Let’s talk about the biggest open secret in fitness: Performance-Enhancing Drugs (PEDs), or steroids, as they’re more commonly known as. They are extremely prevalent in the world of fitness, and if you doubt that fact, then you should know that a study by the National Library of Medicine notes that there are as many as 3 million people in the United States who abuse PEDs.
It’s estimated that 2.7%-2.9% of young American adults have taken performance enhancing drugs at least once in their lives. In fact, it’s even indicated that steroid abuse among community weight-trainers could be as high as 15%-30%. And that’s just in America. In countries like the UK, where they’re more accessible, around 8% of gym-goers (in a survey of 21 gyms) have admitted to using steroids, with 5% being active users.
So, in short, a lot of people use steroids, much more than one would think. So, you might be asking yourself, “Are there any celebrities I know who use steroids?” Chances are: absolutely.
I’ll give you the rundown on what exactly PEDs are, and then we’ll get onto the big-name celebrities, athletes, and wrestlers who have all taken a few hits for the gym, whether they’ve been tested for it or admitted it straight up.
What are Performance-Enhancing Drugs?
Performance-enhancing drugs are substances that are used to increase one’s performance in any sort of physical activity, such as bodybuilding and sports. They’re often referred to as anabolic steroids, which they pretty much all are. They add more muscle to the body and increase strength and energy, all the while having a plethora of side effects, some intentional, and some not; some beneficial, and some detrimental to one’s health.
They have the ability to improve one’s performance and muscle build past what is naturally possible without their aid. They’re extremely powerful and are considered “level 2 controlled substances” in the US, which makes them illegal without the prescription of a doctor, but good luck finding someone to prescribe you steroids for athletics. They come in many forms and go by many names, so much so that it’s near impossible to list them all here, although most people stick to the most popular ones for bulking and they’re all used for the same general purpose (Put on muscle mass during the bulking phase, and preserve it during the cutting phase).
PEDs are used by people for a variety of reasons. Athletes take them to improve their athletic capabilities, bodybuilders use them to build massive amounts of muscle and shape their bodies, and some just want to achieve that dream body and look good. There are even some who have used them as a method to lose massive amounts of weight at a rapid rate.
These drugs, despite how common they are, are prohibited from major athletic events, and those who are caught will lose their titles, trophies, and are often issued a lifetime ban from the cheated events.
For clarity’s sake, know that dietary or nutritional supplements, like protein shakes or workout-enhancing supplements, do not count as steroids. Those are simply concentrated versions of food nutrients and proteins. Not only are less powerful than steroids, but they’re also much safer and barely have any side effects, if any.
Actors and public figures tend not to have a lot of time to truly fulfill their workout routine due to busy schedules, which is why a good chunk tend to use the steroids that they can get with relative ease. If you’ve seen a buff celebrity on screen, there’s a good likelihood that they’ve juiced up. Here are just a few examples.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, actor and former WWE superstar, has been open about taking steroids in the past. In a 2009 interview for the promotion of Race to Witch Mountain, he admitted he dabbled in steroids. “Me and my buddies tried it back in the day when I was 18 or 19,” he said. “Didn’t know what we were doing.” He has said he no longer uses them.
Seven-time Mr. Olympia, actor, and former governor of California, Schwarzenegger had admitted to trying it in an interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC in which he says he has no regrets. “We did it under doctors’ supervision,” he explained. “We were experimenting with it. It was a new thing. You can’t roll the clock back and say, ‘Now I would change my mind.’” He explained his PED use in this article.
Actor and director Sylvester Stallone is known for a multitude of movies such as Rambo and the Rocky series. With this one, he had to actually be caught in order to have him admit it. He was detained in an airport in Australia back in 2008 for carrying a container of Human Growth Hormone (HGH). They’re very well-known for being used by bodybuilders, so there’s no denying why he had them. Stallone, however, described them as “amino acids”, softening the blow for anyone who isn’t quite sure of what that is.
This actor and former boxer has not outright admitted it, but during an interview in 2009 for his role in The Wrestler in which he got pretty beefed up, he sort of gave us a wink and a nod to what he used to gain those muscles. When asked if he used steroids to get swole for the movie, he simply said, “When I’m a wrestler, I behave like a wrestler.”
For those of you who like his podcast, you should know that the UFC commentator has actually taken PEDs, specifically testosterone, which is the hormone that most steroids try to replicate. When talking about his use of testosterone replacement therapy, he said, “I’ve been doing it for almost 10 years. What I do is take levels that are equal to what I had in my body naturally when I was 27; nothing extreme.”
