What follows is simply my opinion. It is not intended to be a criticism of or an attack on those who hold a different opinion or who have made different choices than I have. I offer my perspective simply so people know what my personal values are and perhaps to help those who are still figuring out their own.
I was very naïve when I first began my adventure into competing. I knew that the NPC didn’t test for the use of illegal substances, and I knew steroid use was a given in both men’s and women’s bodybuilding, but I innocently believed that the other categories were mostly free of such influences, especially at the amateur level. I even had difficulty accepting the idea that most pro competitors use or have used them because I idolized them. In every interview in all of the fitness magazines, they each claimed that they achieved their incredible physiques just through clean eating and hard training. I bought it hook, line, and sinker. I internalized the rhetoric that if I train hard and eat clean, I can look just like my fitness role models.
Unfortunately, that’s pretty much bullshit. Most, if not all, of those famous hard bodies of the fitness industry that I admired are not just products of hard training and clean eating. They had some help from illegal supplements. Now I don’t fault anyone who has used them for lying about it. Possession of steroids is a felony, so publicly admitting to using them is downright stupid. But I have to say that when I finally realized the way things really are, I felt profoundly betrayed and disappointed. I felt that my heroes had misled me. I knew when I competed in figure that I didn’t look like most of the other competitors – I was small, my shoulders were sloped instead of capped, and I wasn’t as ripped as the other girls. Was I still in great shape? Absolutely. But my conditioning was qualitatively different than most of the other competitors (although this was clearly due in part to the relatively short period of time I had been training). At the time, I placed all of the blame squarely on myself – I didn’t train hard enough, I didn’t diet the right way. I felt that I looked different because of my personal shortcomings. I didn’t ever consider that they might have had an advantage over me because of steroid use. This realization is partly why I decided to switch divisions and compete in bikini instead of figure – the ideal physique in bikini is more realistic for me to achieve without using steroids.
However, I did go through a period several months ago where I seriously considered using steroids. I had been told by someone whose opinion I respected that I could never be competitive in the NPC in figure without using them, which hit me hard. I was beginning to realize how prevalent their usage is, even at the amateur level, and I even researched some of the more commonly used options and was surprised by how mild the side effects and risks for some of them are. The appeal of getting ripped while adding muscle in a short period of time (particularly since I seem to be a bit of a hard gainer) was undeniable. And to be honest, I don’t object to the use of steroids on the grounds of “cheating.” If you choose to compete in an organization that doesn’t test, then pretty much everyone is doing it anyway.
After some serious contemplation and vacillation, I finally decided that dabbling in steroids was not a path I wanted to go down. First, I think that if you do use them, steroids should be a last resort after you have exhausted all other options. Until recently, I hadn’t followed a structured training and eating plan for more than a few months at a time, so I am not even close to realizing what my physical potential is yet. I want to know what kind of body I can build without steroids before deciding whether the benefit of using them outweighs the cost. The fitness industry is rife with “quick-fix” solutions and doing a cycle of steroids would have been just that to me – a quick way to put on muscle and get ripped that would take far less time and effort than the conventional way of putting on muscle. I am not a “quick fix” type of girl. I want to put in the work and earn my results over time, even if they are less impressive and take longer. I want to know that every inch of progress and improvement I make is completely mine to own. I don’t want to share the credit for my results with steroids. I don’t want to wonder how much of it was me and how much of it was the pills I popped every day.
Second, I am a horrible liar and hate being deceptive. I don’t think I could live with myself having to either lie about using steroids or to being honest about using them and dealing with the fallout. I want to be a role model for others, and I don’t want to betray the people who look up to me the same way I felt betrayed when I realized my fitness heroes weren’t natural. When I say that my body is the result of hard training and clean eating, I want it to be 100% true, no fine print or dirty little secrets.
Third, the fact that steroid possession carries a felony charge scared the shit out of me, especially since I have to travel so much for work. The thought of carrying steroids through TSA practically caused a panic attack.
Finally, there are risks and side effects to every kind of illegal supplement out there. I firmly believe the pursuit of fitness should be based on a foundation of good health, although I admit to having a hard time morally with some of the less-than-healthy practices that are a normal part of competition prep.
In a world where “everyone is doing it,” I don’t mind being the weirdo who goes against the grain. In fact, I feel there is some honor in it. I just want to be me, the best possible version of me, but not at any cost. In an industry where everyone is surgically enhanced, unnaturally tan, and uses whatever means necessary to achieve an amazing body, I am content to small-busted (I am down to a 32A people!), white as hell (except for the occasional spray tan of course), and with perhaps a less competitive physique than my counterparts. Staying true to my own personal values trumps a first place trophy in my book every time.