Information and education can be a double-edged sword. When I started training in the early 1980s, I had never heard of steroids, much less knew they were part of what made the champions in the muscle magazines look so out of this world freaky (though the top stars of today are much larger in comparison). I didn’t know much, but it still seemed pretty simple to me that if I trained hard, got stronger and ate a lot of food, I would grow. And what do you know? I did!
Fast-forward to a kid starting out these days in the Internet age. He reads online that all the pros take massive amounts of drugs to look the way they do and that even amateurs are juicing their brains out. There’s also a sizeable contingent of cynics proclaiming that even the “natural” bodybuilders are using tons of chemicals, essentially drilling it into novices’ heads that it’s impossible to attain an impressive physique without drugs.
That sets up the young guy for two possible and equally unfortunate belief patterns that may remain with him for life. Either he immediately seeks out a source and starts using drugs from day one, as he’s certain it’s his only option if he craves a powerful and muscular body, or he settles for looking like any average dime-a-dozen guy in the gym who sort of looks like he trains because he knows that’s the best he can hope for unless he gets on the gear.
While I agree that it’s better to have open discussions about steroids and the role they play in bodybuilding and most other sports these days, I also see that the proliferation of drug discussions has given drugs a mythical power that should never have been attributed to them. Is it a fact that nearly all of the pros use steroids? Yes, but there are pros in the IFBB like Dave Goodin as well as many other pros in natural organizations who do not, yet they all have amazing physiques.
Although their names mean nothing to today’s kids, the fact is that for decades before steroids became a part of our sport, men like John Grimek, Clancy Ross, Steve Reeves, Reg Park, Bill Pearl and Vince Gironda built physiques that would still turn heads today. They did it with sheer hard work in the weight room and plenty of nutritious foods like eggs, steak, chicken, milk, potatoes and fruit.
With advances in training as well as nutrition and supplementation, it’s possible for a man or woman today to develop a truly spectacular physique drug-free. The sad thing is that due to the power many have ascribed to steroids as they have ascended to godlike status on the Internet, many would never believe that or make the effort. Information can be a wonderful thing, but this is a case where ignorance is bliss.
Editor’s note: Ron Harris is the author of Real Bodybuilding—Muscle Truth From 25 Years In the Trenches, available at www.RonHarrisMuscle.com.