August 13, 2012
Col Wood, 40

COL WOOD, a former chef from Rugby, Warwickshire, fears taking steroids made him go blind in one eye.

He says: I've always loved playing rugby - I was never that big, weighing just 12st, but I always made up for that with my determination and strength. Certainly nobody ever messed with me on the pitch, but I suffered lots of injuries as a result. When I got to around 32 the injuries started taking their toll, I wasn't as fit as I used to be and I decided to take steroids. I didn't want to be some huge muscle-head, I just wanted to keep playing rugby at the level I was used to - I guess it was as much about my ego as anything. I knew a few bouncers in the area, all of whom took steroids to get big, and through one I trusted got hold of some tablets and some liquid to inject. Of course my wife Dawn, who's a nurse, objected strongly but she knew I was going to do them whatever she said. Within a matter of days I felt bigger and stronger and after my first course, which lasted about six months, I was up to 14st and loving my rugby. I was lifting huge weights and knocking over guys almost twice my size. There were downsides, of course - I got really bad acne on my back and I noticed myself snapping all the time at the smallest irritation, although I knew never to snap at Dawn, who'd warned me I'd be out if I did. But that all seemed a price worth paying. When I got my second course of steroids, through the same doorman, that all changed. This batch was a mix of four different steroids but because I trusted the guy who got them for me I went with it. It was almost the opposite of the first time - I got the shakes, almost like DTs or having flu. I couldn't eat, I felt utterly terrible and lost more weight than I'd put on in the first place, going down to just 10st. I came off the steroids pretty quickly, but it was like they'd put my body into shut-down mode, and I didn't recover. I had to retire from playing rugby almost straight away. It's one of the main problems with steroids - they're always imported and you never know what you're putting into your body, so when it goes bad it goes really bad. It doesn't seem to matter what I ate or did, that weight wouldn't come back on. Coincidentally I also developed the rare eye disease uveitis then. Within months I was almost completely blind in my left eye and had to stop work as a chef. Since my eyes have gone bad I've made it a real mission to work out ways people with disabilities can play sport - through the charity Fight To Walk I raise funds to provide prosthetic limbs. Of course I wish I'd never taken steroids - but through all the people I meet now with disabilities I know life is too short and precious to wallow in self pity.