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Sunday, May 7, 2017

How steroids mold the body

Two nights ago Swimswam.com ran an article about Brazilian Nicholas Santos, who at 37 swam the second fastest 50 meter butterfly in history (and the fastest without a tech suit).

The article featured this photograph of Santos:


Does it not seem almost embarrassingly apparent that Santos is juicing? Here's another picture of him from a few years ago:


His body has all the usual steroid signatures: the line between the pecs is well-defined all the way up to his collarbones; his deltoids taper down to well-defined points on the sides of his arms; he has convex trapezius muscles; he has a medical muscle chart level of definition; and he has veins popping out in places you wouldn't expect, like the outside of his right forearm in the top picture.

I'm sure he's passed all the drug tests he's been given, like many notorious juicers. But the dopers are always a step ahead with new designer forms of artificial hormones for which tests haven't yet been devised.

Swimming seems to be a relatively clean sport. I think most of its biggest recent stars -- Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Katie Ledecky, and Sarah Sjostrom -- are all obviously clean. But swimmers who look juiced aren't all that rare. And it's particularly suspicious when the athlete in question doesn't have any other markers for high testosterone levels.

When you see someone like French rugby player Sebastien Chabal, who was obviously hyperandrogenized as he was growing up --


-- big muscles are supposed to be part of the equation. They fit with the Neanderthal brow, the prominent nose, the wide cheekbones and the big bone structure, all of which express a naturally high testosterone level:


And Chabal, though he was listed as being 6' 3" and 249 pounds, doesn't even look overly muscular.

It's far more suspicious when someone who is basically boyish-looking -- meaning, their facial features and bone structure don't reflect their having had a high level of testosterone while growing up -- has abnormal musculature. An example of that would be Adam Peaty, the British Olympic champion and world record holder in the 100 meter breaststroke:


His huge arms simply don't "match" his boyish face and tiny waist. Here's another picture of Peaty:


Note the way his deltoid tapers down to a well-defined point, and the line between his pectorals extending all the way up to his collarbones. Peaty also shows another telltale sign: incredible, almost unnatural definition around the external obliques (the muscle at the side of the abdomen).

Another example would be Ben Proud, who a couple weeks ago tied the second fastest ever 50 meter freestyle in textile:



Proud has the face of a guy who got picked on in junior high, and the body of a cartoon superhero.

I can't say Peaty and Proud are unquestionably doping (I think most British swimmers are clean, a statement I wouldn't make about the Brazilians or Chinese). And I obviously don't have proof that any of the three swimmers shown above are taking PEDs. But, the visual evidence is pretty compelling.

Bear in mind that it's awfully hard to develop such chiseled, bulging muscles while swimming six or so miles per day. Daily hard swimming workouts tend to wear one down and result in long, relatively slender, loose muscle, not the kind of muscle which would look at home on a body-building stage. Contrast the swimmers pictured above with the following examples of world class swimmers with more typical swimmers' builds.

Jack Conger, the American record holder in the 200 yard butterfly:


Will Licon, the American record holder in the 200 yard breaststroke:


Clark Smith, the American record holder in the 500 and 1650 yard freestyles:


Ippei Watanabe, the world record holder in the 200 meter breaststroke:


Aaron Piersol, the world record holder in the 200 meter backstroke:


It's virtually impossible to swim the distances required to be a world class competitor and be left with a sharply defined, bulging, body builder-like physique.

One must always allow for the fact that human beings come in an infinite variety of shapes and sizes. But when you see certain patterns, it's hard not to be suspicious. Especially since steroids leave their mark on a body as indelibly as gluttony, or a taste for tattoos.

41 comments:

lowly said...

Seems to me that you're probably correct re the juicers. I don't know much about swimming, but I looked up some swimmers that do weight training, and they don't appear all that chiseled, more on the lean, healthy and functional looking side.

This is what I was looking at:

https://www.swimmingworldmagazine.com/news/strength-training-before-after-or-separate-from-swimming-for-optimal-results/

John Craig said...

