On April 27 of 2013, ironGangsta.com posted a commendable article titled, “Bodybuilding’s Dirty Little Secrets” which addresses the dishonesty and marketeering that have obscured muscle-developing realities since at least the era of Sandow. Gangsta references John Hoberman’s valuable book, “Testosterone Dreams” (2005) as evidence that pre-1954 physique champions used testosterone enhancements. In the interest of factualness in order to avoid discreditation of Gangsta’s overall message, however, qualification concerning pre-1954 US bodybuilders seems necessary.
While John Hoberman’s book, “Testosterone Dreams” does demonstrate that injectable testosterone propionate and oral methyl testosterone were available before 1945 (see page 3 of his book), he makes no claim in his book 1) that other anabolic steroids — meaning, derivatives of testosterone such as Dianabol or Nilevar, and later Deca-Durabolin, Primobolan, and the other chemicals technically classed as “anabolic steroids” — had been used by anyone nor even manufactured before 1954; nor 2) that anyone in the US, much less any US bodybuilder, used the testosterone that was more-limitedly available for ANABOLIC effects before 1954. In a private correspondence, he states that he looked for any evidence of pre-1954 US bodybuilders using testosterone for anabolic effects but found zero (and he points out that they had no legal nor ethical reasons at that time to hide the fact if they were using them, since testosterone was not illegal pre-1954; and, it’s pertinent that bodybuilders then lived during an era in which the US public welcomed pharmaceuticals as part of its naive “better living through chemistry and science” attitude, so would have felt little need to conceal usage for fear of public disapproval.) As “Testosterone Dreams” explains, testosterone was being explored in the pre-1950 era for its ANDROGENIC (mainly sexual) benefits for over-age-40 and hormonally-dysfunctional men, not for muscle-building effects on healthy under-40 men.
No prime-aged weight trainer nor bodybuilder in the USA is known to have actually tried (the then legal) testosterone for strength gains until Ziegler’s initial but disappointing 1954 experiment with Grimek, Jim Park, and Yas Kuzuhara (see “Muscle, Smoke, Mirrors”, Vol. 1, Randy Roach, p.332, 333).
However, Grimek’s physique prime and his contest wins had been more than TEN years prior to 1954. Zero evidence exists that Grimek ever tried testosterone until a decade AFTER he’d developed his championship physique.
Similarly with Steve Reeves: Reeves was Mr America in 1947, Mr World in 1948, and Mr Universe in 1950, all won years before Ziegler approached any York bodybuilders or weightlifters in 1954.
As far as Sergio Oliva’s claim, the question should be asked, “Upon what basis did Sergio make his claim about Reeves using steroids in Reeves’ competition years?” Sergio was born in 1941; Reeves won Mr America in 1947. Sergio lived in, and could not leave from, Cuba until 1962, meaning until over twelve years after Reeve’s last, 1950 contest. So, sure, Sergio might have had firsthand knowledge about his contemporaries Zane, Poole, Arnold, Scott, Draper (the last three who themselves openly admit steroid use), but Sergio wasn’t even around in Reeves’ bodybuilding prime years to know. So — from whom did Sergio get his information about Reeves using steroids before 1954? Was Sergio merely (perhaps even sincerely) repeating unsubstantiated gossip? Or, perhaps, jumping to conclusions and assuming Reeves enhanced during his contest years based on what Bob Kennedy has claimed Reeves did AFTER his contest years?
Ziegler has been candid with the whens and whoms of his early experiments, admitting he was earnest about their potential in the 1950s, but that he later wished he’d never introduced anabolics at all. He has no logical reason to conceal any experiments earlier than 1954. Even if unable to name names, he could easily have stated, “But I administered/provided testosterone before 1954 to some US bodybuilders and weightlifters who shall remain anonymous,” if he had done so before 1954.
Not until Ziegler returned to York in 1959 with Dianabol did the usage among weight trainers which became what we know today begin.
So, sure — from 1954 and afterwards, everyone is clearly suspect of anabolic PED use. But, prior to 1954, there is zero evidence of even one US national- or world-class-level bodybuilder using testosterone or steroids. None of the references cited in ironGangsta’s otherwise-excellent article positively evidence anyone in the US was using testosterone or other steroids for bodybuilding prior to 1954.