I have had a love for exercise and building muscles for as long as I can remember. In 1997, I entered my first bodybuilding competition to support a friend who had wanted to compete for a while. There were 13 competitors in my class and several of the guys were visibly on something. I heard many of them backstage talking about the combinations of drugs they were using. Some even asked me what I was on. It was beyond me why anyone would even think that I was using anything. After all, I was the smallest guy on stage and only weighed 138 pounds! Although I had no expectations of doing well, I ended up winning third place.
Since then I have competed very successfully many times and still compete to this day. I have never used drugs or fat burners of any kind, nor have I ever been tempted to do so. While there is no denying that drugs can help build bigger muscles, it turns out that bodybuilding contests are about much more than just muscle size. There’s a reason the biggest competitors onstage aren’t always the winners. Competitors are also assessed on muscle shape, symmetry, definition, and overall conditioning. It’s all about presenting the complete package.
Too many people believe that drugs are the answer to getting that dream physique much faster. They think that they won’t have to train as hard and they might not need to be as strict with their nutrition. Symmetry, shape, and muscle maturity are elements that we just can’t buy. No matter what, these qualities can only be achieved through years of proper nutrition and dedication in the gym. Over the years, I’ve seen many people come and go. The majority of them don’t last long in the industry because they fail to respect the process. A great physique is not built overnight. Besides, like everything else in life, the harder you work at it the more you respect and appreciate it over time.
One of the most important reasons I stay clear of drugs is my health. Both my physical health and mental health are top priorities for me. I explain in “Why I Compete” that bodybuilding and bodybuilding competitions are merely extensions of the healthy lifestyle that I choose to live. While some might argue that steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs are safe, I’ve met way too many young men and women using drugs who ended up with physical or mental health problems, and in some cases both. For me, the risk certainly doesn’t outweigh the reward, and throwing drugs into the equation certainly does not fit into what I believe is healthy living.
There is also a financial cost associated with the use of drugs. I’ve met guys who’ve spent a few thousand dollars getting ready for local shows. Years ago, I even met a guy who remortgaged his house to finance his drug use as he attempted to make it to the national level! It’s often said that if you want to play in the big leagues, then you have to play big-league games. It’s not uncommon to hear of top IFBB pros regularly spending tens of thousands of dollars on steroids, growth hormone, insulin, diuretics, and various other drugs. But while it is true that you can get bigger and stronger quickly, I’ve seen many people lose those gains just as fast as they’ve acquired them. I’ve seen guys who look big and lean one month, then they are visibly smaller and pack on much more fat the next. The way they look often depends on whether or not they have money. No wonder many of them end up dealing with depression or exit the industry quickly.
I certainly have no illusions of making a living as a professional bodybuilder. Sponsorship is certainly not what it used to be and, with the exception of a few contests, prize money (if you win) barely covers any expenses related to competing. With the price of gas, utility bills, food, and just about everything else on the rise, it is increasingly difficult to even afford regular supplements like protein powders, glutamine, and BCAAs. Adding drugs to the list of expenses becomes absolutely ridiculous.
I could list many more reasons why I choose to stay clean, but if the few that I describe here don’t convince people that drugs are not the way to go, then nothing will. Personally, I have no interest in experimenting with insulin, growth hormone, and a concoction of various other drugs. I don’t want to have to worry if what I am getting is good (many of the drugs people are using today aren’t made by pharmaceutical companies, and oftentimes they’re fake), if I am going to get sick, if it’s going to work, and how much it’s going to cost. I am faced with enough stressors on a daily basis; I have no interest in boosting my cortisol levels by worrying about the legal implications of using drugs, the consequences on my family life, or getting caught at contest time.
There are very few guys that were competing with me in the late ‘90s that still compete today. As a matter of fact, many of them have stopped training altogether. For many different reasons other than aesthetics, training is a top priority in my life. But then again, so are my kids, my wife, my friends, my hobbies, my other sports, and both my jobs. I have found a good balance between everything that matters and nothing in the world is worth sacrificing that.
. . . Steve Duperre, IDFA Pro