Hooter tooter --
That's a good description of what the combination of swimming and weight training does to swimmers. By the way, of the "normal" swimmers I used for contrast, three of them -- Conger, Licon, and Smith -- swim for the University of Texas, which is known for its tough dry land program. (You may have read the first version of this post, before I inserted the pictures of these swimmers for contrast.)

I've followed swimming all my life (I'm one of those pathetic old guys who never outgrew his sport, as I said in a recent post), and at this point, it seems fairly easy to tell what he juicers are. Of course I can't prove it, but the visual evidence is usually pretty persuasive.

Anonymous said...

John, I agree. That level of muscular development is difficult for any body type to achieve; especially for an elite swimmer's genetics and training requirements.
My question to you: Since these guys are so obviously on steroids, are they sociopaths or at least pathological liars to be able to present themselves as legit?
Would their social environment and authority figures reinforcement serve to reduce the level of psychological disorder required to shamelessly pull it off?

John Craig said...

Anon --
I don't think steroids are necessarily indicative of sociopathy. It's one of those things where there's a positive correlation, but that correlation is far from perfect. Sociopaths are more likely to take steroids and lie about it, but I'm sure there've been plenty of non-sociopaths who've taken them. I certainly understand the desire to take them: I'd love to look like that, and be faster (and I'm an old man who only competes in the far-less-serious sport of masters swimming).

I guess you're asking, would all the positive reinforcement they get from their coaches and fans make it easier to lie about it? Hmm....I suppose it could. Not sure it would reduce the "psychological disorder" -- those tend not to change with circumstance -- but the social gratification would certainly give one more motivation.

Anonymous said...

I guess the question would be how much does environment moderate or accentuate sociopathic or other negative tendencies.
How does such blatant lying and fraud in sports affect other areas of the athlete's life.
The few semi pro or pro athletes I've know were notorious philanderers.

John Craig said...

Anon --
I guess the same sot of personality who cheats at sports is more likely to cheat at love. I don't think the cheating in either area causes the cheating in the other area, the person was probably predisposed toward both. Actually, on second thought, I take that back. Let me put it this way: being philanderer doesn't then cause one to cheat at sports. But taking steroids is supposed to make one incredibly horny, with an out of control sex drive, and while under that sway I think a person is far more likely to have multiple girlfriends. I actually think that's what happened with Tiger Woods: he went on steroids, got sex-crazed, and chased all those bimbos simultaneously. I wrote about that phenomenon here:

http://justnotsaid.blogspot.com/2014/10/crazed-by-lust.html

Anonymous said...

couldn't you find a sports performance, or "optimal performance" medical doctor to write a prescription for steroids and hgh if you really wanted to, john? i say, for the sake of blog material, you try to find a legitimate way to use performance drugs and then see how strong and fast you get. i'm sure all of your readers would be eager to read about the results.

Theres at least one journalist who did just this thing: http://www.austin360.com/lifestyles/recreation/the-doper-next-door-cyclist-takes-testosterone-for-year-see-how-changes-his-life/rJHZlT7UsivpFgfJ2K5tZM/

B

Anonymous said...

Here's a better article by the journo who too steroids

https://www.outsideonline.com/1908791/i-couldnt-be-more-positive

B

John Craig said...

B (Brian F?) --
Interesting articles, thank you, just read them both. I"m sure I could find steroids if I wanted to, either through a doctor or at any gym where serious muscle heads work out. But I'm not interested. "Blog material" just wouldn't be a good enough excuse to cheat at my sport, plus there are all the long term side effects. I'm not saying I'd never go the testosterone replacement therapy route, but I don't really feel as if I need it yet.

I do see some guys in masters swimming who make me wonder, though. I don't think that most of them are taking TRT or Hgh to cheat athletically, they're just taking it for the usual mix of reasons old guys do -- to feel better, increased diminished sex drives, for more energy, and to look better. But a definite side effect is that they do better athletically. And it bugs me.

