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Who comes to mind when you picture a steroid user?
Close your eyes and think of the first person who pops up.
Or maybe you thought of the massive bodybuilders you sometimes see at your gym hogging the bench press or the MMA fighters or other athletes who consistently end up in the news for testing positive for banned substances.
But what are the actual signs of steroid users?
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It’s very unlikely that you picture an out of shape man or woman who is just trying to get a leg up on getting in shape.
But that’s who a large percentage of steroid users are according to Doctor Michael Scally who told Mens Health
“Of all the people I’ve seen who admit using steroids, I’d say 90 percent don’t even look like bodybuilders…they’re just using them to try to get in shape faster.”
That’s right, most people who use illegal steroids look more like the average man or woman than Conan or Rocky.
In fact what we normally associate as signs of steroid users are often signs of anabolic steroid abuse.
The jacked up guys you see on the covers of magazines like Muscular Development and Men’s Health or the guys you see at the gyms who are huge and ripped are often abusing more than using them.
There are both internal and external steroid side effects in addition to the long-term dangers, which have linked abuse to liver cancer, kidney disease, high blood pressure, strokes and heart attacks.
The external signs are:
The internal signs are:
There are also specific signs that affect men and women differently, let’s now take a look at some of the ones that affect men.
One of the easiest ways to identify steroid use or abuse in men is if they have an action hero physique.
There are anatomical limits on how big and how lean a man can get without using drugs and if you see someone who challenges those ideas, chances are he’s using.
Dr Harrison Pope M.D a professor at Harvard has even created a scale for measuring how close you are to your physiological ceiling based on a variety of factors like weight and height.
Based on the scale anything over a 26 or 27 is almost certainly on steroids or a genetic freak.
Another one of the common signs of steroid use in men is gynocomastia or enlarged breast tissue or swollen puffy nipples.
Men are also at risk for a variety of sexual side effects ranging from shrunken testicles to infertility and even erectile dysfunction.
Last but certainly not least especially for the vain bodybuilders out there is the hair loss that steroids can cause in men leading to thinning hair and even baldness.Check out the best bulking cycles here.
With women, there often is not as pronounced of a muscular gain as there is with men.
Instead women often use steroids to lean out.
While it is possible for women to naturally have “6 pack abs” often times this is a sign that a woman is getting some chemical help.
Other signs in women include:
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The last group I want to talk about when it comes to spotting steroid users is athletes.
Athletes can be one of the most difficult groups of people to detect because of the many impressive physiques found in professional sports.
In most cases we judge professional athletes on whether or not they pass “the eyeball test.” Meaning do they look like their physiques have changed over the years?
A famous example of an athlete failing the eyeball test while passing all of the required drug testing is Juan Manuel Marquez before his famous knockout win over Manny Pacquiao in their fourth fight.
Marquez showed up for the press requirements before the fight and at the weigh ins looking markedly more muscular at the age of 38 years old.
Marquez had fought to a draw and lost to pacquiao twice before the fourth fight but ended up scoring one of boxing’s most iconic knockouts of the last decade in this fight.
The eyeball test does not always tell the whole story though as you will often see athletes whose physiques are not impressive like Orlando Magic forward Rashard Lewis who was suspended for failing a test for performance enhancing drugs.
Another example is of Manny Ramirez the former Boston Red Sox slugger who never had an imposing physique before or after his drug test failure.
It makes sense that extremely competitive people who have millions of dollars on the line may be tempted to try steroids or performance enhancing drugs.
It’s also possible that millionaire athletes have access to new kinds of performance enhancing drugs that are undetectable.
There are a few signs of steroid users in bodybuilders we can look for that might point to potential use in athletes such as:
Because most of the testing is scheduled and not random, if an athlete has any issues with a drug test such as Serena Williams or MMA fighter Alistair Overeem had it is a likely sign they have something to hide.
In conclusion, while there is no typical user, there are signs of steroid use in teenagers, in men, women and athletes.
These signs range from the external like hair loss and acne to the internal like mood swings and infertility.
If you are considering using steroids, make sure that you are aware of all of the risks associated with them and make sure you speak with a doctor before starting.