Everyone wants a hot body, and the desire for a strong, well-developed build isn’t just a modern phenomena. As far back as the 1920s, people were marveling at the feats of strength and jaw-dropping physiques of strongmen, circus performers and boundary-breaking fitness enthusiasts such as Harry Houdini. In fact, you can trace this trend back thousands of years to the origins of the Olympic games in ancient Greece.
These days, the bodybuilding lifestyle doesn’t look much like what your Grandpa practiced. People are getting stronger, and the competition has never been tougher. Some of these enthusiasts, trying to break new powerlifting records or coax more from their body than it can give, turn to artificial enhancements.
A lot of controversy surrounds the rise of steroid use and medically shaky supplements among the bodybuilding community. Some would argue these substances are just enhancing what their bodies can naturally do; however, critics are quick to point out the disturbing, life-threatening and even lethal consequences of taking these supplements. Read about seven people whose lives and promising careers were cut short thanks to unsafe practices.
NFL defensive lineman and hardbody Lyle Alzado dominated the field for years in his pro football career. However, his bright future as a spokesman for power drinks and running shoes ground to a halt when he was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer. Unfortunately, Lyle died at the young age of 43, which doesn’t sound so bad compared to some of the young deaths on this list, but Lyle declared that his use of steroids during the bulk of his professional career led to his illness.
Curt Hennig was a rising star on the pro wrestler circuit, delighting audiences and striking fear into the hearts of his opponents. Unfortunately, like so many performers, he wandered down the dark path of addiction. He attempted to prop up his flagging career by bulking up with steroids; however, he couldn’t get off his downward path, and he ended his life at 32 years old.
British would-be bodybuilder Matthew Dear died at just 17 years of age. He never achieved fame during his short lifetime, but the ensuing media storm after his untimely death has made him a tragic cautionary tale about the dangers of enhancement. His death has been attributed by many people to an overdose of steroids.
Mohammed Benaziza’s death in 1992 actually ended two careers. This Algerian bodybuilder was achieving international success, competing at a fitness competition in Holland, when he collapsed and died. He was just 33 years old. His death wasn’t a shock; he had talked candidly for years about his heavy use of steroids and other drugs. Fellow competitor Steve Brisbois retired the following year, fearing he’d follow in the his footsteps.
Dean Wharmby didn’t want to be the kid getting sand kicked in his face at the beach; he was determined to get a rock-hard body no matter the cost. He took massive doses of steroids and “natural” enhancements while chasing this goal. He backed it up with an extreme diet of 10,000 calories and eight energy drinks a day. This father of one died of liver cancer caused by steroids despite his best attempts to heal with natural supplements.
Justin Rys was a New Zealander champion with a physique that earned him the well-deserved nickname “Mr. Big.” He bulked up fast by using massive amounts of performance- and image-enhancing drugs. When his health began to fail, he quit these substances, but, unfortunately, the damage had already been done. In the final months of his life before an unsuccessful heart transplant, he shared his story on YouTube, pleading with 4 million viewers to make better choices than he had.
Proving that men aren’t the only ones who suffer from supplement abuse, veteran bodybuilder Terri Harris’s career ended at the young age of 49 from a massive heart attack. This death rocked the small but close and supportive female bodybuilding circuit. Among her many accomplishments was placing in the IFBB Pro Bodybuilding Weekly Tampa Pro and winning a title in the NPC Louisiana state crown in 2000.
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