Imagine this: A new auto manufacturer hits the scene and starts marketing its cars. They have the Civilian Humer, the Porsch 911, the Ferari 360 Spider, and the coveted Beamer. The ads are slick and the cars look pretty damned good, too. They even list the performance statistics. The Ferari Spider's top speed is 180 mph and it'll reach 63 mph in just 4.5 seconds!
Now, it doesn't take a car buff to smell a rat here, a rather big rat that's been lying out in the heat for a few days. Notice how each name is slightly misspelled. Instead of Ferrari, it's Ferari. Porsch is missing an "e" at the end. Hmm, something funny's going on here. If you were to look at the "Ferari" emblem in the ad, you'd notice it's not quite the same as the real Ferrari emblem. It's very close, but not quite right. Upon closer inspection you'd see that it's not the famous prancing horse, but a kicking donkey! Just who do these jackasses think they are?
And how about those performance stats? Well, they appear to be legitimate Ferrari performance numbers. Did you catch that? Ferrari performance numbers, not "Ferari" performance numbers. And what about that Beamer they sell? Well, is it really a BMW or did these scum bags copyright the slang term "Beamer" so they could use the name for their fake BMW?
Obviously, these aren't the real deal and only those very ignorant about cars (or very stupid about everything) would fall for such a scam. But of course we're talking about the general public here, so this sleazy auto manufacturer would still make a lot of dough. So what if the wheels fall off and the motor gives out after a few months of driving? So what if the cars can't meet those performance standards? This car maker isn't looking for repeat customers after all. This is what's called a short grift, a quick, in and out scam.
A couple of years from now, this maker won't even be around. Instead he'll be involved in other scams, perhaps real estate, psychic hotlines, or (gasp!) supplement manufacturing. Nah, he'd be too late. The wolves in sheep's clothing have already arrived and set up camp in the bodybuilding community.
These ain't steroids, dummy!
Not many things piss me off. I'm a pretty laid back guy. But recently I've been getting a lot of questions about the quality of a certain brand of steroids. It seems this maker has a fat list of e-mail addresses and is clogging the inboxes all over the US with promises of gear without a prescription and without side effects.
So why am I pissed off? Because I logged on to the web site of this company and found a few interesting things, mainly, these aren't steroids! They look like steroids, they sound like steroids, they promise steroid-like gains, but in reality, this company is selling nothing but andro, creatine, and ECA stacks. The name of this company? SDI-Labs. Let's take a closer look at this Florida based company, its advertising, and its products.
The Name Game
First, let's play the name game. SDI-Labs sells Winni-V, D-Bol, Equipose, Masterbolan, Liquid Anodrol, Sustenol 250, Deca Nor 50, Somatroph HGH, and GHB among a few other items. Do those names look familiar? They should, because they're either very close to the names of popular steroids or they're based on slang terms for steroids or other compounds.
For example, they sell Equipose. The real steroid is called Equipoise. They also sell a product called Sustenol 250. Of course, the real Testosterone product is called Sustenon 250. And don't think you're getting stanazolol when you buy Winni-V. The real product is called Winstrol V and "winni" is only a slang term. Same goes for D-Bol. This is not Dianabol (methandrostenolone). Apparently they just called it "D-Bol" and got a copyright on the name. (Another company did that with the name "ECA Stack" in hopes of luring in customers.)
Gee, maybe I should start buying oregano in 55-gallon drums and get the copyright on the name Pot®. I could start a website, take out some ads way in the back of MuscleMag and High Times and be the king of Pot®. All the Potheads® would love me (until they tried it) and I'd make a ton of dough! (You know, if I were a dishonest bottomfeeder, I'd be making a lot more money. Damn these morals! Damn this sense of right and wrong!)
So what's in this stuff anyway since it's obviously not real gear? Well, mainly different kinds of andro supplements, ephedra and caffeine. For example, their D-Bol product contains 100mg of 19-Norandrostenedione and 100mg of 4-Androstenediol (plus a few inconsequential things) and sells for 80 bucks a bottle. (About seven day's worth if used at full dosage.)
"Winni-V" contains 25mg of 19-Norandrostenedione, 110mg B-Cyclodextrin, plus a minimal amount of caffeine and Mahuang (herbal ephedrine). What they've done here is add a little Mahuang and caffeine to the "steroids" that are known for a hardening effect.
Their topical Liquid Anodrol product (made to sound like the steroid Anadrol) contains 100mg of 19-Norandrostenedione and 100mg of 4-Androstenediol. The price? $110 a bottle. And even though this is a topical product, for some reason it comes with a funky looking syringe thingy. I haven't quite figured that part out yet.
And how about that GHB stuff? They didn't change the spelling there, did they? No they didn't. Real GHB (gamma hydroxy butyrate) has been banned actually. Most people liked to use it as a party drug or a relaxant. Real GHB basically made you sleepy and somewhat euphoric. It became known as a "date rape drug" in some circles, hence the ban. So how is SDI-Labs selling it? They aren't, of course.
