/day) since this is a Testosterone-based cycle. However, a person can't gain much with this type of cycle. Gaining five pounds would be considered an accomplishment in this situation.

Gyms and Markets

There is no shortage of places to train in Juarez. We found three gyms – World's, Bad Boy's, and Sportshouse Gym (complete with knockoff Powerhouse gym logo). Bad Boys was a hardcore gym with no air conditioning. That's where we met Cathy Martin, a Juarez resident who's won several competitions both in the US and Mexico.

Oddly, Cathy was the best built person we saw. With all that legal gear floating about, you'd expect to see more freaky Mexicans walking around. Not so, or at least we didn't spot any during our three days in Juarez, not even in the gyms. The World Gym was the nicest gym we visited and had one of the coolest interiors. Check out this banner hanging in the main weightroom:

Daily passes at these gyms ran three to five bucks.

Another thing you'll want to do in Juarez is visit the market area. This is what you'd expect to find in a bordertown: stalls selling everything you could ever think of, from shoes to hog's heads. This is where you'll also find all the usual tourist crap like piñatas and wooden toys. We found a few pharmacies in the market area but honestly, the deeper we went into the market the more claustrophobic it became.

The streets became smaller and soon we were in small alleys filled with seedy bars and shops. The sewers stank and the feeling of being prey grew very strong. We saw people being arrested, hookers (really ugly ones, even Cy wouldn't talk to them!), and even a grocer came out of his store and offered to sell us marijuana. Bums were everywhere and if you made eye contact or spoke back to them, they'd follow you around.

Nothing happened to us in this area, but all of us admitted to feeling creeped out. And maybe I'm being overcautious, but after walking the maze of the market area, I was glad I hadn't brought my wife and daughter. The vibe just wasn't good. If you go deep into one of these areas, leave the expensive jewelry at home, travel in a group, keep your wallet in your front pocket and stay out in the open.

You'll want to visit the markets for the full bordertown experience, but just play it safe and don't become one of those stories you always hear about.

Crossing Back

Sunday morning we ate breakfast and decided to leave early. We weren't worried about crossing the border since were weren't taking anything illegal back with us. The line of cars waiting to cross over was long, but moved pretty quickly. It took us 45 minutes to drive across. Merchants and beggars worked the rows of cars, trying to get a few more bucks out of the tourists.

At the border we were stopped and asked to declare our citizenship. Everyone in the car must do this. We "hid" big Cy Willson in the backseat so he wouldn't attract too much attention and when asked his citizenship, Cy only rolled his window down a crack. Maybe we were being overcautious, but I have a feeling that if the border patrol spotted a brick like Cy, it would increase the chances of the car being searched.

The officer asked us a few questions. Did we have anything to declare? How long were we in Juarez? Why had we come to Mexico? There are several ways to handle this. Yes, we brought back some drugs, but no steroids. Everything we brought back were prescription items in the US that are unscheduled. Well, mostly. A few members of the party did have some clenbuterol, which is unscheduled but "watched."

Now, if you're searched, then most likely they'll just search your car and luggage. Unless you act suspicious or get smart with them, they probably won't search your body. So those that brought the clen back had ditched the bottles, put the pills in baggies and stuffed them down their underwear.

We had the option of declaring the legal items we brought back, but we were also worried that border patrol wouldn't know what these drugs were, and consequently have reason to do a more thorough search. We chose to declare nothing so we could get across quickly. The officer became suspicious.

"You were in Juarez for three days and you bought nothing?" Chuck, our "designated speaker" who had experience crossing borders, told him casually, "Naw, just some trinkets. These boys had never been to Mexico before so we just drove over to have some fun." We'd chosen Chuck to drive across because he was the oldest and most responsible looking. Chuck is also one cool, unflappable sumbitch. I rode shotgun and we stuck the "boys," Cy and Bobby, in the back.

Now, there are stories about pharmacy workers ratting you out to border patrol. This is why you may hear that you shouldn't park near the pharmacy or they'll get your license plate number and rat you out. Honestly, I doubt that happens very much. First, you can't park anywhere near a pharmacy in Juarez. You have to walk everywhere. Second, these pharmacists rely on repeat business from US customers. That's why half the signs in the stores are in English. I doubt they want to lose your business over whatever pittance they may be given by law enforcement. Still, sitting there at the crossing, I thought about these stories. We'd visited a lot of pharmacies.

