The Ethical Dilemma in Bodybuilding: PED Use and How It Affects Our Generation

The Bodybuilding Diet Simplified | Muscle & Fitness

PEDs in Bodybuilding, specifically within the most popular divisions like Mr. Olympia, IFBB pro, and even on social media, can negatively affect the physical & emotional health of those within the fitness community as it may influence some to take PEDs or set unrealistic expectations. To combat this issue, I think bodybuilding organizations need to come to a consensus and popularize the natural division of bodybuilding so that people learn to appreciate what the body can do naturally and set better expectations for people who want to get into bodybuilding or simply attain a better physique.

Why It Is a Problem

Basic Facts About Anabolic Steroids

With the growth in popularity within bodybuilding over the years, more and more people are getting into the gym to achieve these crazy physiques we see of bodybuilders and all over social media. However, a lot of these top-tier bodybuilders and some fitness influencers take certain PEDs to enhance their muscle growth and reach a physique that is past general genetic potential.

PEDs in Bodybuilding can provide unrealistic expectations for fans who look up to these people and strive to look like them or be in the same position as them one day by competing. This can be harmful as PEDs have been shown to cause numerous life-threatening health issues like increased risk of heart disease, stroke, cerebral or pulmonary embolisms, and much more (“The Effects of Performance Enhancing Drugs”).

With this in mind, even young adults and teens who watch these competitions or influences can become influenced to strive to look like these people and potentially ruin their health from potential PED use or harm their emotional health when they realize they can’t achieve these unrealistic physiques.

History of PED Use

Mr. America: The Tragic History of a Bodybuilding Icon (Terry and Jan Todd  Series on Physical Culture and Sports): Fair, John D.: 9780292760820: Books

Bodybuilding first became a thing in the late 1930s when the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU)  held the “Mr. America” contest in conjunction with weightlifting competitions that preceded them. The growing success of these exhibitions created the idea of having bodybuilding-only pageants, leading to the first Mr. Olympia competition to be held in 1965 (Bateman). However, during the birth of this new sport, the new discovery of anabolic steroids changed the scene for bodybuilding.

After the 1950s bodybuilding icon, Steve Reeves, and many others who boasted impressive physiques in bodybuilding competitions, judging standards evolved to look for more vascular, striated muscles as seen before.

Since these anabolic steroids allowed for muscles to more easily grow and at the time wasn’t considered illegal, they became a very popular supplement for bodybuilders very quickly. The first Mr. Olympia winner, Larry Scott (top left), was among the first to use steroids to achieve an elite-level physique. Subsequent winners like Sergio Oliva (middle top) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (top right) pushed the idea further as each competition presented a more impressive physique, up until today.

And now with bodybuilding athletes like Chris Bumstead (bottom left), 5.8+ million followers, and Mike O’Hearn (bottom right), 1.9+ million followers, building a stronger connection between bodybuilding and social media, these bodybuilder physiques are being more sought after. 

Examples Of This Dilemma

As the fitness industry continues to grow, more and more people begin to get influenced by what others do within the fitness community. Bodybuilding is one of those sports that influence a lot of people into becoming more fit and healthy. It was even what influenced me personally to get into it. However, although it motivates a lot of people to workout and live a healthy lifestyle, some people don’t realize that a lot of these top-tier bodybuilders and social media fitness influencers use certain PEDs and so it either influences some to use PEDs or it gives them unrealistic expectations.

As someone who has been involved within the fitness community for years and work as a personal trainer, I’ve come across a lot of people who suffer emotionally because they can’t achieve the unrealistic physiques of their idols. And so, they may feel hopeless, stressed out, develop body dysmorphia, and even feel like years of hard work has done nothing, when in fact it has. And with bodybuilding now being tied to social media, a lot of these athletes and fitness influencers have been more transparent about their steroid use, which although it might not have been the intent, has popularized the use of drugs among the younger generation who seek to attain a bodybuilder physique in a short amount of time.