The ads for "GHB" promise "incredible desire increase, prolonged arousal, and enhanced climax." What's in it? Nothing but 5mg of Yohimbine and 50mg of 4-Androstenediol. The really pathetic part is they give dosage guidelines for women, who of course should stay away from all andro-type products. By the way, the web site makes this note: "GHB is a pending a Trademark of SDI-LABS." (See, that Pot® idea could work!) And yes, SDI-Labs does come out and say that this product doesn't contain real GHB ingredients, if you read the site close enough.
Most of the other products tell the same story: steroid name – cheap andro ingredient. Not only were pill-form andro products manufactured by other companies a failure, SDI-Labs is using very tiny dosages. (Heck, even large doses of this stuff didn't work too well in pill form.) Perhaps this is because they really push you to buy one of their stacks consisting of several products. These can run upward of $820.
They also pull the same trick our fictional car manufacturer did in the intro. They talk about the positive effects of the real steroid hoping you'll make the leap of faith and think their products do the same. This is especially true with their "HGH" product. (See our Dirty Tricks article for the details behind this common scam.)
Besides the names and the hard sell ad copy, these guys also put some deceit into the packaging. My favorite is the D-Bol packaging.
Notice the little animal pictures. They do this so the consumer thinks he's getting some kind of "gray area" or veterinary product. You can even see the words "Vetrinariol." I guess this is supposed to look foreign or something but the word is just gobbledygook; it doesn't exist. In fact, I typed that word into a search engine and the only thing that popped up was from Spamcop.net, a site that allows you to send a public spam report to network administrators. Apparently, SDI-Labs has been turned in for spamming.
The "winni" package is also made to look like a real pharmaceutical product.
This type of packaging is expensive compared to just putting pills in a bottle. Hmm, maybe that's why this stuff costs $80 a package! Sheep's clothing is pricey, I guess! Then again, this is the same company that was behind the "Almost Juic'in" product, part of which was a plain bottle of creatine called "Eruption" that sold 400 grams for $50! The price has since been reduced to $30. Still a rip off, of course.
You smell that, too?
To round out the hardcore image, SDI-Labs also likes to put syringes in their ads beside the supplements. This is pure window dressing since none of these are injectable products. Well, that's the official stance at least.
I sent SDI-Labs an email asking a few questions, but it was returned to me "host unknown." Not to be thwarted that quickly, I called them up. Here's how the conversation went:
Chris: Are all these products legal in the US?
SDI-Labs Guy: Yes, they are.
Chris: No prescription or anything?
SDI-Labs Guy: Nope.
Chris: Oh okay. I was confused. Why are there syringes in some of the pictures of your products?
SDI-Labs Guy: That's just to kinda show a comparison to the real steroids.
Chris: So none of them are injectable, right?
SDI-Labs Guy: No. We don't sell anything injectable.
Chris: I also had a question on the posing oil you sell, Myotroph. What are the ingredients?
SDI-Labs Guy: I'm not sure, can you hold on one moment?
After a minute or two, he came back on the line.
SDI-Labs Guy: It's a multi-chain triglyceride oil. And it also has lytocain [sic] in it.
Chris: Thank you very much.
I then hung up the phone and took a quick shower. I felt dirty.
So let me get this right, they don't sell any injectable products (which would be illegal), but they do have a "sterile posing oil" that contains lidocain, a topical anesthetic used in dentistry to lessen the pain of injection. And would a topical oil need to be sterile?
This is obviously a synthol or "Pump N Pose" clone, oils that claim to be for "external use only" but are deigned to inject into lagging muscles (a very dangerous practice to say the least and ethically questionable if you compete in bodybuilding shows.) The cost of SDI-Lab's "posing oil"? 195 bucks per bottle.
By the way, if you click on the "links" section of the SDI-Labs site, you can visit what they call their online magazine. This turned out to be the Bigsport site, a third-rate steroid message board site that has a few articles. I'm not sure what the association is between the two.
I also found a site by another name that sold their fat burner product ("Almost instantly develop the body you've always dreamed of having!") called Power Explosion which appears to be just a generic ECA stack despite the $50 a bottle price tag. Oh, and they say, "loose a couple of extra pounds" instead of "lose." Shouldn't a supplement company at least know how to spell "lose weight"? (Sorry, the old English major in me pops out sometimes.)
Finally, SDI-Labs claims to have a 100% money back guarantee. I looked up the details. It turns out they'll only return your money if you send back at least half of the product. Now tell me this, how many people use half a bottle of any supplement and then decide it sucks and seek a refund? Not many. Everyone will use at least a bottle before they deliver a verdict. And therein lies the catch of their guarantee. Oh, and the only way to get your money back on the cycles and stacks they sell is to return all bottles unopened. Jesus wept.