Anonymous said...

All of the pro swimmers use PEDs. For people outside of the bodybuilding scene it's only visually apparent when someone uses steroids by overwhelming amounts of muscle. It's worth remembering that tiny skinny endurance runners and cyclists get popped for steroids all the time. Tennis has an enormous steroid problem and yet most pros are skinny-fat. It simply isn't possible to prove that anyone is clean judging by a lack of muscle mass and definition.

Steroids don't just slam pounds of muscle on the body. They tend to amplify the adaptation to training that is already taking place due to increased recovery ability. So a runner who doesn't train with weights won't gain any appreciable muscle, no matter how many grams of steroids they take. They will however increase their endurance capacity due to raised hematocrit. Most steroids do not inhibit endurance contrary to the mainstream myth; the increased hematocrit functions similarly to EPO, except with even more benefits. Their endurance training simply doesn't elicit a hypertrophy adaptation, and in fact it inhibits hypertrophy.

The athletes who look like they use steroids are invariably the ones who train with heavy weights and for whom power to weight is everything; sprinters, sprint cyclists, gymnasts. The difference with swimming is that it rewards a slightly higher bodyfat for buoyancy; steroids tend to reduce bodyfat and increase water retention which is exactly what a swimmer doesn't want. Simply put, swimmers will use PEDs very carefully during the training months (deliberately "missing" tests when they know they would fail) but taper off completely for a meet to pass testing and even gain some bodyfat back. This is why often the best swimmers do not look particularly impressive physically. To believe that the likes of Phelps are natural simply because they do not have enormous striated delts is naive.

Also, all countries give leeway to their best athletes. It isn't fair to say that X country is clean but Y country is dirty. I'm sure that American and British testing is far better than the likes of China or Russia, but the likes of Phelps, Serena Williams, Peaty, Farah, Radcliffe, British Cycling... no one in their federations wants to bring them down, so there is a lot of leniency with how many tests they are allowed to "miss" and they will even sweep positive tests under the carpet as they did for Carl Lewis and which I'm quite certain they have done for Bolt considering the fortunes of his training partners who share the same drug-guru coach.

John Craig said...

Anon --
Maybe I'm naive, but I don't think all top swimmers are on PED's. I agree that a lack of visual evidence does not prove innocence; the point of this post was that when the visual evidence is so obvious, you have to suspect juicing. But I think swimming, unlike track and field or cycling is a relatively clean sport. (Meaning, that there are *some* clean athletes.

The other thing is, there are other PEDs beside steroids, like EPO and human growth hormone, and the effects of those are less visible. (A sudden jump in performance at a relatively late age can be suspicious, though.

I also agree that national governing bodies turn a blind eye toward their best athletes, and I've heard about USTAF and Carl Lewis, and I'm sure that was just the tip of the iceberg. But you could have been able to tell Lewis was on something, given that his performances didn't tail off even at age 36. But with Phelps, when was that big boost come? He was a national age group record holder as a kid, was the longest guy ever to break two minutes in the 200 fly at age 14, and at 15 placed 5th in the Sydney Olympic final of the 200 meter butterfly. Was he juicing in some way then? Maybe I'm naive, but I don't think so.

Slaying dumb americans like trump said...

Why don't you make a post about those jacked americans: Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery, Lance Armstrong, Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay, etc? It seems that you're an medium american like homer simpson that would propably say: "Hi everyone, I'm a dumb and alienated american who thinks usa the only worthy country in the world, all others are dishonorable." I invite you to read about imperialism and how americans killed thousand of innocent people and destroyed others countries just because of money and power. And the lovely american companies that explores slave work in countries like china and india. Bu to you, it's better call athletes of other countries of jacked without any proof, like if the dominance of phelps or ledecky without the use of drugs would be very normal. Hahaha, joke.

John Craig said...

