While steroids have become a common part of bodybuilding, they are classified as a controlled substance in many parts of the world. In a recent VICE documentary, a reporter spent time with an underground steroid dealer and a harm reduction specialist, exposing the deadly surge of performance-enhancing drug use in the United Kingdom.
“An estimated half a million young men in the UK are addicted to steroids. In fact, the Class C drug is the second-most used drug after cannabis,” said the narrator.
Once shrouded in silence, the topic of performance-enhancing drugs has emerged from the shadows in recent times, courtesy of the social media boom. In the realm of fitness and sports, steroids have several applications, such as enhancing one’s agility, strength, power, and endurance. For bodybuilding, these substances can help an athlete build muscle, recover, and train harder, which can affect how a physique looks.
In the UK, it appears steroids have become immensely popular among young men ages 16-24. With the influencer era setting unrealistic expectations, some worry that this steroid obsession will continue to spiral out of control.
Vice Documentary Meets w/ Underground Steroid Dealer, Talks Side Effects
The documentary starts by listing a few side effects that may arise as a result of steroid use which included liver and heart failure.
“But steroids come with some pretty alarming side effects including liver failure and heart failure as well as mood swings and increased estrogen which results in men needing breast reduction surgery.”
Tom Powell, an actor from Love Island, detailed his experiences with steroids like Trenbolone, revealing that the compounds shrunk his testicles.
“Tom Powell if it sounds familiar it’s because he was in season two of Love Island, he’s been openly taking steroids for a number of years now.”
“That’s not a stigma that’s fucking true, my balls are tiny,” said Powell. “My balls are pretty small.”
While he admits he looked “incredible” on Trenbolone, he said he felt like death on the inside.
“This is when I was taking Tren in my third cycle. I had a lot. My mood swings were up and down. Night terrors, which were horrible dreams every single night.
Couldn’t keep a hard-on. I looked incredible, I looked lean, I was full it was great but I felt like death.”
Given his status as a social figure and celebrity, Powell felt pressure to look a certain way and disclosed that steroids helped him with that.
“I felt pressure to stay in shape more, it wasn’t the reason why I took those steroids. It was a contributing factor, obviously, I wanted to look good all the time because you’re constantly in the public eye.”
“I met the guys I wanted to become I asked them straight away, boys talk to me about steroids are you on them? They said, ‘Yeah, you can’t get anywhere in this industry without them.’ You can go to any single gym and buy steroids within five minutes of being in there. They are very very available.”
As for the worst side effects related to his steroid use, Powell confirmed that it was gynecomastia. He talked about live streaming his gyno surgery:
“Yeah, I had gyno surgery. Gyno is a build-up of estrogen behind the nipple. I’m estrogen sensitive so when I was taking steroids my estrogen built up and stuck by my nipple basically, and it was causing pain.”
“To raise awareness [is why I live-streamed it] I know it’s a bit crazy. The more people it sees, the more people it reaches, and the more people that will see it and get checked out.”
‘The King of Gyno’ Dr. John, who completed Powell’s gyno surgery, insists there’s a widespread epidemic of the ailment in the UK.
“I do about two to three a day [gynocamatia surgeries]. Half of them are due to steroids, we’re talking about 15 in five days. So about seven or eight from steroid use. But I’m the King of Gyno,” says Dr. John.
“I genuinely can’t believe those massive glands came out of Grant’s body. Honestly, if that doesn’t put you off taking steroids, I genuinely don’t know what will,” the narrator said.
Speaking with an international steroid dealer, the VICE reporter watched him make a homemade concoction of nandrolone and a “couple of other chemicals.”
“I’m in an undisclosed location and I’m about to meet an international steroid dealer who makes steroids in his kitchen,” the narrator said. “So what’s happening now?”
“Basically, add a solution of nandrolone or deca, we’ve got the raw powder here. We put a couple of chemicals in there. I’m just finishing it off with some seed oil. This is the carrier. This is the solution,” said the masked steroid dealer.
“I mean, if you’re buying it over the internet or even from your local dealer you don’t know what the fuck you’re getting. Especially when you’re injecting it straight into your muscle, has it got hairs in it, has it got bits of fucking shit floating in it that’s going to give you sepsis,” said the dealer.
The steroid dealer emphasized that these compounds aren’t being formulated in clean sterile environments, and said, “every time you take this shit you’re risking your life.”
“Well, I’ve seen some very dirty conditions, smoking cigarettes over it and the ashes dropping in. It’s not getting filtered. I’ve seen people have injections and them go bad. They have to have their whole leg cut open and drained. It’s fucking risky. It’s risky.”
There’s not a lot of people actually making this shit. So the guy in the gym who is telling you yeah yeah this is the best, how the fuck do they know? You know what I mean. Every time you take this shit you’re risking your life. It’s a lottery. Unless you’re making this yourself or getting it from a pharmaceutical company, you don’t know what the fucks in it.”
The underground steroid dealer regretfully told the narrator that he typically sells to males from 16 to 24 years old.
“Not everybody who makes and sells drugs is trying to kill people and rinse them. Do you know what I mean? It’s a gray area.”
“It breaks my heart to say it but 16-24 [years old is my demographic].”
David Crossland, a former steroid user and bodybuilder, created a company to help minimize harm for those taking these types of drugs.
“David Crossland, a former steroid user and bodybuilder, has turned his efforts to harm reduction,” said the narrator.
“The easiest way to describe E-Val is a blood testing company for people with alternative lifestyles. It’s just about minimizing the harms that people expose them to. Be that steroids or be that recreational drugs.”
Steroids have been widely discussed as of late, especially considering the concerning number of deaths the sport has seen. Months ago, bodybuilding influencer Jo Lindner passed away at just 30 years old from a suspected aneurysm. Just yesterday, Women’s Physique IFBB Pro Kristyn Lia lost her life at 39. Thus far, there has been no comment on her cause of death.
There’s no denying that steroids have become a complicated subject in fitness and bodybuilding. However, after VICE’s documentary, perhaps extra measures like education would benefit young men in the UK amid this struggle.