Compiling Steroid Talk from Great Muscle Champions

I am collecting old magazines and digitalizing them on my computer; further, I am downloading a lot of old material from forums and paid-membership websites, so I have a ton of information. In this article, I want to compile all old-time bodybuilders who had an opinion about steroids and further talked about steroid abuse. Of course, the list is not perfect, and so it will be updated monthly.

Bill Pearl

Bill Pearl was born in 1930 and is still alive and healthy today. For me, Bill Pearl’s name coming up alongside steroid abuse is confusing. There’s a rare interview, which was published in the German magazine Sport Revue Issue #142. The editor-in-chief of that magazine, Albert Busek, invited Pearl to come to Munich, Germany. Albert Busek took beautiful pictures of Bill. On the front cover, he is posing in nature. The magazine consists of more great pictures.

Bill toured through Munich and visited some famous tourist attractions, and, at the end of the day, Bill Pearl made a guest posing appearance at the German Bodybuilding Championship, promoted by Busek. The crowd went wild, and Bill had to sign a lot of autographs.

Busek interviewed Pearl, and he asked him, “Did you take steroids before a contest?”

Bill said that he never used steroids before a contest. The first time he encountered steroids was in 1958. The University of California was conducting research on the effectiveness of anabolic steroids. The scientists asked Bill Pearl if he would like to take part. He gladly offered himself to science and took steroids for about three months, according to the doctor’s instructions.

According to Bill Pearl, “My body weight increased to 114 kg, and I was strong like never before.”

Looking for more answers, I came across an old seminar that Bill Pearl presented in 1980.[1]

Dennis B. White asked Bill, “Have you ever taken steroids?”

Bill Pearl said that he had taken steroids but never for competition. He told the same story; he only took steroids for science.

According to Bill Pearl, “I’ve only taken them for a brief period of time back in 1967, for a 6–8-week period under a doctor’s supervision.”

Bill’s statement puzzled me. In the German magazine, Bill said that he had taken steroids in 1958. At that time, Bill was 28 years old and was not competing.

source: musclememory.com

I tried to find a photo or cover shot from 1958 but found nothing. Nevertheless, there is a beautiful cover photo from 1957 of a thin Bill Pearl, which was published by Health and Strength, and, three years later, there is another photo taken after Bill took steroids, in which he is jacked and powerful looking.

As already mentioned, Bill Pearl said in the English interview that he started taking steroids in 1967, but in the German magazine, Bill mentioned that he started in 1958. We now have two different statements. It could be that Bill Pearl decided to help science in both ‘58 and ‘67. Who knows? There is no mention of Bill’s dosage in any literature.

In addition, in the year 1967, Bill won the Universe Pro NABBA Competition, and he gained a lot of mass! Bill wrote in his book that he was a natural at the competition. [2]

Ric Drasin (1944—2020)

Ric was known for training with Arnold Schwarzenegger and for his great interview series entitled “Ric’s Corner”. In the beautiful magazine Muscle Digest, published in 1978, there’s great cover story of the young Ric Drasin. [3]

Further, Ric Drasin admitted the use of steroids and wrote, “I have met a lot of bodybuilders from all over the world, who come to Santa Monica to train at Joe Gold’s World Gym with aspirations of becoming great champions. Some have potential, but most will never make it. These men have given up good-paying jobs and have moved their families to Los Angeles to live in a shack on the beach and starve to make it in bodybuilding. Along with that, they risk their health by pumping huge quantities of steroids into their bodies. (…) My advice is to forget the steroids. I’ve taken them off and on for a long time and because of them, I have lost my left kidney and have had liver malfunctions.”

Larry Scott (1938—2014)

Larry was known as the first person to compete and win the Mr. Olympia title. In the world of bodybuilding, he had cult status, and,in the early 2000s, Larry Scott used to run a message board, on which he answered questions.

User “ScottishGary” started a thread entitled, “What dosages of steroids were used in the 1960s?”