Slaying dumb americans like trump --
I'm sure I'm not going to change your mind about anything here, but in fact I have written about Marion Jones:

https://justnotsaid.blogspot.com/2009/11/marion-jones.html

About American swimmer Dara Torres:

https://justnotsaid.blogspot.com/search?q=Dara+Torres

And about Lance Armstrong multiple times:

https://justnotsaid.blogspot.com/2010/11/sociopath-alert-lance-armstrong.html

https://justnotsaid.blogspot.com/2013/02/what-lance-teaches-us-about-leadership.html

https://justnotsaid.blogspot.com/2014/12/lance-armstrongs-false-emotionality.html

And, actually, if you type "Lance Armstrong" into the subject bar of this blog, you'll see a number of other posts too. As far as Gatlin and Gay and Montgomery, they've already been caught, what's the point of writing about that?

So, in fact, I don't hesitate to write about Americans I think are juicing, and there are plenty of foreigners I think are juicing I haven't bothered to write about. But my guess is that you're the type who can only find bad things to say about Americans and good things to say about your own countrymen, wherever you're from.


Anonymous said...

He, this fellow is delving into your mind, John. You're not sufficiently self critical of your tribe. Heresy, dude. Let's get some abasement going there, shall we. Fall in line. Your moral superiors expect better from you.

John Craig said...

Anon --
I'll bet that guy was a Brazilian. I like most of the Brazilians I've met, but an awful lot of them seem to be incredibly sensitive about any sort of criticism directed at anything Brazilian (and I started out by talking about Nicholas Santos). I've actually written a couple of posts about that Brazilian sensitivity:

https://justnotsaid.blogspot.com/2014/07/brazilian-pride.html

https://justnotsaid.blogspot.com/2014/07/brazilian-pride-part-ii.html

And the funny thing is, as usual, I get accused of what my accuser is guilty of.

Anonymous said...

"Swimming seems to be a relatively clean sport. I think most of its biggest recent stars -- Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Katie Ledecky, (and Sarah Sjostrom) -- are all obviously clean."
LOL, seems to be some American bias here. How can Phelps - the greatest ever athlete - do what he did and win in so many events, with no rest, against people who are on PEDs? It's basically saying PEDs do nothing, when obviously they make a massive difference. Lochte was just caught having an illegal intravenous drip, so if he's happily having stuff pumped into his veins then he's obviously not going to worry about injecting steroids. Ledecky's World Records are far from the reach of other world class swimmers, some of whom have obviously used PEDs themselves - so, again, suggesting PEDs don't work, when they do.
The USA can't claim to be the world's leader in medical treatments - which it is - and then claim that their athletes aren't benefiting from that knowledge and using PEDs.
The USA are one of the dirtiest PED abusers of all nations: USA, China, Russia, Jamaica, Kenya - probably the big 5 drugs cheats.

John Craig said...

Anon --
Your anti-US bias is as strong as some Americans' pro-US bias. I've written elsewhere in this blog about Michael Johnson, Lance Armstrong (before he was officially found dirty) and Dara Torres all being obvious dopers. please don't assume that i'm as biased as you. As far as the four athletes I mentioned, none of them show the physical signs of doping, and none of them had sudden marked improvements late in their careers. And why do you put Sarah Sjostrom's name in parentheses?

If Lochte had thought he was doing something wrong, do you think he would have posted that picture to social media? He may be an idiot, but he's honest. And nothing he was putting into his body was illegal, it was mainly vitamin B12 along with a mix or ordinary nutritional supplements. He just didn't realize that using an IV bag for more than 100 mg was illegal.

I'd agree that track and field has been a dirty sport -- in the US as elsewhere -- for a long time. But that's not what I was talking about there.

Niz said...

John-
Great job at manipulating information.
Peaty and Proud are sprinters (50/100m)
They have different training programs and diets to long distance swimmers like those mentioned.
Please stop trying the use Peaty and Proud names to get attention or money or whatever.
What’s your swimming background if any?

John Craig said...

