The Sad Truth About Drugs In Natural Bodybuilding


In the world of bodybuilding there are really only two realms: drug-enhanced and natural. 

The drug-enhanced bodybuilders are the ones you're used to seeing at Mr Olympia and the cover of Flex Magazine or Muscle & Fitness. Think of Arnold Schwarzenegger or Ronnie Coleman or Jay Cutler or Flex Wheeler. There's little to no chance that anyone, regardless of genetics or hard work, can get that large and lean without drug use. It's usually pretty obvious to tell. They take steroids, testosterone, growth hormone, estrogen-blockers, clenbuterol, and other illegal (and usually dangerous) means to build muscle mass and burn fat. There are of course plenty of other athletes, powerlifters, or even actors that take them as well. 

Natural bodybuilders on the other hand take the healthier and harder route to lean muscle building with only the aid of heavy lifting, cardio, healthy eating, and maybe some basic supplements that are not tainted and free of banned substances. It can take years to put on even half the muscle mass of steroid-users for natural bodybuilders and therefore they are at a disadvantage in terms of strength and sheer muscle size. 

There are plenty of bodybuilding leagues and competitions that are "natural only" and it was refreshing when I looked into them and some of the competitors. I thought it was a great option for a health-conscious and law-abiding weight lifter to train for. 

I competed in a few natural bodybuilding competitions years ago armed with nothing but some whey protein powder, green tea, and hard work. I didn't come in last in these competitions, but I sure as heck didn't come in the top 3. There were only a dozen or so people in my weight class at each competition, but most of the Top 3 (and a few below that but still ahead of me) in each group at each competition were clearly using. Did I deserve to win with the physique I brought to the competition? Absolutely not. But did I also take a knife to a gun fight? For the most part yes. 

Before the competition each competitor had to take a polygraph test (which they charged $50 for on top of the regular price of entry) to convince them that you didn't take banned substances. Then after the competition, the winner of each weight class would have to take a drug test. That drug test (which they probably charge for again) may or may not have even been administered and may or may not have made it to the lab for testing. It's kind of nonsensical and easy to get away with.

Competitors can also easily get away with taking a wide variety of performance enhancers that are either new and undetectable with current drug-testing methods, or taken weeks or months out from the competition so they've "left the system" long before the test. But the lean muscle they build still remains and factors heavily into the judging. And sometimes people just use tainted supplements that they think are natural but really contain testosterone boosting compounds.

Unfortunately I'm not the only one who has experience this frustration first hand. I've talked to dozens of other natural bodybuilding competitors that have been disenfranchised by the blatant cheating. 

Although it's not a complete parallel, it reminds me of the article Cassey Ho of Blogilates wrote about her trying to compete in Bikini or Figure competitions (and bodybuilding for that matter) without having breast implants. You just don't have much of a chance of winning even though it shouldn't be that way. Do you give in and increase your chances of winning or just be happy with yourself the way you are naturally? I know which option I choose for myself. 

I really don't have any personal issue with steroid users as long as their behavior isn't harming anyone else. But if you're going to be using please stay out of natural bodybuilding competitions and other events where you put other competitors at a major disadvantage. 

True natural bodybuilding and competing in natural bodybuilding shows is an admirable pursuit, but just be aware that along the line the deck may end up stacked against you in competition. This isn't to discourage aspiring natural bodybuilders, it's merely a reality check. You'll just have to join me and take comfort  with yourself with the fact that you're not shortchanging your long-term health for a chance at winning a trophy or a few bucks in prize money or sponsorship. Natural is fine with me.

Stay natty for life. Real natty!


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I hope you enjoyed this article about the truth of natural bodybuilding competitions in this day and age. 

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