The race for quick fitness shortcuts has lured some youths to turn to steroids from unlicensed dealers in Singapore. (File Photo: Raul Arboleda/AFP
SINGAPORE: For John*, gym workouts have been part of his life since his early teens.
At first, the 21-year-old was content to let hard work build up his muscles. But four years ago, his desire to have a body he was proud to show off led him to experiment with anabolic steroids, which can accelerate muscle growth.
Within a couple of years of taking steroids, he took part in his first junior bodybuilding contest while studying at polytechnic. And although his career in competitive bodybuilding only lasted three contests, he has continued to take steroids to maintain his muscle mass.
Recent Instagram selfies show the results, as he posed in pictures showing his massively bulging deltoids and biceps, as well as his six-pack abdominals.
However, taking steroids has come at a cost.
“For my first competition, I got a lot of wrong information and as a result I took certain steroids that caused me to lack sleep,” said John, who is now a full-time National Serviceman. “I simply couldn’t sleep for a whole week, no matter how hard I tried.”
Sleeplessness was only part of the problem: “My blood pressure was so high, I had problems breathing and was always panting. I didn’t know why, and I thought it was because I didn’t do cardiovascular exercises.
“I realised much later that it was because someone told me to take certain steroids which exceeded the ‘safe’ doses.”
TEEN STEROID USE HAS BECOME WIDESPREAD: LOCAL FITNESS INSTRUCTORS
John is not the only young person venturing into the world of injectable and oral anabolic steroids to develop big and defined muscles. More teens have apparently been tempted by the fast gains that steroids offer in terms of muscle size and definition.
Ten local gym managers, personal trainers and bodybuilders that Channel NewsAsia spoke to over a month-long period confirmed this trend.
“It’s quite rampant actually. I know of quite a number of young gym goers who have picked up steroid use,” said Allen*, a gym manager at a 24-hour gym in Singapore.
Another gym manager, Dex*, said it is common to see used steroid ampoules lying around in changing room dustbins. “It’s quite prevalent among gym users in Singapore for sure.”
An example of an unlicensed injectable bottle of anabolic steroid that can be purchased in the online black market. (Photo: Google search)
"It’s an indication that some of our clients are using steroids,” said Dex, who oversees a 24-hour gym in the west of Singapore.
“But ever since we’ve put up a sign that says ‘No steroid use allowed in our gym’, we’re seeing fewer items like syringes and ampoules in our bins,” he added.
And there are other clear signs of steroid use, said Dex. “I’ve seen guys that are only 18 and their bodies are already like Arnold Schwarzenegger's! They have deformities that make the person look older than 18.”
He added that although some young bodybuilders deny using steroids, their abnormally overdeveloped muscles can only come from using them. "They won’t admit that they use it, but we all know they do.”
According to John, teen steroid users have limited awareness of the potential side effects of using steroids. Often, young users will turn to their suppliers for advice on how to take steroids - and few of them have any proper medical knowledge. But that is no problem in his circle of acquaintances. “Even my sister – who is 15 – has friends who are using and asking where they can get their hands on certain anabolic steroids.