Niz --
Manipulating information? How is showing photographs manipulating information? And of the counterexamples I used, only one of them, Clark Smith, is a distance swimmer. The rest are all 100/200 guys. Jack Conger swam the 500 in high school but hasn't competed seriously at that distance since then, and Will Licon swam the 400 IM a couple times in college but now that he's a pro sticks to the 100 and 200. Sounds to me as if you're the one who's trying to "manipulate information." And BTW, Peaty has swum a 200 LCM breast in 2:08+, though that's not his specialty.

I swam for four years of college (I was not world class) and as a masters swimmer set a couple of world records in the 200 SCM fly. But my background is somewhat irrelevant here: what's relevant is my ability to observe the effect that steroids have on the body. I've seen it in track and field (where I have no background) and in MMA (where I have no background) as well, and athletes who use anabolic agents show the same steroid signatures in all three sports.

What is your background in swimming, since you seem to consider that the most important factor in being qualified to pass judgment? Do you feel that sportswriters have no right to write about a sport unless they were world class athletes themselves?

Unknown said...

All the swimmers you are comparing do completely different distances for example Adam peaty and Ben proud are both short distance sprinters and the people who youcompared them to are 200 to 1500m swimmers who need a completely different body type to race well in there events.
This also is the same in running, Usain Bolt has a big lean body type and Mo Farah has a small skinny body type to do the best in there events.

John Craig said...

Unknown --
True, Santos and Proud are pure sprinters (though Peaty has done a world class 200 breast time). But bear in mind, swimmers tend to be more versatile than runners. I remember going to the world track and field championships in Seville in 1999 and being able to guess what event people did just from their build. The 100 runners looked different than the 400 runner, who tended to be leaner. And the 400 runners would never be mistaken for 1500 runners. Etc. Obviously there is some overlap (Michael Johnson, who set the WR in the 400 at that meet, almost never ran the 100, but would have been world class had he done so; and Usain Bolt started out as a 400 guy.) But with swimmers, you often can't tell from their builds what events they swim. Eric Vendt, a world class distance swimmer in the 2000's, was a chunk of muscle. And Duncan Scott, a world class sprinter for the UK, is skinny. Plus you have people like Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, who do distances ranging from the 100 to 400.

The funny thing about steroids is, they seem to have the same signature no matter what sport athletes do. Whether someone runs the 100, swims the 100 fly, or is an MMA competitor, the traps become convex, the line between the pecs sharpens, the deltoid tapers to a well-defined point, etc.

Unknown said...

This is the most ridiculous fucking article I have ever read. Who are you even? Clearly you know nothing about sport or swimming and your webs

John Craig said...

Unknown --
You must be quite an expert.

Unknown said...

To be honest the swimmers you mentioned that dont have the abnormal muscles are all 200 and above swimmers while all the swimmers you mentioned are all sprinter's typically 50 sprinter. It's Ludicrous to compare 500/1000 yard swimmer to a 50m sprinter. Sprinters typically work harder for shorter periods of time while distant swimmers work hard for a longer period. Bodies differ between the sort of training which is given. All though i still believe that the Brazilian that SwimSwam discussed is doping.

John Craig said...

Unknown --
It's not that simple. Clark Smith is a pure distance swimmer, true. But Jack Conger is a world class 100 flyer, Ippei Watanabe is, while better at the 200 breast, a world class 100 breaststroker, and Aaron Piersol set the world record in the 100 backstroke six separate times, and won a gold medal in that event at two Olympics. (He won the gold in the 200 once.) And Adam Peaty, while he specializes in the 50 and 100 breaststroke, has gone a 2:08+ in the 200, which is a world class time.

Yes, sprinters in general are more muscular and huskier than distance swimmers. But what I'm talking about in this post are the very distinct ways in which people who take steroids become muscular: the ridiculous definition around the external obliques, the humped trapezius muscles, the line between the pectoral muscles being well defined all the way up to the collarbones, etc. There are plenty of sprinters, for instance Nathan Adrian, who are large and husky and extremely strong without having those specific identifying markers. What's really telling is that these markers appear in athletes even if they're doing different sports, where theoretically the muscles should be developing differently. I've seen these markers in MMA fighters and sprinters in track as well. (Why do runners need humped trapezius muscles and extreme pectoral definition?)

