Inside the Underground Market Where Bodybuilders Find Dangerous, Illegal SteroidsNot the svelte, toned of an athlete, the he anabolic steroid sell, but the kind that comes after shedding pounds from a 6-foot-1 frame. Now he looked sickly, worse than he had at pounds. He'd hoped that losing the weight would reveal a physique that was sculpted and muscular. Instead, he felt weak. John's doctor diagnosed an eating anaoblic.
Attention Required! | Cloudflare
Not the svelte, toned of an athlete, the he wanted, but the kind that comes after shedding pounds from a 6-foot-1 frame. Now he looked sickly, worse than he had at pounds. He'd hoped that losing the weight would reveal a physique that was sculpted and muscular. Instead, he felt weak. John's doctor diagnosed an eating disorder.
He put on some muscle mass. Still, it was nothing like the bodybuilder frame he was aiming for. Then he found a shortcut to achieve the "attractive, masculine" form he wanted: He bought it online and injected it into his gluteal muscles with a 1.
It took a couple weeks, but he started seeing gains that seemed impossible without steroids. His confidence skyrocketed first. Then came the physical effects: He looked massive and muscular, even when he hadn't been exercising. But there were some drawbacks. John has been using steroids, including powdered testosterone that he filters and vials himself, for about a year.
John's case of steroid use is far from isolated. Anabolic-androgenic steroids have long been widely used, the worst-kept dark secret of the bodybuilding world. They let guys with small frames, like John, add huge amounts of mass in a short time. With the advent of online communities and underground marketplaces in the un-Google-able Dark Web, the use of illegal steroids is on the rise.
And so are its dangers. An aspiring bodybuilder, he was hospitalized after pinning — the slang used in the bodybuilding community for "injecting" — an alcohol-and-oil compound called Synthol. They said everything in there, all my muscles, were rock," he told the Daily Mail. And it isn't hard to find. Alves may have scored Synthol from other users in his gym, or even on Amazon , where it's sold as a "posing oil.
But overwhelmingly, the community urged him to rethink a decision that could almost unimpeachably kill him. If you suffer some type of stroke, you could face horrendous consequences such as becoming paralyzed.
It's cute you think you're just going to jump off into death, you're not. You'll be alive in sweet, sweet agony, wishing you were. These young bodybuilders seem conscious of the extent of potential damage. Wary of their peers going overboard, they provide online guidance and tough love.
They don't hesitate to criticize fellow users for cavalier behavior or remaining uninformed about the drugs they're injecting. The risks are more serious than many people think: Steroids are not cartoon formulas that shrink testicles "testicular atrophy" and cause rage issues — at least, not exclusively.
People who abuse anabolic steroids can suffer heart attacks and die. A recent article from T Nation, a website dedicated to the "pursuit of muscle," listed more than 30 bodybuilders who died from heart-related complications. Still, on the extreme side, young users like the one pictured above up their dosage and face the possibility of a painful death. Without close examination of the images of illicit drugs or the complicated soup of characters that make up the market's Web address, drug boutiques on the Dark Web look like any other retailer.
Scroll through pages of steroid compounds named Testosterone Propionate and Anavar and Tren E, packages of syringes and orally ingestible Winny. Select what you want, enter your contact and shipping information, then hit "buy. Its owner, who goes by "Spartacus" online, operates as a middleman. Each week, Spartacus said, he ships 50 orders from two Dark Web marketplaces.
Sometimes that's only 50 products. But occasionally, he claims, the orders are from more serious users who request a variety of products called a stack , and Spartan Labs OZ will send upwards of performance-enhancing drugs to locations all around the world. Of the roughly 17, members of Reddit's most popular steroid forum, only a quarter aren't using steroids. And then, lastly, people who self-medicate since testosterone-replacement therapy is difficult to get in many countries, or people who just enjoy the use of anabolics," Eric told Mic , referring to anabolic steroids, or the steroids used for bodybuilding.
He insists anabolics are "not dangerous in informed applications," but recognizes "they can do harm without proper knowledge of how to use them. But online, that information is a click away.
In general the juicing population is getting younger. Lots of teens browse Moreover, the quality, purity and reliability of steroids are improving. More drugs are "what the label actually says" they are, Eric said. They put more power and resources in the buyer's hands. But more accessibility means more users. John knows there will be aftermath. He assumes he'll lose hair, that his exacerbated acne will leave scars.
But for the most part, he says, he plays it safe. He tries everything he can to avoid liver toxicity, which can lead to liver failure and slow death — something he wouldn't have known to monitor without the self-help library of his steroid community.
Steroid use isn't slowing down. It's easier than ever for the younger versions of John and Eric to find ways to buy raw testosterone from an overseas vendor, mix it up, put it in a syringe and inject it into their muscles.
But unlike the guys before them, they'll go in with a plan. They'll be forum lurkers. They'll know all the sources and the best bang for the buck. So when it's time to stick in that needle, they won't inject themselves with tainted gear.
Because with communities ready to step in and help guide informed decisions, maybe they'll be the last generation to read viral news stories about bodybuilders who died too young.