Steroids were great… until my heart exploded at 34
REALITY star Spencer Matthews was booted out of the I’m A Celebrity jungle after confessing to a secret steroid addiction.
Spencer admitted that he “screwed up” and took the pills for “vanity” and to bulk up before a celebrity boxing match.
But the Made In Chelsea star, who has now gone into rehab, is not alone.
According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales, around 60,000 Brits take steroids, which mimic the effects of testosterone and boost muscle growth.
But experts admit the true number of users could be far higher as many men keep their addiction under wraps.
Here, LYNSEY HOPE speaks to three fellas who reveal how steroids almost ruined their lives.
Ed Gheur, 52
ED, a retired professional rugby player, from Folkestone, Kent, took steroids every day from the age of 16 to 34, when he suffered a heart attack. Ed, nicknamed “Spyk”, says:
‘I was always a gifted athlete at school, winning at almost every sport I competed in. When I was 16, a friend introduced me to steroids.
Instantly, I was hooked. I could exercise for longer, I packed on huge amounts of lean muscle and the girls came flocking.
I could see no downsides and when I started playing professional rugby in South Africa, I carried on using them religiously, either injecting or popping oral steroids every day.
I didn’t become aggressive but I grew what are known as “b**** t*ts” because of the excess oestrogen in my body and these had to be surgically removed.
I also had terrible acne on my back and my testicles shrunk to the size of peanuts.
But these things seemed a small price to pay for the attention, money and glamour I received for being so ripped. After retiring from rugby, I travelled to the US where I became a model and stuntman. I was loving life.
Everything changed one evening in 1997 when I was cooking dinner for my wife and my heart literally exploded – my aorta, the largest blood vessel in the body, had split in half from my heart all the way to my legs.
I faced the prospect of having both legs amputated and all the organs in my body were failing.
I was in a coma for a month and in intensive care for two more. I had a series of operations to replace my aorta with a plastic one. In eight weeks, I went from 18st 1lb of solid muscle to 7st 7lb of skin and bone.
I came round to find my wife had left me. My life had hit an all-time low.
After that I spent two years in bed recuperating, needing round-the-clock care.
Then I spent five years in a wheelchair, slowly learning to walk again. I was told I would never be a father.
Incredibly, I’m now off the steroids and I’ve managed to turn my life around.
I have remarried and against all odds, I am now a dad to Angelyna, who is nine. In the past three years, I’ve had two more heart operations to keep me alive.
All I want to do now is share my story so other people don’t do what I did – nobody needs steroids.
The day I had that first heart attack, when I was 34, I’d done over five hours of intensive training and I thought I was in the best shape of my life.
But nothing could have been further from the truth. I know tens of thousands of men out there are ticking bombs, waiting for their hearts to give in and leave their lives in ruins.
I’ve lost three friends to steroids and seen countless more deal with the negative health issues, family break-ups, job losses and more.
Anyone who thinks steroids are an easy way to get big should think again because once you’re hooked psychologically and physically it’s unbelievably hard to stop. I tried to go cold turkey several times and couldn’t, despite knowing.
My advice to Spencer, if he is taking steroids to get big, is to stop – and get professional help before it’s too late.’
Calvin Davidson, 28
CALVIN is a joiner from Montrose in Angus, Scotland, and lives with his partner Ainsley, who is 20 and a support for learning teacher. Calvin says:
‘I feel really sorry for Spencer Matthews – but frankly, to bulk up that quickly, you would have to be taking steroids.
I’ve seen pictures of him where he’s looked nothing like as muscular. Steroids have a dramatic effect on your muscle gain – but it comes at such a price.
I’m lucky in that I never suffered “roid rage” – in my case, taking steroids just made me feel very depressed.
I started muscle-building about a year and a half ago. Having been quite a chubby child, I was self- conscious about my weight and I wanted to finally get in shape.
But I couldn’t seem to build muscle quick enough, and I was constantly comparing myself to other guys at the gym.
I was spending two hours a day lifting weights and doing cardio. I decided to start taking steroids so I could bulk up more quickly. I bought tablets called Anavar on the internet, and I took them for about four months.
They cost more than £30 for a month’s supply but they had a dramatic effect on me.
I’m a level-headed guy, but I began to feel seriously depressed, and even more obsessed with working out at the gym.
