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Saturday 30 September 2023 Dublin: 13°C
Shutterstock/Anton Dotsenko "It’s a scary thought that young men are taking steroids just to look good in a tight top".
Steroids 'I thought that the only way I could beat my addiction was to end my life'
Body-conscious young men are turning to steroids despite the deadly consequences, writes Marcus Power.

I WAS INTRODUCED to the world of bodybuilding by Conan the Barbarian. It’s probably one of the worst movies ever made, but it was where I saw a bodybuilder for the first time.

As soon as I laid my eyes on him, I knew that I wanted to look like that. I wanted that size and that strength. I wanted that body. So I started my own journey to become the next Arnold Schwarzenegger.

shutterstock_220962274 Shutterstock / Kiselev Andrey Valerevich Shutterstock / Kiselev Andrey Valerevich / Kiselev Andrey Valerevich

Bulking up

Over the next four years I trained as hard as I could. I pushed myself to the limit in every single workout. I read everything that I could find about training and diet. After four years of hard training I had made some good gains in both size and strength, but I still didn’t look anything like Arnold. I had become frustrated and disheartened. I was doing everything by the book, why wasn’t I as big as Schwarzenegger?

Around that time I got talking to one of the bigger guys in the gym. He told me directly: “If you want to get big, you have to take steroids. It’s that simple.” I was shocked but I also felt kind of betrayed. All the books and magazines had lied. What I wanted couldn’t be done naturally.

I took my first course of anabolic steroids at twenty, and put on a stone of muscle over a six-week period. I was delighted. I had finally found the secret. My first course of steroids were in tablet form, but I started on steroid injections shortly afterwards. I used to be terrified of needles, but once I conquered this fear there was no stopping me. I upped my dosage with each new course of steroids, until it got to the stage that each course of steroids contained up to six different types of steroids.

By twenty six, I was a seventeen-stone bodybuilder. I was huge. I really stood out in a crowd and I loved all the attention that I was getting. It was life changing. I was completely obsessed with my body and I let nothing get in the way of my training or diet. But along with the muscle mass, I started getting all the nasty side effects that come with using steroids.

_20161027_203229 Marcus Power as a 17-stone bodybuilder

Use turns into abuse

I was aggressive. I had sharp mood swings and insomnia. My liver and kidney had taken a real pounding. I’d wake up every morning with severe headaches and nosebleeds. I was paranoid all the time. I was depressed. My bodybuilding dream had become a nightmare.

After a hospital stay, I realised that I needed to stop. I was told by my doctors that I had done a lot of damage to my internal organs. The doctors made me sign a consent form explaining that I had been warned that if I continued, I would die. I remember crying as I signed that form. I tried to come off steroids several times but I truly believed that I needed them. At one stage I thought that the only way I could beat my addiction was to end my life. I didn’t want to die, but I couldn’t cope without steroids.

I gave it one final try. I cut all my ties with the bodybuilding world and the gym. Just like an alcoholic avoids the pub, I had to stay away from the gym and from the friends I used to train with. This wasn’t easy, but I hated what I had turned into.

I was a drug addict. I didn’t look like an addict but I was addicted to steroids in the same way an alcoholic is addicted to alcohol. In the end, I went cold turkey and managed to beat my addiction.

Bigorexia and body-image anxiety

Now, I look back over that period of my life and think, wow, that guy was big. But it was fake and without the steroids, I would never have reached that size. So in reality, I had achieved nothing by becoming so big. My size, my strength, and the attention I was getting were all fake.

Our society has created a picture of how men and women should look. Women should be tanned and thin. Men should be buffed up. But how messed up and unrealistic is that picture? It’s a scary thought that young men are taking steroids just to look good in a tight top out on the dancefloor. These young men desperately need to be made aware of the danger they are putting themselves in.

I am one of the lucky ones. Some of the guys that I used to train with are no longer around. Some passed away from heart attacks and strokes. Some of them are on dialysis machines, and some have had nervous breakdowns.

Steroids might give you the body you want but you’ll ending up paying too high a price for that body.

Marcus Power is a former bodybuilder; he is currently working as a writer.

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