Larry Scott was friendly enough to answer that question. He wrote: “It was only Dianabol and max 10 g, which was such a low dose; no one experienced gyno.”

I checked my magazine archive but had no luck; there’s no article with more information about Larry’s thoughts on drugs.

Dave Draper

Dave Draper, nicknamed the “Blond Bomber,” is really a treasure in the world of bodybuilding. He authored books on the topic of golden-era bodybuilding. If I remember correctly, Mr. Draper lived a minimalist lifestyle. He pursued a physical job, and, once he saved enough money, he took time off and devoted himself fully to bodybuilding. He lived and trained in a log cabin, far from civilization. He loved to train outside in the great outdoors; the environment helped him develop a unique body.

I admire Dave Draper’s life journey, and his open approach to steroids. In his excellent book, Brother Iron Sister Steel, he briefly touched on steroids.

According to Dave, “I was 10 years into my training, 235 pounds, and already Mr. America before steroids came widely on the scene. I used them sparingly under a doctor’s supervision and noticed a marked improvement in my muscularity and separation. I also noticed a marked loss of improvement as I stopped taking them, and this was the big catch.”

Don Ross

Don Ross was the Mr. America titleholder and friends with the famous bodybuilder Tom Platz.

Mr. Ross wrote the following about the steroids[4]: “Don’t consume a lot of salt while working for maximum definition. Salt will make you retain water and cause bloated, puffy tissue. I might mention here, too, that the anabolic steroids that some bodybuilders use to gain size cause more water retention than salt! Those ‘fantastic size gains’ experienced by steroid users are mostly water weight! Keep your health and gain more cuts by avoiding these dangerous drugs.”

Saladin El Amin

In 1975, he won the title of Mr. Alaska, and journalist Dennis B. White interviewed him. The article is called, “His Success Story”. Saladin said that he loved to read American magazines, and his family was religious, which is why he never touched steroids.

According to Saladin [5], “I would never use steroids. The Islamic religion forbids any use of alcohol, drugs, and any synthetic chemical compositions. This refers to anything foreign in your body. Such drugs are dangerous to the respiratory system in that they congest and constipate the body’s cell system by retaining water and other substances that your body should be eliminating. Any competitive bodybuilder or power-lifter taking such drugs should be denied further participation in contests.”

Steve Reeves

Steve Reeves starred in movies like Hercules, Duel of the Titans and his muscular appearance set a trend in motion; many young people were concerned with muscle-building and emulated Steve Reeves.

About steroids, Steve had this to say: “I don’t believe in bodybuilders using steroids. If a man doesn’t have enough male hormones in his system to create a nice hard, muscular body, then he should play ping-pong.”

Charles Atlas Smith & Dave Johns

Mr. America Dave Johns

Charles Atlas Smith was heavily involved in the health and fitness industry. He also worked for Iron Man magazine, which was managed by Peary Rader. Dennis B. Weis exchanged letters with him, and the content is gold. Dennis runs a great website (dennisbweis.com), on which he sells some old-time books, including the scanned letters from Charles Atlas Smith.

Dave Johns was a famous Black bodybuilder known for his big arms. Sadly, he died young, at the age of 41.

Charles wrote about his cause of death as follows: “Johns actually died from a particularly nasty disease, colloquially called ‘Valley Fever.’ Its scientific name is coccidioidomycosis. It is a fungal anemia disease mostly present in some of the California valleys. Women rarely contract it, and only 1% of Caucasians can get it. 20-25% of Black people, Mexicans, and Filipinos get it. It is fatal in 50-60% of cases and has two forms: one progressive, and the other acute. There is little that can be done in the progressive stage, apart from shoving you in bed and pumping you full of mega vitamins and antibiotics. Its incubation period is 10-20 days. Johns had gone to the hospital complaining of severe respiratory distress. They shoved him in bed, and off he popped. They couldn’t make a diagnosis, so they did an autopsy. They found one lung collapsed, the other abscessed, and his liver shot to hell and back. The diagnosis was Valley Fever.

