In a 1989 issue of IRONMAN magazine you wrote: “I am categorically against drug use, anabolic or otherwise. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Every drug has side effects…”Do you still feel as strongly today about the drug problem in bodybuilding? If anything, my feelings today are even greater than they were back then since the problem has spun so much further out of control. How has the use of steroids changed the sport of bodybuilding since you got involved with it back in the late 1950s? Bodybuilders today are using a lot more than just steroids. In fact, steroids are almost like “cotton candy” compared to everything else that’s being used today. When I got started in Chicago at the age of 14 in 1956, there was nothing in the magazines on drugs since very few people even knew about them. Actually, the first time I ever even heard about them was in an early 1960s issue of IRONMAN when the magazine was published by Peary Rader. Peary did a real soul-searching article about Dianabol and the potential that anabolic drugs had to damage bodybuilding. But it wasn’t until I moved to LA in 1965 after college, that I actually personally became exposed to steroids. I was training at the original Gold’s Gym and the top bodybuilders in the world were training there. Steroids were not illegal at that time and weren’t an underground thing at all. In fact, doctors were prescribing them. They were used pretty openly by Olympic lifters as well as bodybuilders. Everybody was using Dianabol. One big difference back then was that bodybuilders used anabolics as the finishing touch in their contest preparation. They trained hard, heavy and naturally all year and then three months out from a contest, they went on steroids. They relied heavily on diet and training first. Training without the drugs for most of the year gave them a chance to really be in touch with their bodies. After a contest, they stopped the drugs and eased back on their training. It’s not like that at all today. Today it’s more and more drugs year round. To me, the real turning point came in the 1980s with the advent of the “steroid guru” Dan Duchaine and his book the Underground Steroid Handbook. I knew Dan personally and he was a brilliant mad scientist. No one knew more about drug usage at that time than Dan. You wouldn’t guess it to look at him. He had no genetics for bodybuilding. Anyway, I was doing much of the photography for Joe Weider at the time and I remember getting furious with Joe because he ran an ad for Dan’s book. Dan experimented on himself all the time and he knew very well what the side effects and the dangers were. He used to say a lot of off-the-wall stuff in his book and articles but a lot of young kids reading his material didn’t know that. All they knew was that if Dan Duchaine loves this stuff, how do I get it? Dan opened the door for all the other “gurus” and the wide-open acceptance of drug usage. This has completely changed bodybuilding today and its perception by the public. Drugs have definitely hurt bodybuilding’s image worldwide. Every American bodybuilding magazine had bigger circulations back in the 90s than we have today. In Europe it’s even worse. The public now associates everyone that has muscles with steroids. One of the greatest rewards of bodybuilding is a sense of personal satisfaction, a feeling that you did something positive with your body, you created this. By depending upon the chemicals you are depreciating one of the main things of value that bodybuilding has to offer. Again, back to Peary Rader. I remember another article where he said if you are a bodybuilder, you are different. If you care about strength and health and correct nutrition and taking care of your body… then you are different. And that very difference for me was one of the attractions. It was who I am. A bodybuilder. It’s not like that today. Wherever I go, whoever I meet, the first place the discussion goes is to drugs. It’s ironic that bodybuilding, which introduced the whole world to fitness, has now become cancerous and is killing itself. If you read Men’s Health you will see that they have acquired every one of bodybuilding’s philosophies and repackaged them for the general public. They sell more copies each month than every bodybuilding magazine in the world in every language put together. Bodybuilding was ultimately responsible for their success while we lost control of the source. Bodybuilding is no longer seen as the parent of the whole fitness movement. The drugs have tarnished all of us. And it didn’t happen all at once. It happened in a thousand mini-steps from the early days to today. It’s a well-known fact now that 99.9% of professional bodybuilders are using all types of performance-enhancing substances in their contest preparation. It’s also well known that the dosage levels are hitting an all-time high and the athletes are now jeopardizing their lives just to win a competition. In your opinion, will this madness just continue to escalate or is there some way to put a stop to it? In 1996, after we had experienced the deaths of Mohammed Benazizza and Andreas Muntzer, I sent a letter to the movers and shakers of bodybuilding telling them that we needed to change bodybuilding competition from the top down and phase out the most dangerous chemicals over a three-year period. And then make it as clean as we could using the technology available. My firm belief then as it still is now is that the same people would still be at the top. I felt that if we didn’t somehow try to stop this, competitive bodybuilding would self-destruct. I ended that letter by asking whether we viewed bodybuilding as an enhancer of life or a precursor to death. I got little response. Eight years later, it’s only worse than what it was. I’m amazed that there aren’t people dying on stage. I’ve always been an advocate of proportion and symmetry first. But as long as judges keep choosing the freaky monsters, things won’t change. I saw 180-pound Ed Corney back in the early 1980s bring the house down with deafening applause with his amazing posing routine. Do the guys today weighing 280 pounds get any more applause? Do we sell any more seats? There’s a disconnect between the audience and the bodies on stage. Even I don’t believe they’re real and I’ve been involved with bodybuilding for almost 50 years. I have no animosity on a personal level with any of the pros. I just feel that things need to change at the top. Bodybuilding is killing itself and its competitors. It all boils down to who is willing to take the biggest chance. How do you view IRONMAN’S role in all of this? The biggest thing we strive to do is promote drug-free training through the editorial focus of IRONMAN. You’ll notice that we do very little on competitive bodybuilding. Yes — we cover it, but we’re not aimed at the competitor. We cover competition because we’re part of this world but we do not put an emphasis on it. Ninety percent or more of what we publish in IRONMAN is aimed at the person who takes no drugs. We very clearly state to our readers that only the chemically enhanced, genetically elite can look this way. And we say it over and over again. Over the last year, we have greatly reduced our amount of contest coverage. Reader feedback has shown us that the majority of our readers don’t care about contests. They seem to understand that these people on stage bear no resemblance to what’s possible without drugs. We aren’t a magazine built around the superstars. Actually, the most superstar part of our magazine is the ads because most of the advertisers use the well-known pros. And there are even some people who complain about that. But that’s just the reality of the marketplace. There seems to be an attitude in some of the magazines today that since so many people are using the drugs, they should at least give their readers information on how to use them properly and what dangers to look for. What is IRONMAN’S policy on this? We’ve kind of swung back and forth on this. We do have some authors like Jerry Brainum that know a lot about this subject. But lately I’ve dropped way back on this. I’ve read some of the stuff being published by the experts and thought to myself: my God, they’re killing people. How serious is the drug problem in women’s bodybuilding? The women’s level of training and development is right up there with the best of any athletes. And the chemicals seem to be much more effective with the women than they are with men. The women seem to be able to get way leaner than the men ever get. I’m astonished by the level of development they can get. Step-by-step, we went from Rachel McLish to Corey Everson to where we are today. How many of the female competitors today even know that it was Dan Duchaine who really got the drugs going in women’s bodybuilding? What advice would you give to a young person taking up weight training today? Stay away from the drugs! I have a 14-year-old son who is now doing weight training under my direction. The last thing in the world I would want is for him to be a competitive bodybuilder. I’m teaching him how to train properly using the knowledge and techniques that I know work. Not drugs. And the other thing is that I would caution them to be wary of the Internet. The dilemma is that all someone has to do today is punch in bodybuilding and they have 10,000 web sites to look at. Is all of the information good? Some of it is wonderful but a lot of it is also absolutely garbage! Can someone with my background tell the difference? Yes! But can a young kid tell? Probably not! Too much information has actually depreciated the value of the information.