You can use steroids as much as you want in your own time, and for the most part, people won’t judge you for it. In fact, a majority will never know unless you tell them. However, we cross the line when it comes to athletic events. The World Anti-Doping Agency had a survey done in 2021 that revealed that 38% of athletes tested positive for various PEDs on their prohibited list. Alongside that, the NCAA had revealed that 24% of college athletes reported that they’ve abused steroids at one point in time. It’s highly frowned upon for athletes to use PEDs in sports because, well, it’s cheating. So, let’s expose a few of these cheaters, shall we?
If you remember this period of history, you’ll remember the scandal that rocked this cyclist’s entire foundation. A seven-time Tour de France champion, he was stripped of all his titles and given a lifetime ban from the cycling competition. He was using a ton of things like blood transfusions, EPO, corticosteroids, and testosterone. He eventually admitted it on live TV to Oprah, but his fate had already been sealed by then.
A famous track and field athlete, Jones won three gold medals and two bronze ones at the 2000 Summer Olympics. She made a name for herself for being one of the most successful female black athletes of her time. Of course, once she had been tested and caught, she was not only stripped of all her medals and titles, but also was also served a six month jail sentence for lying to a grand jury.
This 1988 MLB MVP may not be as well-known as he was decades ago, but back then, he was known as “The Chemist” for his fame as a heavy steroid user. He was even given the nickname “The Godfather of Steroids” in baseball, and according to him, he’d been the one to introduce steroids to the big leagues back in 1985. He was basically the main distributor, giving anyone who would take it a good supply of PEDs. Wow, thanks Joe.
This Spanish midfielder was one of the most renowned football (soccer) players in the world. In 2001, he was tested positive for the steroid nandrolone and subsequently handed a ban of four months from football and a suspended jail sentence of seven months. He is currently retired and now a manager for the Premier League club Manchester City.
The Entire Russian Olympic Team
There’s a reason jokes are made so often about Russian athletes and steroid usage. It wasn’t until a self-exiled whistleblower revealed the existence of a state-sponsored doping program that included secret labs. After an independent investigation unveiled the truth in 2015, the entire nation was banned up until 2021, and even in 2021 at the Tokyo games, only individual Russian athletes were allowed to participate, and only under the Russian Olympic Committee flag. It’s safe to say that each one will be tested to hell and back from now on.
Wrestling is a bit of a gray area when it comes to steroids. Sometimes it’s prohibited, sometimes it’s not. However, it gets a little dicey when it comes to figuring out which ones are juiced up without having them actually admit it, since they’re all huge and muscle-y. There are, however, a few we can say for sure have taken a few injections or pills, and they might just be ones you recognize.
In his 2005 autobiography, Walking a Golden Mile, he admitted to using steroids. According to him, he had been using PEDs between 2004-2006, before announcing that he was drug-free. In 2008, he failed a drug test, which got him a ton of heat from fans and wrestling fans in general. Fans don’t like cheating, but they really don’t like it when you lie to them.
Luger has seemingly always been open about his story with PEDs. He took them in the days leading up to his wrestling career and even when playing football, where he used them during the off season. He puts heavy blame on the unrealistic standards of the industry (specifically naming the WWE founder we all know and love) and is now trying to advocate for this new generation of wrestlers to go down a more honest path.
The Ultimate Warrior
Remember this flashy superhero? Well this warrior fought battles in another way, because in a 1994 federal trial against the WWE, he said that 85%-90% of wrestlers in the WWE took steroids at one point or another in their career. That includes him. In fact, it’s thought that steroids contributed to his untimely death in 2014, when he was only 54.
Like the Warrior, Hulk Hogan also testified in the 1994 trial against the WWE, openly admitting that he did steroids in his time there. In fact, he said that he’d been taking steroids for a total of 14 years during his career. Part of the reason why was because of a belief that they were safer than sugar, and that because they were prescribed to him by doctors in the 70’s and 80’s, that they wouldn’t do any harm to him.
Ryback’s figure is what most think of when they imagine steroid users: big, hulking meatheads. Well there’s a reason for that. When CM Punk referred to him as “the steroid guy” to insult him, Ryback openly admitted to it. Better than denying it, I suppose.
So, what have we learned? Well, for the most part, there are many people who do PEDs, and for a multitude of reasons. It goes to show that you really can’t trust what you see unless you know the signs of steroid abuse, like massive traps. Even if someone denies that they’ve done steroids, it doesn’t mean they’re telling the truth. If you’re a fitness enthusiast, it’s important to understand that a good chunk of chiseled bodies you see on screen are not naturally attainable, so be careful with who you idolize body-wise.
That isn’t to say there aren’t bodies to look up to, because there are. I, personally, r/nattyorjuice, as it gives you a sense of what looks natural and what is artificially enhanced, and that includes mainstream celebrities. For example, a majority tend to agree that Henry Cavill is all natural, and he boasts one hell of a workout routine that anyone can follow.
All-in-all, you should keep working on your body if that’s your passion, and if you’re determined to go all natural with your dream body, don’t let the large prevalence of steroid abuse get you down. You do you.