As part of an agreement with Testosterone Magazine, excerpts from my new book will be published in the coming months. These excerpts detail the use of performance enhancing drugs by elite athletes as well as those in non-athletic populations. The book looks at these drugs individually in a scientific manner, something not done to date by popular books on the subject or those less read books published for members of the scientific community.
The purpose of publishing excerpts is to stimulate interest in the book as well as to educate a wide audience as to what’s occurring in a segment of society that is usually clandestine. The hope is that my writing will educate and open up a dialogue on a subject that has thus far been biased, political, and extremely unhelpful to solving the problem of anabolic steroid use in society. With the publishing of The Steroid Interviews and the future publication of the book, this information is now public domain.
Let the controversy begin.
Steroid Dosages and Athletes
As there are different steroids available on the licit market and from the steroid underground, there are equally as many methods for employing them. Whether it’s muscle gain, fat loss, or increased performance in sports, steroid protocols differ according to the desired results.
Typically, bodybuilders and some professional wrestlers (entertainers?) use the greatest amount of drugs for the longest periods of time. The size of the individual dictates how much androgen is used. This makes physiologic sense as more skeletal muscle will require more androgen to maintain that tissue. A professional bodybuilder interviewed for the book told me that to maintain a physique of such size, a minimum of two grams of androgen (Testosterone and associated derivatives) per week is considered necessary.
Subsequently, it’s these high-dose users who suffer the most side effects. If you look at the study of drugs and how all drugs act upon the body, one thing is evident; toxicity of a substance depends on the dose and duration of use. You simply cannot single out steroids as being bad or dangerous drugs. Toxicity of a drug depends on the dose, duration of use, and the individual’s response to each drug (termed “biologic variability”). Every drug on the market, both over the counter and prescription, falls under the guise of this pharmacologic constant.
Blood analyses of high dose steroid users show the following biochemical insults: drastically reduced HDL cholesterol, decreased production of gonadotrophic hormones, and chronic and negative shifts in liver function (due to long-term application of oral androgens). The physical and behavioral side effects in adult males potentially include: gynecomastia, alopecia androgenica, acne, increased body hair, depression, mood irregularities as well as both positive and negative alterations in sex drive.
In addition to bodybuilders, football players (primarily linemen), Olympic weight lifters, shot/ discus throwers, and powerlifters also take extraordinary amounts. However, due to testing and seasonal competitions, most do not use high dosages year round. Baseball players fall into a moderate category of use but some players are stepping into the high dose range as evidenced by visible side effects like prodigious increases in lean body mass (e.g. gaining 20 to 30 pounds in the off season), acne, and water retention. Track and field athletes (sprinters) typically use the least amount and rarely demonstrate negative side effects.
A general reference of dosages used for adult males is as follows. Weekly dosages of 700 to 800 milligrams and above are classified as a high dose. It’s not uncommon to hear of large bodybuilders taking in excess of several grams per week. Four hundred to 600 milligrams a week can be classified as a moderate dose. Most experts consider a weekly dosage of 150 to 300 milligrams of androgen a low dose. In fact, the latter is the amount administered by the World Health Organization (WHO) in its birth control studies. It’s these investigations that have demonstrated the safety and efficacy of low dose Testosterone administration for contraception in adult males.
Why Do Major League Baseball Players Take Drugs?
When taking a look at steroid use amongst Major League Baseball players, it’s important to understand how and why the drugs are taken. It’s also important to recognize that not all professional baseball players take drugs. In the steroid zeitgeist that has followed baseball dating back to when Mark McGwire was found to be using androstenedione, there have been many accusations thrown at various players. These accusations are often personally hurtful to the athletes and potentially damaging to their professional lives. I caution the public and the media to hold their tongues when the urge to accuse an athlete of drug use emerges.
While there are many players using drugs, not all of the physically gifted athletes in Major League Baseball use steroids and other drugs to improve performance. For those athletes that do take drugs, however, there are many reasons why they choose this path.
Obviously, baseball differs tremendously from other sports like track and field (sprinting events) and American football. Baseball is a high skill sport and to a large degree, performance is unaffected by steroid use. A guy off the street would not be able to take anabolic steroids and become a Major League player. Success in the sport is dependant on skill, not simply speed and strength. Certain aspects of the game do require these physiologic variables, but just because a player is stronger and faster will not necessarily transmit into better baseball performance. The innate tools of the game, like hand-eye coordination, must be present. In sports (golf is another example) where skill rather than physiology dominate, steroids do not make the athlete.
What steroids do allow for is: greater recuperation during the physically demanding season and in the off-season when increased strength and speed development is possible if the drug regimen is properly coordinated with training. Still, increased strength and speed does not necessarily transmit to more stolen bases, a better batting average, or more homeruns. Likewise, throwing can be improved with the use of drugs, but increased throwing velocity means nothing for a game that depends on accuracy. Batting and throwing are variables that depend on dexterity, an innate trait that steroids cannot create or aid.
One invaluable aspect of steroid use for professional athletes–and one to date not recognized by the media–is increased recovery from injuries during the season. In one example given to me by the interviewee, he pulled his semimembranosus (the most medial hamstring muscle on the back of the leg). As told to him by a physician, it was a partial tear. During the period after the injury, this athlete briefly increased his dosage of Oxandrin to 50 mg/d and experienced complete recovery in approximately 14 days. This injury, without drugs, would have kept an athlete off the field for six weeks and could have been season ending depending on the severity of the injury and possible reoccurrence. With steroids and daily rehabilitation he was running full speed with no hesitation on a leg that had previously exhibited torn muscle tissue. This was a serious injury.
