Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of the most celebrated bodybuilders of all-time. His film "Pumping Iron" brought the sport into the limelight, and Arnold parlayed his fame and appearance into a successful and lucrative acting career. Not to mention, he eventually served multiple terms as governor of California. But, many observers wonder if his amazing physique came from the use of steroids.
To put it simply, yes, Arnold used steroids. He admitted that he used them while cutting and during tough stretches. From Conan the Politician:
“It was what I had to do to compete. The danger with steroids is over-usage. I only did it before a difficult competition – for two months, but not for a period of time that would harm me. And then afterward it was over.”
While Arnold was in his bodybuilding prime, finding steroids was not as easy as it is today. There was no Internet, so they were most likely found through deals at gyms. Most importantly, much less was known about the immediate and long-term effects of taking these drugs. We know now that they lead to heart disease, suicide, and many other life-altering effects. Would Schwarzenegger have taken steroids if he - and the medical community - had known more about them then?
It's important to note that it wasn't until 1990, with the Anabolic Steroid Control Act, that steroids became illegal. Concurrent with Arnold's quick rise to fame - and without restrictions on the drugs -steroids became main stream. Both amateur and professional athletes began using them to boost their strength and appearance. As television and media became increasingly more accessible during this time, along with a rising profile of body building, was Schwarzenegger partially responsible for the growing steroid use?
While it's impossible to pinpoint when using steroids became more frequent, they were used rampantly in the NFL as early as the 1960s. That is well before the "Austrian Oak" became the Austrian Oak. Athletic trainer Alvin Roy joined the San Diego Chargers in 1963. Roy began distributing pills to all the players as part of the training regime. From "The Steelers, Steroids and Profound Misconceptions"
“He gave guys little cups with these pills in them. None of us knew what they were, but I later found out they were steroids. About 10 of us didn’t take them…They weren’t illegal back then, but I know a lot of guys who did take them…But two months after taking them, they were huge. The guys who didn’t take them, well, they weren’t huge.”
For every team with which Roy worked, success followed - and not because he was only employed by good teams. In fact, he was only employed by teams that previously had poor records. In 1979, Roy died of a heart attack. Knowing what we know now about steroids, did steroids take his life?
It's safe to say that Arnold didn't bring steroids to the mainstream with him from Austria. Arnold will always be heralded as the king of body building. Yet, it's debatable whether he ushered in the era of using steroids to achieve a massive and highly chiseled physique. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.