Santa Cruz Good Times

Nov 27th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Muscle Enhancement

news1The upcoming bodybuilding championship spurs questions about steroid use

Because of the physical size and superhero-like proportions of its competitors, bodybuilding has long been dogged by the stigma of steroids. According to Kelvin Fountano, founder of the World Bodybuilding and Fitness Association (WBFA) Championships—which returns to the Rio next month—bodybuilding still “has an issue with anabolic performance-enhancing drugs.” But he believes the rift between those who use steroids and those striving for a cleaner, simpler sport is growing, and he considers his own event a “healthy” alternative to the typical competition atmosphere.

Deric Stockton, owner of Core Strength gym in Scotts Valley and winner of the over-40 category at last year’s WBFA Championships, agrees.
“You go to a higher-level show, the guys look cartoonish now,” says Stockton, who began bodybuilding in 1984 (although he’s now more focused on powerlifting). “These guys look like caricatures. It doesn't even look real, and obviously it’s not healthy.”

According to a 2013 survey by the Center for Disease Control, 4.1 percent of twelfth-graders admitted to using steroids. But significant reporting of the actual steroid use in the U.S. remains hard to come by, perhaps because it’s so hard to monitor—or simply isn’t monitored at all. Of course, due to the legal ramifications (from a hefty fine or one year in prison for possession and up to ten years for trafficking), steroid use is not something users brag about.

Even more concerning is that the long-term physiological effects of anabolic steroids on humans—like testosterone or androstenedione—remain understudied, especially in high doses. Therefore, the bodily impact of long-term use is still unfurling outside of the more commonly known side effects, like softening of breast tissue, and “roid rage”—the aggressive tendencies that sometimes come after heavy steroid use. Unfortunately, many users underestimate the risks that occur later in life, like dramatic hormonal changes, cardiovascular disease—heart attack and stroke—liver tumors and hypertension.

But Fountano, who won on the national level as a member of Team USA Bodybuilding, says that at the WBFA competition, it’s unlikely that contestants have used steroids, because amateur bodybuilders aren’t facing the same pressures professionals do. Not yet, anyway.

Once competitors enter into the big leagues, it’s basically a requirement, Fountano says, although it wasn’t always that way. Steroid use was deregulated during the ’90s, as the industry fragmented into virtually countless bodybuilding organizations—many of which claimed participants didn’t use any enhancements.

Eventually, even these “natural” organizations that began with good intentions developed their own ways of playing the game, Fountano says. These days, promoters often put on “tested” shows, which claim to be entirely drug-free because of urine testing, but the organizers of such shows are nowadays mired just as deeply within the performance-enhancement culture, he says.

“You’ll see administrators leave, find the first dumpster and dump [urine samples],” he explains. From the remaining samples contest organizers will then test the entrants they know will test negative, which as Fountano describes, could be five out of 150.

As for the WBFA, Fountano says he decided against making it a “natural” organization, partly because of the unreliable standards, which really aren’t standards at all. He calls the testing itself expensive—between $150 and $250 dollars for each competitor. And that’s just for the drugs that are currently detectable.

The only way to truly overcome the problem is to educate the young athletes who would be enticed, says Fountano, because, just as with any other drugs, most simply don’t know what they’re dealing with.

“They have no education, they’re not under a doctor’s supervision, and if you sell it to them you’re a dealer,” he says, adding, “A dealer likes to make money, they don’t care about your health, they don’t care if you know what you’re doing, they don't care if you won a show, they just want another customer.”

In the end, winning makes money, and it’s hard to dissuade athletes from doping when the regulatory bodies are also turning a blind eye, says Fountano.

“It happens in all sports. You see parents of little league players yelling and screaming, and they allow it because they want their kids to turn pro and take care of them. It’s the psychology of sports,” says Fountano. “Our society has put such a high level on entertainment and sports that athletes and entertainers lose it sometimes because they lose a sense of reality.”

Stockton says the main incentive to compete in an amateur competition like the WBFA are still the health benefits and the techniques it teaches, such as neuromuscular connectivity, which basically involves visualizing the muscle you’re exercising. This allows people to use their muscles and nerves more efficiently. “Ultimately you end up with less wear and tear on your joints,” he says.

Stockton, who recently set a national squat record in his age and weight group in San Jose, says that the WBFA event is refreshingly free of the typical cutthroat, steroid-infused climate: “We’re trying to take a healthy approach with this whole thing and share that with folks.”

Info: $20, 5:30 p.m., Sep. 6, Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. PHOTO: ZACH TAYLOR

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger


Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share


Santa Cruz Gives

A look at the organizations we’re asking you to support in our new holiday giving campaign


Gratitude—For Each New Morning With its Light

The full moon of Wednesday brings light to Thanksgiving (Thursday) under the Sagittarius Sun and Mercury. Mercury in Sag offers humanity the message (Mercury) of thankfulness and joy (Jupiter). No other sign represents food, music and joy better than Sagittarius (only Pisces, when not in despair). Beginning on Thanksgiving, we can list what we’re grateful for. Then we can continue the list, creating a daily Gratitude Journal. What we are grateful for always increases in our lives. On Thanksgiving Saturn/Neptune square (challenging) is in full effect. This can manifest as traditions not being honored, disappearing, falling away. It can also create a sense of sadness, confusion, of things not working out as planned. It’s best to be as simple as possible. And to focus on gratitude instead. Gratitude is a service to others. It is scientifically and occultly a releasing agent. Releasing us from the past, allowing our future—the new culture and civilization, the new Aquarian laws and principles, the rising light of Aquarius, the Age of Friendship and Equality—to come forth. Gratitude and goodwill create the “thought-form of solution for humanity and the world’s problems.” The hierarchy lays great emphasis upon expressing gratitude. Gratitude illuminates all that is in darkness. Let us be grateful during this season together. Being, for others, the light that illuminates the darkness. A Poem by R.W. Emerson: We are grateful … “For each new morning with its light/For rest and shelter of the night/For health and food/For love and friends/For everything thy goodness sends.” (poem by R.W. Emerson). I am grateful for my family of readers.


The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program


Pluck of the Irish

Mid-century immigrant tale engagingly told in ‘Brooklyn’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments


Second Street Café

Pies and tarts for all tastes—from traditional to adventurous


How are you preparing for El Niño?

Getting ready to buy some rain gear. Cory Pickering, Santa Cruz, Teaching Assistant


Fortino Winery

Cabernet and superb fruit wine from Fortino Winery


Tap Dance

West End Tap & Kitchen’s impressive menu to expand to Eastside location