Ever had someone approach you at the gym as ask if you are on steroids? It made you feel good, didn’t it? Of course it did, whether you want to admit it or not. Why? Because all of a sudden it seemed that your hard work had been noticed. Your physique had been judged and was determined to be of sufficient quality to be the result of illicit growth agents. What a compliment for a natural athlete – NOT!
How silly it is that we react this way! Would you be as flattered if a complete stranger were to approach you and say, “You look like you’ve enjoyed a good meal or two, where is the best place to get a burger?” A remark along these lines would undoubtedly insult you. After all, how dare somebody judge you solely on your appearance? They don’t know you; they don’t know your story.
In my interview with LifestyleAndStrength.com I was asked why I chose be natural. I answered:
“The reasons are endless. To list a few of the important ones – I have a wife, four kids, a career, and a drive to succeed where others say it is not possible. These take priority over all else, and I will never be able to justify jeopardizing any of these things for the sole purpose of adding muscle to my body.”
The following is why I continue to be natural.
I used to find it flattering when some random gym goer would make reference to some sort of illicit product, and ask my experience with it, as if they just “knew” or “could tell” the method in which I achieved my gains. Now, I’m more insulted than anything, and I let it be known. Why do people just assume your gains are illegitimate, simply because you look good? Envy does that to people.
“I work just as hard as that guy and I don’t look like that. He must be on steroids.”
Then they ask you about it, disguising the insult as a compliment, all the while openly attempting to discredit and negate your hard work.
Accusing or suspecting me of taking steroids only makes me stronger. It fuels my workouts. It boosts my strength. It forces that last rep. Why? Not because I’m flattered, but because I want to show the world that they “ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” Go ahead, doubt me. YOU are my steroid.
A little while back one of my sponsors posted a video of me running through the mandatory poses. It was my first video submission to my sponsor, and to be honest, I was proud of how I looked and I was very excited about the way they produced the video. As with anything that is subjected to the harsh world of social media, it was viewed and critiqued with comments I could view. The following is what one person had to say:
My mind immediately begins to race with questions. How have we come to this? How can somebody be so angry, so hurtful, and so close-minded? How is it that bodybuilding has come to be defined by the use of drugs and growth agents?
As a natural athlete, am I not entitled to enjoy a sport that makes me happy? Can the simple fact that I do not do drugs eliminate me as a participant in the world of bodybuilding? Surely this can’t be so!
Taking the stance that there is no place for natural bodybuilding is the same as saying there is no place for women’s athletics, no place for amateur athletics, and no place for youth sports. The mentality of “Go Big or Go Home” is asinine and juvenile. Sure, it’s fun to shout it out at the gym after a large set –but, I’m sure you understand the context to which I am referring.
We all need to start somewhere. I started as a naïve twenty-something with the hope of filling a tee-shirt. My goals were simple. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would someday get on stage wearing little more than a piece of a string, and pose for a room full of complete strangers. To add to that, never did I imagine that by me doing so, I would unlock the door to a world of amazing possibilities. I have achieved, in my opinion, great success from my endeavors in bodybuilding.
From my first time on stage I placed favorably, receiving many glowing compliments on my superb conditioning. With each subsequent competition the compliments only grew, as did my placing on stage – earning a pro card at my fourth competition. In my pro debut I placed third amongst six other professionals, weighing a measly 143 pounds, with the heaviest being 225. I am sponsored by three amazing companies and I write a fitness column. I’m not gloating – I’m proving a point.
Having achieved all of this on my own, without the aid of drugs and other growth agents, has only empowered and motivated me to continue in the same manner. I have adopted this lifestyle and I have made it my own. Why would I want to jeopardize all that I have achieved and risk drowning in a sea of mediocrity and normalcy? Mediocrity and normalcy, you ask? Yes. Steroids do not guarantee results. They do not guarantee fame. They do not guarantee fortune.
I have met countless people who use some sort of growth agent or substance that is otherwise banned in the realm of natural competition. Not one has even come close to looking like the monsters they are attempting to emulate. I can’t help but feel that if they had just slowed down and set realistic expectations, they could have paved the way for so much more for themselves. The drive and determination are obviously there. They obviously put in the time at the gym.
But now they are just “one of those guys.” They will most likely receive the attention and celebrity they desire from the local gym, but there will come a time when these same local admirers change their opinions to “yeah, he’s big, but he takes steroids.” Admiration will soon become envy, which will eventually evolve into disdain.
I ended my interview of LifestyleAndStrength.com by adding, “Giving into the temptation of the easy way out will not help form the character and integrity that comes from natural competition.” When it comes down to it, being a natural athlete is 100 percent a matter of integrity – the adherence to moral and ethical principles.
“Confidence… thrives on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection and on unselfish performance. Without them it cannot live.” – Franklin D- Roosevelt
It’s one thing to take performance enhancers or growth agents; it’s another to do so to shamefully compete against those that don’t. I competed against a guy in my second competition that I had become friends with at the gym. This guy looked great. He was solid and tight and had muscular definition that was just mind-boggling. His abs would show through any shirt and his arms and chest looked as though they were cut from stone. He was the very first person I went to for advice when I was considering competing. Unlike most people, the thought of performance enhancers never entered my mind. To me, steroids weren’t something that “regular’ gym guys did. That was the stuff of magazines and movies.
Anyway, to make a long story short, I competed against this guy in the open class of a natural show and I beat him. While backstage he actually said to me, “I can’t believe you (expletive) beat me.” There were no congratulations, no hand shake, and no pat on the back. Two weeks later I received an email from the promoter notifying me that this guy had failed the drug test.
Even though he had failed the drug test and it was made public to the other competitors, his unscrupulous act to compete against natural athletes caused him to take a placing ahead of another more deserving athlete. Somebody left that show not placing at all because of this act. Despite being disqualified and the final results being changed, it was not possible to reverse the events of the competition day or the fact that he left with somebody else’s trophy. Preying on others can only provide a short-lived feeling of accomplishment, at best.
“I would prefer even to fail with honor than win by cheating.” – Sophocles
“The difference between a moral man and a man of honor is that the latter regrets a discreditable act, even when it has worked and he has not been caught.” – H.L Mencken
Think long and hard before deciding to go the route of performance enhancers. In my opinion you will be hard pressed to find benefits that outweigh the costs. There will always be someone bigger than you, but is that a bad thing? The days of attempting to be the most muscular man in the world are gone. We’ve seen big and we have created bigger. No gain in size, especially at the hands of growth agents, will set you aside from the rest. Set a new standard for awesome and prove to the world that true greatness is the product of dedication and a strong moral fiber.
Be proud of who you are and what you stand for, because I sure as hell am.
MY NAME IS JC ASTORINA, AND I AM A NATURAL BODYBUILDER!
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