Wolves Travel in Packs
SDI-Labs isn't the only company out there using such tactics. There are dozens of wolves in this pack, but a couple stand out. One product that comes to mind is Testdren-ADP. This product is billed as a Testosterone patch. The ad copy even says, "It Slams A Steady Stream of Natural Testosterone Directly Into Your Bloodstream!" Funny thing is, it contains no Testosterone. It instead contains, you guessed it, 4-androstenediol. Before we get into whether it works or not, let's make sure they followed the rules of sleazeball advertising.
Is it packaged to look like a real pharmaceutical product? Yes. (See pic.)
Are there pictures of real steroids in the ads? Yes.
Is the product's name meant to sound like a real drug? Yes. One brand of real Testosterone patches is called Testoderm. This fake product is called Testdren. Close enough to fool the foolish consumer.
Do the ads tout the benefits of real Testosterone even though the product doesn't contain any? Yes. (Just like those "Ferari" stats.)
Are there pictures of 'roided up pro-bodybuilders in the ads? No. (Perhaps they need to take a tip from the SDI-Labs people and just cut off the heads of the bodybuilders used in the ads, or just cut and paste some pics out of a Weider mag. That way you don't have to pay the person or the photographer for the pictures.)
So, Testdren-ADP does pass the sleazy sales tactic test. Now, does the product work? In short, no. First off, even real prescription T-patches won't do a thing for the normal guy. These things are made to restore T-levels back to normal in hypogonadal men. If you're already normal, they won't do a thing to help you increase muscle mass. I suppose you could polka-dot yourself with them and get some effect, but for over three bucks a patch, that wouldn't be worthwhile. (Plus you'd look really silly.)
The problem with trying to deliver 4-AD through a patch is surface area. Even drug companies using the proper matrixing patch technology can only deliver 5-10mg of a drug through a patch. You need to deliver 50-100mg of 4-AD per day for bodybuilding or pro-athletic results. You can't even do that with real pharmaceutical patches unless you use around ten patches. According to transdermal expert Bill Roberts, you just can't deliver enough 4-AD through the limited area available with a patch. This is one reason why Biotest Androsol is designed to spray all over your body – to increase surface area so you can absorb plenty of the good stuff.
Testdren sells for about $90 for 30 patches, making it almost as expensive as the real thing and just as worthless when it comes to building muscle.
I was curious as to who actually made this stuff so I called up the toll free number in the ads. Before the guy on the phone would answer any questions he wanted all my personal information (probably to be placed on a mailing list). Finally, I was told that Testdren is made by Harcourt & Johnston Pharmaceuticals. That sounded very legit so I did a web search for this company. It turns out that for a "pharmaceutical" company, they only have a limited range of products – two that I could find: this patch and Kyno-H, supposedly the oral human version of Kynoselen, an injectable veterinarian compound. In other words, despite the name, this is not a real drug company.
On the really sleazy front, I found another product by another company actually calling itself TestoDerm, just like the prescription patch. I'm not sure how they get away with this unless that capital "D" makes it legal.
The same company also sells pet products and a cream that claims to make your girlfriend's boobs bigger. That should tell you something about the character of these folks, shouldn't it?
Ditch the Wool Coat, Ya Big Sheep
As you can see, this kind of marketing really cooks my goose. It makes the whole supplement industry look bad and could even bring down the wrath of the FDA. But, all that said, let's get one thing straight. If there weren't so many suckers out there, then these companies wouldn't be in business now would they?
They're relying on customers who don't read the small print or even the label. They line their pockets by taking advantage of people who don't do any research and are sold by slick packaging and empty promises. In other words, as consumers, this is partially our faults.
Long story short: If you don't want the wolves to get you, stop being such a sheep! Research. Read the fine print. Read the labels. Ask around.
To sum it up, what these supplement companies do is name and package a product to look like an anabolic steroid or prescription product. If you read the ad copy closely or check out the label, you'll see these only contain legal ingredients of dubious quality and sometimes inadequate quantity. Those who don't take precautions will think they're getting real steroids. These companies target teenaged, uneducated supplement users who don't pay close attention to what they're buying or using. Not really illegal, though they're playing in the gray areas a little.
Now think about this. Could you imagine companies like this started with the sole intent of fooling its customers? The whole customer/company relationship is based on the fact that the company thinks the buyer is too dumb to figure out what they're really buying. Their business isn't based on the exchange of money for a quality product or service; instead, their business is based on deceit from the very beginning.
Like romantic relationships and friendships, business relationships based on lies and false fronts don't last. Companies like this are looking to screw you quick and get out; they aren't looking for a long term relationship. Call it the capitalistic date rape of your wallet. Don't get me wrong; I love capitalism. But this brand of capitalism can be likened to picking on a kid in a wheelchair.
What the consumer needs to know is simply this: if a supplement company (or any company) has to use deceit to sell you a product, how good can that product be? If it was quality merchandise, they wouldn't have to resort to such low brow tactics.
Is all of this illegal? For the most part, no. Unethical? Immoral? Just plain sleazy? Well, that's for you to decide.
Special thanks to Bill Roberts, Cy Willson, and Brock Strasser for helping out with the technical details.