Anonymous said...

Just stumbled on this post today and having been a competitive swimmer and waterpolo player myself, I can 100% agree with this blog. Back in the 80s and early 90s, you would hardly see anyone with this kind of built, even a natural bodybuilder would struggle to achieve this kind of built.
The indication is normally the 3d shoulder shape, biceps, but overall it's very hard for any swimmer to be at that size, even if they are a sprinter.

Natural bodybuilders, struggle to get that kind of shape and size displayed by some of the swimmers.

John Craig said...

Anon --
Thank you. Yes, back in the day, most swimmers looked like the latter set of swimmers I showed.

Anonymous said...

How well do you know swimming? Comparing a dash athlete, such as Santos, to all those longer distance swimmers is simply absurd. Body composition is expected to be different, and it is a shame that you fell confortable to call a world level athlete a "juicer" just because he is more muscular than the average.

John Craig said...

Anon --
I've been around swimming my entire life, have been a lifelong fan, swam in college, and have set a couple of masters world records. Do you really believe that a guy is really going to be at his best at age 38? That's what's absurd. And, in fact, Santos has been caught before.

Unknown said...

They could just be eating a lot and taking supplements.if they are eating 4k calories a day its possible

John Craig said...

Unknown --
I can pretty much promise you that those other swimmers whose pictures I showed are eating 4k calories a day and taking (legal) supplements. That many calories doesn't result in unnatural definition around the external obliques like that.

Anonymous said...

Being a "college swimmer" doesn't make you an expert at all! You desperately need to learn more about high performance and spinters before you try to criticise world class athletes. Get a life and learn to deal with others success!

John Craig said...

Anon --
You sound like a real expert!

Anonymous said...

It wouldn't really matter... cause I don't use others people life and stories to show off, right?

John Craig said...

Anon --
Just other peoples' blogs.

Anonymous said...

bruh everybody in the olympics doping. it doesn't matter if the guy/girl is skinny, overweight, ripped, bulky, whatever... they're on PEDs. you gotta train with weights a specific way to get bodybuilder-esque physiques

Anonymous said...

Michael Phelps obviously show many signs of possible steroid use. Just take a look at his lack of water big muscle and very low body fat percentage. Humans cannot increase big muscle while reducing fat at the same time.

Ryan lochte falsely claims he was robbed in Rio. But the fact is he got drunk and damaged the property of gas stations in Rio. This is how honest he is.

Anonymous said...

You are completely right

John Craig said...

Anonymous of 8:49AM --
Lochte was dishonest about what happened in Rio, no question.

But Phelps doesn't have a steroid build. if you look at pictures of him from Beijing, when he was at his peak, he's downright skinny. Yes, he's lean, but you don't have to be on steroids to be lean. And he'd pretty much been built that way his entire life. And while he put on a little muscle after Beijing, he never really got any faster (other than in the 100 and 200 fly in '09, and the former can be explained by his wearing a full bodysuit for the first time in a 100 fly, and the latter by the fact that his 200 fly in Beijing had been a subpar performance due to his goggles filling up).

I'm assuming you're Brazilian and are taking offense to me having pointed out Santos' build, as well as to Lochte's lies.

John Craig said...

Anonymous of 8;51 AM --
Are you referring to the post or the the previous commenter?

John Craig said...

An interesting thing about the two comments from July 23rd, at 8:49 and 8:51AM: they seem to have come from the same commenter, who wanted to underscore his first point by agreeing with himself two minutes later. The problem is, I hadn't put up the first comment, so it hadn't appeared yet, at 8:51. The only alternative explanation is that the 8:51 commenter was agreeing with the gist of this post, but that timing is just too coincidental. And that, right after he criticized Ryan Lochte for being dishonest. Hypocrisy shows its face again.