Some sports medicine experts have stated in the past, based on whim and no data, that a muscle exposed to androgen is more apt to injury. This is absolute nonsense. Under a given set of circumstances, athletes taking steroids can experience muscle and tendon problems the same as non steroid users. The origins contributing to injury of a professional athlete are multifactorial. If the athlete is well trained and practices correctly, the increased force production of steroid altered muscle is not an antecedent for injury. To the contrary, a steroid altered body of an elite athlete with proper training (emphasis on proper) becomes less prone to injury due to better physiologic adaptation to stress.
It was interesting to note in President Bush’s State of the Union address that he suggested that steroid users were taking a short cut and not working as hard as their non steroid using counter parts. This is a scientific untruth. Steroids allow an athlete to work harder than a non-drug user and to reap the rewards of that greater workload. The workloads a steroid user can handle and the subsequent work output of that athlete, both in the weight room and on the practice field, are much greater than that of a non-drug user.
Steroids work precisely because they allow the athlete to train harder for longer periods of time. A drug user can outwork an athlete who is not using steroids. The steroid users I have encountered are highly motivated to succeed and are tireless workers. The drugs are not a short cut in and of themselves. To attain superior performance, an athlete must work extremely hard while on drugs.
George Bush was however, correct for questioning the ethics of said athletes, but as far as their work habits and using short cuts, he could not have been more wrong.
The Professional Baseball Player’s Drug Regimen–What and How Much?
The Steroid Interviews begins with a look at Major League Baseball. This is the first time a professional baseball player has gone on record outlining his drug program for improving performance.
Below is the drug cycle he used for the 2000 MLB season. I can describe the interviewee as follows. He has a reputation for being one of the stronger players in the league and has been given All Star honors in addition to accolades for his play at bat and on the field. Due to the chance he could be identified, these awards, the dates of reception, and the number of times each has been received will not be listed.
Let me preface the specifics by saying that the man has God given talent. Strength, speed, agility, and hand eye coordination all rolled into the body of a warrior whose sword is not made of steel, but of 34-ounces of wood. To look into his eyes is to see a man who loves baseball. The game is his life and has been so since he was a child. Despite the modern application of performance enhancing drugs, his work ethic is a throw back to a breed of athlete common when our fathers watched their heroes take the field, men like Robinson, Kofax, Mays, Campinella, Williams, DiMaggio. What those men have in common with our interviewee is a drive to be the best.
Would baseball’s former greats have used steroids if the drugs were available? Don’t ask yourself the question because it might sour your taste for the game. What I do know is that modern chemistry and money has changed sports forever but, hard work is still part of athletic success. Drugs or no drugs, an athlete can’t be at the top if they don’t possess the internal drive to work hard.
The drug programs used for this athlete are planned a year in advance. Cycles are kept brief and utilize orals, limited amounts of injectable Testosterone, and recombinant human growth hormone (rHGH) as well as an estrogen blocker, an aromatase inhibitor, and a biguanide insulin-potentiating agent (for definitions of these and other drugs, see the drug guide at the end of the article).
The following protocol was used 14 weeks prior to the opening of the 2000 MLB season:
20 mg/d Winstrol tablets
200 mg/wk testosterone cypionate (generic)
20 mg/d Nolvadex
1 mg/d Arimidex
25 mg/d Anadrol
300 mg/wk testosterone cypionate (generic)
20 mg/d Nolvadex
1 mg/d Arimidex
4 IU/d rHGH
500 mg metformin taken with meals
10 mg/d Oxandrin
20 mg/d Nolvadex
1 mg/d Arimidex
2500 IU HCG every other day
20 mg/d Nolvadex
No drugs used
His in season drug protocol consists of non-stop use of rHGH, Testosterone cypionate, or a Testosterone ester blend (Sostenon), with oxandrolone. Drugs are taken on a continuous basis with dosages periodically shifting if excessively tired, or in cases of injury. The details of the in season cycle will be available when the book is published.
Immediately after the season he takes an 8-week lay off from both training and drugs. This time is used to rejuvenate his body and mind. After the season he is mentally and physically drained and needs a break. The time away from training is more mental than a physiologic need for recovery. The toll a season of Major League Baseball takes on your life is considerable. In addition to having to perform up to the parameters of a high dollar salary, players must simultaneously deal with family issues, wives, girlfriends (sometimes both), and various matters of business. The lifestyle of professional sports affects some players more than others, but for this athlete a post season break in the action is an indispensable part his program.
After the drug free period, he begins light weight-training, cardiovascular conditioning, and performance/skill drills geared specifically to improve parts of his game that were assessed as weak during the season. More so than drugs, continuous skill work is the most important aspect to his success. Also given high priority in his training hierarchy is nutrition. He eats extremely well both at home and on the road. This is yet another factor that keeps him performing at his absolute best.
The genie is out of the bottle. Steroids are ingrained in athletic success in this country and the world. The rewards of athletic greatness and the competition to get there are too great. A Faustian bargain for these athletes and society? Only time will tell.
The Steroid Interviews Drug Guide, Part I
AnadrolOral anabolic/androgenic steroid
ArimidexOral P450 aromatase enzyme inhibitor, used to prevent estrogen conversion from androgen
HCGInjectable peptide hormone used to stimulate testicular production of endogenous testosterone
rHGHInjectable peptide hormone used to decrease body fat and stimulate protein synthesis
MetforminOral medication improves insulin sensitivity, increases peripheral tissue glucose uptake and utilization by skeletal muscle
NolvadexOral estrogen receptor blocker
OxandrinOral anabolic/androgenic steroid
TestosteroneInjectable anabolic/androgenic steroid
WinstrolOral anabolic androgenic steroid
Editors Note: In the next installment of The Steroid Interviews, Street visits with some of the world’s biggest and most popular professional bodybuilders. This will be the first time the drug programs of elite bodybuilders have been published.