Can A Non-Steroid User Compete Today? (Ironman Magazine, 1973)

steroids3Here’s a fascinating article from the annals, written by Joe Gallucci for Ironman Magazine in 1973 (33/1) about the growing drugs scene in Bodybuilding. Some of the arguments and accusations put across by Gallucci will be familiar to modern day Bodybuilding fans concerned with drugs in the sport.

At the recent Mr. East Coast physique contest I was conversing with Joe Dodd and Ron Jumper about the ever present drug problem facing bodybuilders everywhere. We all agreed that bodybuilders who do not take steroids are like crippled runners in a race with speedy sprinters. It seems that as the drug users multiply, small groups of non drug users, such as ourselves, become disgusted and disheartened in this useless competition. We have only three paths to consider:

  1. to use drugs
  2. become frustrated as non drug users
  3. drop out of competition

It seems that quite a few of the top potential physiques who refuse to take drugs and who would be excellent representatitives as Mr. America ( Curt Haywood, Carl Smith) have been forced to resort to the latter alternative.

One teenager I met at the East Coast competition, Greg DeFerro, showed concern and diapproval of the drug scene. He had witnessed many New York area bodybuilders who had taken drugs and he was startled over their amazing physical progress. He felt as if the true sense of the word competition was gone from bodybuilding and that the winner would ultimately be the largest drug abuser. His last question was one I did not have an answer for (at the time): “What can we healthy athletes do to compete against the steroid men?”

Is there a drug scene?

Many readers who mearly read the various strength magazines are not fully aware that their “heroes,” who are illustrated on these pages are, more than likely, a product of anabolic-androgenic steroids. It is estimated that greater than 90 percent of the first five to ten physique contestants in national contests are taking some form of steroids. Just look at their progress. years earlier, men such as Reg Park and J. Abbenda relied on hard work, nutrition, proper training methos and rest to acquire slow, steady gains and build championship physiques through a process of years. Today, physique men may train for a year or two, find out about drugs and then skyrocket towards tremendous physical gains. how many physique men today were prominent a year or two ago ?

The prefabricated drug bodies of today take on a two fold look. Some have attained the bloated, swollen face and fingers along with a heavy abdominal area. I categorize this appearance as “the Dianabol Bloat.” Their bodies seem to be blown up. The second look stresses skeleton-like facial features with unbelievable “cuts” and vascular blood vessels appearing in places never before seen on the human anatomy. This look dominates at contest time when the bodybuilders use special medication to withdraw a great deal of water from their bodies. This temporary condition is quite dangerous to the homeostatic balances of the body. Both these looks share one common factor: tremendous quantities of drugs have been used to attain these desired effects.

Why do they take drugs ?

If there is a drug scene in bodybuilding, why do the competitors take drugs ? This question is entirely individualistic. Each competitor trains with a desire to win. We all place value on winning, our familes, friends, employment and a host of other things. However, it is the egomaniac, the one who places himself above all else, who is most likely to forget all warnings and dangers and condone taking the dangerous vehicles to destruction. The desire to win becomes too great and takes precedence over all else. Winning becomes the number one goal in life. Any means obtainable to secure winning is passionately sought after. Certainly we all like to win, but by jeopardizing our health and placing a higher value on bodybuilding and winning than all other things, are we really “champions” who are wll adjusted and who should be emulated by others ?

One famous eastern bodybuilding contestant demonstrates his superself ego mania quite often. He is always found at local contests telling everyone how he should have won and beat them all. He also has plenty of photos of himself to show others how really great he is!!

At the 1972 Mr America contest I was told the “secret” of what I must do to win the 1973 Mr. America title. These secrets were personally given to me by fellow contestants:

  1. “Take six weeks off and train at Art Jones’ Gym in DeLand.”
  2. “Take a month off and train in California, espeically at Pearl’s.”
  3. “I have a grocery bill of $50 – $60 weekly for me alone” (not including his wife)
  4. “Get with the drugs.”

Following this advice, I would be sacrificing my college education, my job, my family and friends, my fiancee, and my health. All these things I place far greater value on than winning.

What is being done to combat the drug problem?

To answer this question simply, “Almost nothing!” The honest, hard working, non drug competitor has literally no chance of winning the big, national titles in the present decade. The judging system favors the extremely large massive and incredible “cut,” vascular physique. Both conditions can be attained through drugs. The personal interview part counts for only one-sixteenth of the total score of a contestant. How can the social, emotional and mental fitness of a competitor be valued so meaninglessly when the degree of total fitness of each individual is what the judging pannel is attempting to measure?

