Performance-Enhancing Drugs: Don’t Be Naïve

By Sean Everingham, President of Ultimate Fitness Events


Women oftentimes look in the pages of a fitness magazine or at online social media and get inspired by some of the incredible physiques of some of the women they see.  For a woman who doesn't know where to start in the gym, a great step is to hire a personal trainer.  When researching a trainer who can get them in the kind of shape they've been inspired to strive for, women will come across many "contest trainers." These are trainers who regularly train women and men to compete in fitness and bodybuilding competitions.  A look through pictures of the clients of these trainers can be quite impressive and it is likely that the target physique will be found among those pictures.  If this describes your journey so far or if you've already hired a trainer, make sure you don't fall prey to unscrupulous trainers who lead you down the path of drugs to get you that physique you're striving for.

The unfortunate fact of the matter is that some of those "inspiring" physiques you see online have been achieved by using performance-enhancing drugs.  While the scope of this article is not to pass judgment on the morals of using those drugs, it is important to always keep in mind why you were inspired in the first place.  Was it simply to get that body at all costs? Or were you attracted to that physique because to you, it represented health and balance and vigor.  If you chose the latter, then you should be avoiding the drug route and any trainer that recommends them to you at all costs.

Why would trainers even recommend this stuff in the first place?  Well two things: results and money.  A trainer can achieve results much faster and often, to a greater degree, when putting his/her clients on drugs.  Many of them are also making a lot of money from selling these drugs to their clients.  While there is no arguing that these drugs will get results quickly and that the results will often exceed that which can be achieved naturally, you will almost certainly put your health, emotional balance and long term vigor at risk for the short term benefits that the drugs provide.

The big 3 drugs out there in the industry for women now are oxandrolone, clenbuterol and thyroid drugs.

While there are others out there, touching on these 3 and the methods by which trainers get their clients to take them should give you a good start on what to be aware of.  Oxandrolone (Anavar or "Var") is perhaps the safest of the drugs out there in terms of its physical effects. It is a mild anabolic that comes in tablet or capsule form and produces very noticeable strength gains, quality muscle mass and is generally well tolerated by the liver. Sounds great right? Who wouldn't want those muscled up glutes you've been seeing on Instagram and to feel stronger? Those are the good effects, but one of the main problems with Anavar is that once you're off it, the results soon start to fade. While it is generally well tolerated by the liver, the liver will suffer if you use it as a long-term solution (beyond 6-8 weeks). Furthermore, the body as an adaptive machine will become used to the dosages and will need more in order to continue to see results; this will become even worse on the liver.  The psychological effects of not being able to maintain your shape no matter how hard you work or how strict your diet is can become very damaging and the fact is, that Anavar produces results beyond what can be achieved or maintained naturally. Picture being a sprinter and the fastest person in the world able to run the 100m in 10 seconds while on drugs. Imagine then getting off the drugs (or being forced off due to damaging effects or decreasing results from the drugs with time) and, no matter what you do, never being able to reach that speed again.  Not only would this be depressing, but you would likely want to run back to the drugs in order to get back the speed you had. This is the beginning of a downward spiral, similar to someone who chases after the feeling of their first high when using street drugs.

The next two drugs are much more dangerous, not just emotionally as described, but physically as well.  


Clenbuterol (or "clen") is a drug that comes in tablet, capsule or syrup form and many contest trainers will recommend to help someone shed body fat (even though its medicinal use is as an asthma medication and a bronchodilator in animals) Again, who doesn't love a lean, mean physique?  However, clenbuterol has side effects that include at the extreme, scarring of the heart tissue.  There have also been several reported cases of sudden cardiac arrest with users of clenbuterol, though many of those who died were also using other drugs so it can't be determined for sure whether clenbuterol was partly or solely responsible. Finally, thyroid drug (cytomel, T3, T4, thyroxin and other names) is a clear liquid or tablet that is responsible for increasing your thyroid output and massively increasing your metabolism to help strip fat extremely quickly. Like so many other drugs though, the body tries to adapt by down regulating its own output of, in this case, thyroid hormone. Taken too long, or stopped/started too abruptly or taken in too high a dosage and the user could encounter permanent thyroid deficiency and be forced to take this drug for life under medical supervision. The metabolism cannot even come close to being as "stoked" naturally as with this drug so once the user either stops the cycle on their own, or is forced to stop the cycle, it becomes impossible to maintain the same kind of physique.

Most times, trainers will not bluntly offer you drugs like this. Sometimes, once they get to know you, they will offer you a "supplement" that they got to help you burn fat/lose weight, but they won't tell you exactly what it is. Another way women fall victim to these drugs is getting on the competition scene and competing in untested shows where others are using drugs. Maybe the trainer sells their client on dreams of the Olympia stage only to have that client get discouraged when they get beat over and over by others who are using drugs. Then the trainer "helps" their client get the right "stuff" to put them on an even playing field with these other competitors.

So what should you do? 

First of all, always keep in mind why you started your fitness journey and be patient with the process. If you are in this to reach a goal, but also for long-term health, balance and vitality, then keep that in mind and don't let any short term goals steer you away from that. Remember, you need that body to last you for 80+ years, not just through your 20's and 30's. Second, even if you love your trainer, don't purchase anything from them.  Go to your local supplement store to pick up any "suggested" supplements. If you can't find it on the shelves of a big supplement retailer, chances are you shouldn't be taking it.  Finally, do your research into your trainer. Not only should they have a valid certification, but also you want to see where their contest clients are competing. If they have their clients in exclusively untested shows, that could be a warning that the trainer condones and perhaps even facilitates the use of drugs.