In every manual I have, it instructs that if there are any patients with chest trouble in California, and a diagnosis can’t be made, then Valley Fever should be suspected, but my daughter told me that since Johns used steroids a lot, which is what laid him open to the disease since steroids lower the body’s resistance to infection, much like AIDS.”

Mohamed Makkawy

Mohamed Makkawy, the magical Egyptian bodybuilder, was born in 1943 in Panta, Egypt. He won the title of Mr. Egypt in 1969, which was the first physique competition in which he took part. He started strength-training at the Arab Contractor’s Club in Cairo. Later, he moved to America and trained with Vince Gironda.

According to Mohamed [6],“I went immediately on all meat diet that I used when preparing for a contest. I know that most bodybuilders consider this to be outdated, but Vince always has me eat beef only when preparing for a contest. We feel that a great many bodybuilders today have lost a lot of size because they have lowered their beef intake during contest preparation. They then take anabolic steroids to try to keep their muscle size. Vince, as you know, does not believe in this.”

Dennis Tinerino

Dennis Tinerino did not take any medication until he was 22 years old. He earned his titles and achievements with challenging work. He claims that European bodybuilders started using steroids first, and the results were incredible. Dennis toyed with the idea of starting, too.

Dennis said, “Well, if I’m going to compete, then I’m going to have take the drugs.”

In one of his seminars [7], he told a story about someone he knew who only took steroids to look good on the beach. The young man had no competitive ambitions, and Dennis said that he “couldn’t understand the world anymore,” which made the seminar audience laugh.

For a long time, Dennis was a natural and won numerous titles. At some point, he got to a competitive level in which everyone around him was doping.

Dennis said, “I wanted to win other titles, and all the people I was competing against were on anabolic steroids, and I found myself getting caught up in that vicious cycle.”

The famous Mr. America titleholder and friend of Dennis, Tom Sansone, died due to an aggressive form of cancer.

On his deathbed, he whispered to Dennis, “Please tell people never to take steroids.”

Taking steroids made Dennis stronger, taller, and lift more weight, but the side effects were severe.

According to Dennis, So, you get esoteric results, but I did have side effects when I was taking them. Number one, the biggest problem that I had was the emotional problems, the aggressiveness, the restless nights, not sleeping, problems with my kidneys and liver (…) I remember it took nine months for my body to recuperate and get back to its normal state before I started taking them again. So, you become physically and psychologically addicted to them.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold is the godfather of bodybuilding and never made it a secret that he used steroids. In the magazine Sport Revue Issue #120, I read a report from Arnold himself that he started doping in 1968. My German archive is now quite large; I have books, and a lot of historical magazines, but Arnold never gave any details about what kind of drugs he took in any of them. I found a contemporary witness named Harald Maurer, who lived in Gratz, Austria during Arnold’s time and trained with him in the early ‘60s. He said the amounts that he and his weightlifting friends took were ridiculously small. I have published a more detailed article on the subject and linked it for you here: https://neckberg.com/schwarzenegger-was-forced-to-take-steroids/

Many websites claim to have Arnold’s doping plan, but no one can name the source. Therefore, such articles are ghostwritten and incorrect and should not be taken seriously by anyone.

(Note: If anybody owns old magazines with interviews, in which the champions are talking about drugs, then feel free to send me an email at neckbergcom@yahoo.com. Thanks!)

Works Cited:

1.Bill Pearl’s Super Seminar 1980, Dennis B Weiß
2. Beyond the Universe: The Bill Pearl Story
3. Muscle Digest – Februar March 1978
4. From “How To Attain Definition by Ross”, Published: Unknown
5. Iron Man – Jan 1977
6. YES! THIS IS HOW I DID IT, Published: Unknown
7. Iron Man – July 1979

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