Some bodybuilders are turning to extreme methods in order to achieve the perfect pecs.
There are two types of drug abuse: the scary kind, and the really scary kind. Synthol users fall victim to the latter. A drug which is becoming increasingly popular with bodybuilders, synthol is a kind of injectable fat, used to “correct” lagging body parts, giving the impression of a larger muscle mass as it’s absorbed into the body.
It was first concocted by American bodybuilder guru Chris Clark in the 90s, when he was looking for a way to bulk up muscles that responded poorly to training, and it’s been destroying people’s bodies ever since. Clark ended up in hospital after inadvertently poisoning himself with one of the early stage mixes, but apparently that didn’t deter him and synthol is now about as easy to get hold of as cannabis.
You might not have heard it’s name before but I’m sure many of you have seen the infamous YouTube video below showcasing it’s fuck-awful effects. The man in the video, Gregg Valentino, went from being the record holder for the world’s biggest biceps to “that guy whose arm exploded” after years of steroid abuse and synthol injecting took their toll, and a giant haematoma formed in his right bicep, leaking blood and puss for hours after he tried to drain it. Reflecting on what happened he says, “I was really the guy who needed a lobotomy.” Valentino underwent surgery but his arm is now permanently deformed.
This is obviously an extreme case but the reality is there are many cases of substance abuse happening in the world of competitive bodybuilding. Sarmad Alladin, an 18-year-old boy from Surrey, died last year after taking DNP fat burning tablets to help him slim down, an abuse that’s scarily common, and although synthol use is banned competitively, along with anabolic steroids, its popularity seems to be growing. Shunned by most professionals there are hundreds of anti-synthol forums dedicated purely to hatin’, but use still appears to be growing.
Success in the bodybuilding world can come from unexpected places, as Tube worker finishes third at world bodybuilding championships
poke to Willem Koert, who runs Ero-log, a site which reports on the dangers of performance enhancing drug abuse. He explains, “Synthol has changed bodybuilding, but not in the way that you might think. Some professional bodybuilders have used synthol to make their calves bigger, or their triceps, deltoids or biceps, but most bodybuilders don’t like synthol. Synthol is against the ethics of the community – against the ethics of the natural bodybuilding community and against the ethics of the pharmacologically enhanced part of the bodybuilding community as well. Clark has given bodybuilders something they can agree on: synthol is wrong.”
On some forums the muscles built up with synthol are labelled “dirty muscle”, which is pretty apt. If the oils don’t absorb into the body the muscle tissue reject it, and the oil becomes encapsulated inside the skin, often in the form of painful cysts. If these aren’t treated in time the muscle tissue is broken apart and immobility becomes a very real threat. Koert tells me that in the worst cases, “there are so many cysts in the muscle that physicians cannot remove them all. They have to amputate part of the muscle.” These guys are having their arms hacked off because there’s nothing left in them but fats and puss.
The thing is, synthol is “the lazy man’s drug” because unlike anabolics, which only work in tandem to a rigorous program of training and diet, synthol just makes muscles appear bigger by bulking them up. Koert is passionate about the difference: “Steroids give you more contracting, real muscle tissue. Synthol muscles are just meat, filled with oil. If you visit bodybuilding boards, you will only find hostility towards synthol users.”
That might be true, but there are some fanatics out there. In the depths of one forum a user posts “The thing about S is it’s unnoticeable, so you can even everything out, perfect symmetry scores big points at pro level,” whilst another comments, “Synt freaks are the best kind, using for a year and no side effects so far!” Good for you, mentalist.
But there’s a far more disturbing issue here than whether or not pumping your arms up is ethically viable or not. Dr Harrison Pope, who was featured in the 2012 documentary The Truth About Steroids, thinks a disease he calls “bigorexia” is sweeping the community. He believes many bodybuilders suffer from muscle dismorphia, and are truly unable to gage how big they are. As a result they resort to increasingly desperate measures to get bigger.
This sounds not too different from the ten of thousands of anorexics, bulimics and body dismorphics out there, fucking up their bodies because lasting damage seems a small price to pay for physical perfection. Perhaps the worst thing about synthol isn’t its ethics, or its side effects, but what it suggests about the standards we set for ourselves.
We live in a society where our beauty ideals increasingly seem to lie outside of what the human body is actual capable of achieving. Until we start celebrating women and men of all different shapes and sizes, drugs like synthol will continue to wreak havoc on not only our muscles, but our minds.