Are You Sure They’re Not Using Steroids?

Last Saturday I asked on the StrongLifts fan page what percentage of gym people you thought used steroids (read the answers here). If you read through the comments, you’ll see that most guys estimate 1 to 10% steroid-use.

Well StrongLifts Member Nico (“Holvoetn”, 42y, Belgium) sent me a news article about this several days ago. The Flemish government here in Belgium performed 2329 dopingtests in 2010, here are the results:

  • 1469 tests within competitions => 6% tested positive
  • 770 tests outside competitions => 0,13% tested positive
  • 90 tests in fitnesscenters => 25.6% tested positive

Which means that 1 out of 4 gym goers tested positive (this does include guys who refused the drug testing or attempted fraud during the test).

While these numbers shocked the government, they don’t surprise me. I think they’re quite low actually because almost everyone used steroids in the gym I went to for 5 years. You could easily get some from the bouncers who trained there, they offered it to me several times, but I always refused because a) they didn’t look that great b) my mentor got results without drugs – so I didn’t see the point. Yet people assumed we used drugs because we trained in that gym.

My guess is the reason why *only* 25% tested positive is that this percentage depends on the gym. There is obviously going to be more steroid use in a gym filled with bodybuilders and bouncers (like in the gym where I trained 5 years) than in a fitness first kind of gym filled with cardio bunnies.

Here’s why all of this matters – there may be guys in your gym who are bigger, more muscular and more ripped than you. Yet when you look at how they train, they’re doing the exact opposite we are doing – only using the Power rack for curls, not doing compound exercises, and often Squatting less than you do.

The reason these guys are getting results anyway is that they’re often using steroids but not being honest about it. The numbers don’t lie – there are way more guys using steroids than most people think. And I doubt steroid-use is higher in Belgium than in countries like US – I would think it’s actually lower here (if you got statistics about steroid use in US – send it over, I’m interested).

So if they’re using steroids, it doesn’t matter what they do – they can grow big doing silly split routines for high reps until it burns because the steroids are telling their body to gain muscle and grow bigger. That’s why these guys can get big even though you will outSquat them within weeks with StrongLifts 5×5.

And I’m not saying that a guy like Arnold Schwarzenegger won the Mr Olympia 7x just because of the steroids. The guys who are at the top, they are training hard and they are also training right (Arnold could Deadlift 700lbs) – the steroids are for them just a bonus. But I don’t see why a guy who can’t even Squat 300lbs or Deadlift 400lb should use steroids. I just don’t see the point.

The next time some big guy comes over to give you training training advice that you didn’t even ask for and that’s not inline with what you’ve learned here – be careful. Chances are he’s using steroids, and if he does, whatever worked for him won’t work for you because you’re playing by very different rules.