Are steroids worth the risk?

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Most of us get into this sport to improve our health. After a some time in the game seeing limits and seeing progression speeds differ between people, some start looking for shortcuts. Yes, I am going to talk about the big white elephant in the room. Steroid. Many of you might not believe it, but steroids are not just for the few professional athletes who get busted. They are probably more commonplace in your average gym that in a professional sports arena. The reason being is that many people can make it to the professional level with even moderate diet and work ethic because of their superior genetics. Whereas the local gyms are filled with people with mediocre genetics that feel they need that extra edge. 

This is not just limited to men, there are plenty of women who abuse drugs as well. Normally not as prominent as men, and often different compounds. Men look for drugs that will build muscle, women typically look for drugs that will burn fat. One of the issues is that typically it's a bunch of "bros" giving out the advice on usage to these people. Normally not the most well founded advice, and typically a more is better attitude. 

The main question is why? One reason is that people are too impatient. They want results and they want them now. Steroids work, this is why they are banned in sports. So instead of putting in the hard work and time, they think they can jump to the head of the line. The issue is that they often don't build the proper framework of ligament and tendon strength or proper mechanics. So they have all this new strong muscle, and nothing to support it properly. 

Now lets talk about the side effects. First major side effect that most people forget, IT'S ILLEGAL. You can go to jail for selling or buying them. They are typically made in unsanitary conditions. If you think that the underground labs that produce these products (they are all made by underground labs) are pristine institutions you are sadly mistaken. Some of this stuff is made in peoples kitchen. I have heard horror stories of people having to go to the hospital and have large infections removed after injecting bunk drugs. You also have all the other common side effects, acne, back acne (super attractive), oily skin, bloating, possible liver damage. 

Now lets address the ladies. you are capable of side effects much worse than the men, and even scarier, they are permanent in your case. Wonderful things like increase in body hair, deepening of your voice, amenorrhea (loss of menstruation), enlargement of clitoris. Basically taking steroids as a women is partially transforming yourself into a man. This is what transgendered females take as part of sexual reassignment. They take larger doses, but the change happens nonetheless. 

You plan on ever having children? Well testosterone injections have been used overseas as a male contraceptive, and the physical changes it makes in women often take years to recover from, if ever. You might not think you want children now, but having a choice is a nice option. 

Lucas Parker had a great little rant about drugs in CrossFit. It went something along the lines of, CrossFit is still such a new sport and we are still getting results from the programming, by taking drugs we will not truly know what the programming is capable of. If you are still getting results, have some patience. For what, to get your name on a piece of cardboard at a local competition. Is it worth that? You are not a professional athlete, that requires making a living from your sport, this is a hobby. If you were a bench warmer for the CFL you would make more money than everyone except the first place winner at the the 2013 Crossfit games. 

I am the first one to admit it, I have used steroids in the past. Back when I was bodybuilding they were almost required in the sport. I was training at a local globo gym and the head trainer had seen my potential and work ethic and taken me under his wing. He laughed when we discussed how much I was spending on supplements a month in hopes of competing in bodybuilding. He was also a registered nurse so I felt like he knew what he was talking about. He guided me through my first cycle. It was fairly moderate, I had already had almost 10 years training under my belt so I was not expecting any miracles. Everyone responds differently to steroids. I started at about 180 pounds and within 3 months I had gotten up to 240 lbs. I was pretty strong to begin with, now it was just scary. Unfortunately I was also pretty bloated, blood pressure was very high for someone my age, and my sleep quality was crap. I proceeded to diet down to 198 pounds for my first bodybuilding show. Sitting backstage I learned a lot. You look the best you ever have, surrounded by people who all look like chiseled gods. But everyone is in the worse physical condition of their life, almost like the walking dead. I looked pretty good, but I was on the brink of starvation, moody, no energy and sore everywhere. If I stood up too fast I would almost pass out, if I flexed to hard I would start getting complete body cramps. Not exactly a picture of health. 

Back in the day of Schwarzenegger steroids were legal and you could just grab them from a doctor, every bodybuilder would take them. Then came the 90s and early 2000s when things started to change. Bodybuilders started taking much bigger amounts and adding a ton of other drugs to the mix. In my opinion, this destroyed the classic physiques of bodybuilding. This is part of the reason I got out of it. Bodybuilding had become a mass at all cost sport. Too many of the sports elite were dying very young. All the feedback I got from the judges was I needed to be bigger and leaner. I did a couple other bodybuilding shows trying to bring a physique which I thought was appealing, I was told the same thing every time, they wanted me bigger and leaner. I called it quits and decided to train to be healthy instead. This was a long learning curve. 

The day I got married was when I made a promise to my wife we were going to try and have kids and I knew that it could have impacted the quality of my sperm. After trying to conceive for several years we went to a fertility clinic. For those who don't know, even if everything is in perfect working order and the timing is right, the chance of conception is pretty low, it gets harder the older you get. We didn't start trying until our early 30s. So you pretty much need all the odds in your favour. I went through the interview, blood tests, and awkwardly dropped off a fresh sample to the clerk (worse job ever). Waited impatiently for a couple weeks for our next appointment. I forget the sperm count the doctor told me was on my report, the number didn't mean anything to me. Afterwards he explained that is was about 10% of what it should be, which means our already slim chances of conceiving are now even slimmer. That was a shock. Considering I originally never wanted to have kids, now the option was not really there. 

Several other appointments and discussions and we went through all of our options. This took several months, including medication for me to help restore proper sperm count, and expensive little electronics to ensure the optimal time to try and conceive. We had started to loose hope. We were also in talks with them about options such as in vitro fertilization. After another long year we finally conceived. We were ecstatic. Unfortunately it did not last. 3 months in my wife had a miscarriage. Apparently this is very common with peoples first pregnancy, but you don't really hear people talk about it. The good news is that we knew it was possible. It took another year after that and we finally conceived. This time it stuck. 9 months later my proudest accomplishment entered this world. To think it almost didn't happen because of vanity of my youth. Hardly worth it now that I look back. 

I guess this is where I pass along the wisdom learned from my experience. This is my opinion, you don't have to like it or even listen to it. But I remember when I was younger if the older me would have tried to help me, I probably wouldn't have listened. When we are younger we tend to be very short sighted and we don't realize what is really important in this world. So I will tell you anyway. Its not worth it. If you think the small physical changes it will make will make you happy, you are wrong. You should be happy with what you have. If not, you will always want more. The physical risks worth it, definitely not. Nowadays the legal risks are also not worth it. I know tons of people who think that steroids will counteract their lousy diet and lazy training. Guess what. It doesn't. You will get better results getting your sleep and eating in check, you will also be healthier because of it. 

Remember, we started this to get healthy and have fun. 

Yours in fitness
   Coach Everett

Crossfit Bytown