Why I am open about my Steroid use. – Noel Deyzel

This dilemma has been covered in the past across the media, showing off how many teens are using steroids to achieve the look of a bodybuilder. A couple of years ago, a documentary was put out by BBC three on youtube covering a 15-year-old teenager named Tyler Shirey who openly uses anabolic steroids as he bodybuilds in order to achieve the perfect physique (“15 and Injecting Steroids”). There are many cases on TikTok of teenages showing off their dosages of RAD140 and MK677 in order to build muscle and increase his growth hormone (15 Year Olds Using SARMs To Get Jacked). 17-year-old Ryeley Palfi, a YouTuber, discusses why he takes steroids, for the main reason to be the best, youngest classic physique bodybuilder (Ryeley Palfi Getting On Gear At 17).

Some famous examples of PED use in bodybuilding include 7x Mr. Olympia Arnold Schwarzenegger as he acknowledges his use of anabolic steroids during his bodybuilding years at an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos (“No regrets about steroid use”); 8x Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman admits to using anabolic steroids on the Joe Rogan show and suggested that to attain the physique he had in Mr. Olympia, one might necessarily use some kind of steroid or growth hormone (Clair); 4x Mr. Olympia Jay Cutler opens up about his steroid use to achieve his success on the Power Bites Podcast (“Jay Cutler talks about steroid use”).

Champion Bodybuilder Ronnie Coleman Talks Steroid Use with Joe Rogan

My Opinion & Solution

My take on this dilemma is that for one we all need to realize that this is a real problem that is harming our young generation involved in the fitness community. I don’t think steroid users are bad in any sense, they are entitled to do as they please to their bodies, but I also think they should consider how their actions may influence others and how that can potentially be harmful. At the end of the day, it is no one’s fault that this is an issue, other than the fact that PED use is so normalized in the sport of bodybuilding. I think organizations need to come to a consensus and popularize the natural division of bodybuilding so that people learn to appreciate what the body can do naturally and set better expectations for people who want to get into bodybuilding or simply attain a better physique.

The reader assumes full responsibility for consulting a qualified health professional regarding health conditions or concerns, and nutritional advice before applying the content on this site to themselves. Samuel Navarro will not assume any liability for direct or indirect losses or damages that may result from the use of information contained in this post. You are ultimately responsible for all decisions pertaining to your health.

The information present in this blog is from personal research only, this means that the accuracy of the information may be subject to error. If you find such errors, please contact me.


Bateman, Oliver. “Drugs and the Evolution of Bodybuilding.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 8 Aug. 2014, Accessed 30 January 2022.

Bell, Mark. 4X Mr. Olympia Jay Cutler Talks Steroids and Work Ethic | Power Bites, 2018. Accessed 30 January 2022.

Clair, Josh St. “Ronnie Coleman Tells Joe Rogan How He Successfully Doped during Mr. Olympia.” Men’s Health, Men’s Health, 2 Nov. 2021,,a%20heavily%20supervised%20steroid%20regimen.&text=Coleman%20said%20he%20would%20get,he%20achieved%20during%20his%20Mr. Accessed 30 January 2022.

Fields, Tanner. “Teens Turn to Steroids to Build Muscle.” The Cord News, The Cord News, 13 May 2021, Accessed 30 January 2022.

“The Golden Era of Bodybuilding: Why Did They Look Better?” Inside Bodybuilding, Inside Bodybuilding, 15 Apr. 2021,,-Despite%20knowledge%20supposedly&text=In%20comparison%2C%20they%20are%20significantly,steroids%20and%20different%20dosages%20used. Accessed 30 January 2022.

“Schwarzenegger: ‘No Regrets’ about Steroid Use.”, NBCUniversal News Group, 26 Feb. 2005, Accessed 30 January 2022.

USADA. “Effects of Performance-Enhancing Drugs: USADA.” U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), USADA, 29 Sept. 2021, Accessed 30 January 2022.

Witmer, Denise. “Your Teen and Anabolic Steroid Use: The Facts and What to Look For.” Verywell Family, Verywell Family, 19 Nov. 2021, Accessed 30 January 2022.

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