The officer stood there a moment, contemplating. In those few seconds, I realized how much of a judgement call this really is on their part. He nodded his head, a green light went on in front of us and we were back in the USA. Although we didn't have any illegal drugs on us, it was still a relief to make it through without being stopped and searched.

About twenty miles outside of El Paso we passed through another traffic stop set up by the border patrol. But at this one they're mainly just looking for illegal aliens. We were just waved on through and hardly even slowed down. (Large semis or vehicles capable of storing a lot of illegals are probably stopped, I assume.)

We settled in for a seven-hour drive back to the heart of Texas.


"Don't drink the water!" is what people tell you when you go to Mexico. Well, I'll let you in on a little secret: they're absolutely correct! We were smart enough not to drink the water, but we did have some "Coke Lights" that were served on ice. Some of us had orange juice served at the hotel, and some had beans (cooked with water, of course) at a restaurant. That must have been enough, because three out of the four of us who went were visited by the "diarrhea fairy" as Cy Willson put it. (Cy thinks that's funny because he was the only one who didn't spend the next week in the bathroom.) So, a quick warning: don't drink the water, or use ice, or eat soup or drink fruit juice made from concentrate. You will regret it.

I learned a lot on my first trip into Mexico and we're already planning on going back next year, maybe this time to Tijuana. Or, for a real adventure, we may check out the culture and drug scene in Thailand. There are Testosterone-filled adventures to be had all over the world. All you have to do is find them.

Shopping List

Juarez Steroid Prices

Sostenon 250... $10-14

Testoprim-D... $15-17 (for 3 250mg/ml amps)

Primobolan 50 mg/ml... $14-17 (per ampoule)

Primobolan 100mg/ml (from Europe)... $15-20 (per ampoule)

Andriol 30 caps 40mg/capsule... $30-40

Deca Durabolin (2 rediject preloads 50mg/ml)... $20-30

Primoteston Depot... $6-8

Sten (2 amps 120 mg/ml)... $2-4

Stenox (2.5 mg tabs 20 per box)... $2-4

Clomiphene... $15 (30 tabs)

Tamoxifen... $50 (100 tabs 10 mg each)

Vet Prices

Ttokkyo Stanol-V 100mg/ml 20 ml... $170-230

Ttokkyo Stanol-V (winstrol) 10 mg tabs 100 tabs... $175-250

Ttokkyo boldenone 200 mg/ml 10ml... $65-85

Ttokkyo Nandrolone 300 mg/ml 10ml... $85-105

Ttokkyo oxandrolone 5 mg tabs 100 tabs... $160-250

Denkal Ultragan 100mg/ml 10ml... $65-95

Denkal Decanandrolen 200 mg/ml 10ml... $95-150

Denkal T-400 10ml... $75-95

Denkal D-bol 10mg 300 tabs... $215-250

Denkal Stanazolic 50mg/ml 20 ml... $160-200

Loeffler Reforvit B 25 mg/ml 50 ml... $35-45

Loeffler Kanestron (Anadrol) 50mg tabs 100 tabs... $250-350

Fort Dodge Equipoise 50mg/ml 50 ml... $95-135

Other Drugs

Prozac 20 mg 50 caps... $48

Claritin 10 mg 20 tabs... $7.90

Prilosec 20 mg 60 tabs... $13

Lasix 40mg... $53.50

Proscar 5 mg 30 tabs... $58

Piracetam (Nootropil) 800 mg 30 tabs... $15-18 (Note: This is a "smart drug".)

Growth Hormone: The pharmacies seldom had GH on hand (perhaps because of its refrigeration needs) but most said they could get it within a day. Prices ran from around 60-80 bucks for the 1.3 mg version and up to $300 for the 5 mg version.)

Special thanks to Cy Wilson, Bill Roberts and Chuck Roach for the their help with this article and the trip.

Chris Shugart is T Nation's Chief Content Officer and the creator of the Velocity Diet. As part of his investigative journalism for T Nation, Chris was featured on HBO’s "Real Sports with Bryant Gumble." Follow on Instagram