PEDs Enhance, Not Create
Like any other sport's culture, bodybuilding has been subject to changes in its culture regarding attitude and mentality over the years. One of the most dangerous examples of changes in bodybuilding culture over the past two decades is the increasing emphasis being placed by lifters on the role of PEDs in bodybuilding success. No one is denying that AAS, GH, insulin, IGF-1, clenbuterol, and T3 will make a difference in pursuing physique goals, but as of late far too much emphasis has been placed on cycles, the cycles the pros use, and this belief in a mythical combination of drugs that will propel you to instant success. This is not only harmful to the bodybuilding community at large because we all know as soon as someone dies of DNP abuse or is caught selling AAS, but also because bodybuilding becomes targeted by politicians and governmental agencies, increasingly looked down upon, and mass hysteria about the sport end up hurting its general appeal.
Over the past few years in particular, interest in training methods, diet, and recovery protocols have all decreased while interest in chemical enhancement is through the roof. To put it simply: A natural physique built through optimal training, nutrition, and supplementation will look better than a physique built with every drug under the sun but a junk food diet and lazy training. This may be news to some of you, particularly the generation in their early to mid 20s frequenting forums, just coming into the world of bodybuilding competition, but the fundamentals of bodybuilding are not chemical in nature.
This reality is even self evident in the name given to substances we use to improve our physiques: Performance ENHANCING drugs. AAS and other drugs are meant to be used by those who already have a foundation in the fundamentals of the sport and want to enhance their existing physique beyond what they would otherwise be capable of. Bodybuilding drugs should be an enhancement that takes a lifter with solid fundamentals to the next level; they do not create champions out of thin air, and greatness doesn't come in a sterile vial.
In order to observe this change, let's compare the recommendations of the most popular "steroid guide book" of the 1990s: Dan Duchaine's "Underground Steroid Handbook". In this extremely popular book, upon which many bodybuilders based their knowledge of steroids on, a cycle recommended for intermediate bodybuilders is 400mg of Deca and 40mg Dianabol a day. That's all. In fact, Kevin Levrone, one of the greatest bodybuilders alive has stated in an interview that his first cycle after building up a base as a natural was 400mg of Test C for 8 weeks, and that he made excellent gains off of this cycle. It has been demonstrated in human studies that 250mg of Test E a week, which many bodybuilders today would call a TRT dose, promoted significant gains in lean body mass, increased strength, improved nitrogen retention, and improved muscle protein synthesis.
However, today the standards for what constituted "normal" AAS cycles and dosages" have absolutely exploded. Go on any major steroid or bodybuilding forum and you will find lifters in off-season condition, weighing under 200 pounds, running multi-compound cycles with doses adding up to near a gram a week. It's fairly common to see bodybuilders who have fairly admirable physiques, like a 5'10" 230lb, lean men’s physique athlete who looks great at first glance, until you realize that he is on a gram of test, 500mg of tren, and 3IU of GH. It's not only ridiculous to see someone using more compounds and dosages higher than that which many competitors turned pro on to look like an exceptionally genetically gifted natural lifter might look, but this trend introduce a serious health risks which in addition to being a problem in and of themselves, also decrease the quality of the sport in general. There is far less medical research on the effects of super high dose testosterone and trenbolone, but the bloodwork of anyone engaging in such a cycle will immediately reveal some potentially serious effects on cholesterol, blood pressure, and liver enzymes; not to mention a likely greater risk of cardiac hypertrophy associated with AAS use in general.
I believe people should be able to make choices about their own body. Consequently, this would be an issue of individual freedom and wouldn't concern me at all if the athletes running these cycles were fully informed of the cost to benefit ratio and potential risks involved; however, most of them are not, and gain most of their information from the echo chamber forums and youtube channels that recommended this sort of PED abuse in the first place.
This unfortunate trend will also ultimately hurt the sport of bodybuilding. As any successful bodybuilder will tell you,: Building a great physique is a marathon, not a sprint. Most competitive bodybuilders reach their peak in their mid 30s, which means that a 20-year-old lifter has 15 years to build up his physique, unless he ruins it by never building a proper physical or intellectual foundation for bodybuilding and destroying his health with extreme PED use. We will ultimately see a decline in the quality of competitive bodybuilders if this trend continues, because lifters simply won't have the longevity to reach their best. If we start losing lifters to diuretic abuse, high doses of harsh hepatotoxic oral steroids, and potentially permanent thyroid damage from T3 and T4 abuse, not only will it be a tragedy for those affected, but there simply won't be as many bodybuilders who are able to continue effectively improving their physiques into their 30s if they start off with heavy multi-compound cycles, insulin, and fat loss drugs in their 20s.
To summarize what I've been saying in one form or another: Bodybuilding, and novice bodybuilders in particular, need to be less concerned with a fictional combination of drugs that will let them achieve the physique they want immediately, and they should instead focus on learning to eat and train properly, to form an educational and physical base upon which to build on as they progress, before they ever touch AAS or any other PEDs.