At the national committee meeting in Kansas, drug use was discussed but, according to reports, no legislation was enacted to prohibit or detect drug abusers. The Mr. America judging panel asks the contestants yearly what they think of the drug situation and that is as far as the question is considered. I once wrote the National AAU office in New York asking for help or advice in colving the drug problem. I didn’t even receive a reply. It seems as if a laissez-faire attitude exists concerning drug usage for bodybuilders.

New Ideas May Help

I, for one, am not ready to sit back and watch the drug boys take over the sport. I believe they will not only ruin their health but will ruin the physique game as well. I believe there are many non-drug contestants like Dodd, Jumper, Haywood, Smith, DeFerro and myself who are disappointed in their state an dnational officials who have not shown action or support in combatting the drug problem. Mr. Peary Rader, through his magazine, has pritned various articles discouraging drug use.

I am sure some magazin publishers know of some bodybuilders who have not used drugs and who have sacrificed long, hard years to develop their physiques. Why not write an articles about these lesser known contestans and their meritorious struggle to compete in a pro-steroid world. Why not publish pictures of them periodically and caption each picture with, “it is believed he has attained his physique without the use of dangerous steroids.” Wow! Young readers can be encouraged to attain championship physiques without drug use.

My strongest suggestion in combatting the drug problem is to organize a physique contest which favors the physically fit, All-American, clean cut competitor. Certainly the cheif criteria for winning should be the physique, however, other factors should also be stressed. here is a general breakdown in scoring rules:

Mr. Health and Fitness Of America Contest
25 per cent Physical Fitness
test battery points
25 per cent Symmetry 50
25 percent Size & Muscularity 50
25 per cent General Appearance
a) Interview, Appearance, Presentation of Self 25
b) Posing, Presentation of Routine 25
Total Points 200

The physical fitness test bater consists of various physical tests which stress the physical fitness components of Strength, endurance, cardio-vascular endurance, speed, agility and flexibility. Here is a sample test battery which could be administered by the officials one day prior to the physique contest:

  1. pullups required: 20 or rope climb – no feet to be used.
  2. standing broad jump requred: 7 feet 4 inches.
  3. Trunk extension required: 9 inches difference.
  4. Agility run required: 18.5 seconds
  5. 440 yard run required: under 70 seconds

Since most national physique contests are heal in high schools, colleges or YMCAs, there should not be any difficulty in acquiring the equipment necessary to conduct the tests. Each test is worth 10 points. A contestant must fufill the requirements of each test to receive the full 10 points. Bodybuilders will have to develop and improve their performace in some of these demanding tests but the end result will be his proof of being a physically fit athlete. An unphysically fit steroid user will have difficulty performing the requirements of these tests and will be at a disadvantage to the physcially fit natural non-drug user.

The general appearance category comprises one-fourth of the total poitns and is gien emphasis to judge the mental, social and posing preparation of each contestant.

It was also suggested by some officials at the Mr. America contest last year, that a liver function blood test and a urinalysis be taken from each contestant to determine if there is liver or kidney damage which are primary signs of steroid use. This might prove a good idea when organizing a contest usch as the Mr. Health and Fitness Contest of America.

These are my suggestions to help in combatting the drug problem. I would like to have these ideas considered by other bodybuilders and officials and receive their comments. Possibly, the Mr. Health and Fitness of America contest could be run by an organization such as the AAU and a true, ideal, athletic representative of the sport of bodybuilding could be chosen yearly. Maybe then, young bodybuidlers such as Greg DeFerro can look forward to competing on a competitive level with their peers and the sport of bodybuilding will have regained the “competitiveness” in the true healthy sense.



11 thoughts on “Can A Non-Steroid User Compete Today? (Ironman Magazine, 1973)

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  1. Ha! I’m learning a lot about a whole new area totally foreign to me by dropping by your blog occasionally. Think I’m gonna follow so I can continue my “education” (even though I’m actually a woman and retired – this stuff is fascinating!)

  2. I don’t think that actual athletic activities should be part of bodybuilding contests. But I do wish physiques would go back to the way they were in the 1950s, much more aesthetic and classical.

    Bodybuilders today are freakishly huge and inhuman-looking. The contest judges should have put the kibosh on this nonsense a long time ago, instead of giving *more* points for unsightly monstrous mass. It’s become a freak show. But decades ago, it was an art exhibit.

    1. I agree with you about not having athletic activities. It’s not really part of the sport anymore. Have to think that if the judges asked for a mandatory stomach vacuum pose as Frank Zane has lobbied for in the past we would see the end of the mass monsters quick!

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