I was literally a danger to myself, and my family were very worried for me.
I wasn’t in a relationship at the time, so that didn’t affect me, and thankfully I managed not to let it affect my work.
But I realised that taking steroids was a dangerous game, and I stopped.
I still work out just as hard, but I am trying to keep it in proportion.’
Adam Trice, 31
THE charity recovery support worker from Shipley, West Yorks, lives with partner Nicola, 30, a childcare assistant, and their two daughters Macey, seven, and Emilia, two. Adam says:
‘I took steroids on and off for ten years, starting at 19. I wanted huge muscles and was obsessed with being a “hard man”.
I ended up with 16 convictions for violence, mostly fighting. I was working the doors in security and was so aggressive that I got sacked several times.
Steroids dramatically heighten your libido. I cheated on all of my girlfriends and did not have a stable relationship in this period. Steroid abuse must have killed off more than ten relationships.
They make you more vulnerable to other substances, so when I was 21 I started taking cocaine.
Everything came to a head when I was 26 and I tried to kill myself. I just could not take it any more.
Prolonged steroid abuse means you are constantly living in the extremes of emotion.
When you are happy you are euphoric, but when you are sad you are plunged into the depths of depression. No one can live like that. Basically, taking steroids gives you the mental age of a teenage boy, fuelled by adrenaline and aggression.
It is exhausting and you become almost totally self-obsessed. All I cared about was pumping iron in the gym for hours every day.
Therapy saved my life but the abuse left me with heart problems.
After surviving my suicide attempt, I had heart failure when I was 28.
Thankfully I am now in a stable relationship and off the steroids and the drugs.
I am working to help other young people with similar problems.
Thank goodness that I finally managed to see sense and stopped taking them.’
Drugs are hormone copycats
STEROIDS are drugs that mimic natural hormones – chemicals that regulate and control how the body works and develops.
There are two main groups – anabolic and corticosteroids.
Anabolic steroids are the type widely misused.
They are similar to the male hormone testosterone and can increase performance and endurance and stimulate muscle growth.
Some people are tempted to take anabolic steroids to build their muscle mass, while others use them to improve performance.
Health watchdog Nice warns that users share needles, spreading conditions including HIV and hepatitis B.
— Heart problems, including attacks and strokes
— High cholesterol
— Hair loss
— Liver disease, such as tumours and cysts
— Fluctuating sex drive
— Altered mood, increased aggression and irritability
Increase in pressures lads face
BODY image expert and founder of the Self-Esteem Team NATASHA DEVONsays: “I’ve been visiting schools all over the UK since 2008.
“During that time, I’ve seen a dramatic increase in the pressures young men face to conform to a certain body type.
“The average boy is just 13 when he first joins a gym. Technically, it’s illegal for them to begin lifting weights until they are 16 but very few gyms strictly enforce these limits.
“The gym exposes young men to a culture where success is measured in reps and muscle tone, distorted body image is commonplace and steroids are rife. There’s a very fine line between healthy exercise and a dangerous obsession.
“The ‘beefing-up’ of male role models in the media doesn’t help either because they conveniently neglect to mention the extreme measures they often take to achieve their physiques.
“To me, the saddest thing is men’s reluctance to ackowledge the issue.
“Ultimately, I believe our bodies are there to do with as we please. But I worry that health and cardiovascular fitness is being replaced by muscle obsession and body dysmorphia for a whole generation of boys.”
‘Dangerous addictive substances’
MEDICAL director of the Neca substance abuse health group DR ROB DAWSON says: “Spencer was lucky not to get arrested in Australia as possession of anabolic steroids is illegal there.
“These drugs are dangerous and addictive. Regular steroid abuse can lead to potentially dangerous conditions such as high blood pressure, blood clots or even heart attacks, particularly if used alongside cocaine, which is sadly common.
“Infertility, acne, violent mood swings and hallucinations are all also possible results, with side-effects including liver damage, baldness, paranoia and gynomastia – the development of female breast tissue.
“Steroids are used for their muscle-building properties but are grossly overrated in what they purport to do and any gains are marginal.
“There is a crisis of the male ego, in a sense. It’s about trying to re-assert masculinity.
“We live in a disposable society where the idea of a fast-track to the body beautiful is appealing to some.
“We are selling this idea to youngsters and the most vulnerable in society but we mustn’t inspire people to use them.”