Twenty-eight-year-old Dev Luthra desired perfect six-pack abs before his marriage. An overdose of steroids promising to tone his physique in no time led to the swelling of his brain and, within months, the young company secretary was dead.
According to experts, an ever-increasing number of physique-conscious boys and men in the city are taking anabolic steroids to buff their bodies for several reasons like an aspiration to join showbiz or, like Luthra, to impress the other sex.
‘Having a toned body is a fad for youth and because of this, the number of youth taking supplements are on the rise,’ said Rommel Tickoo, senior consultant [Internal Medicine] at Max Hospital.
Tickoo said that anabolic steroids are not meant for body-building because their prolonged use without supervision can affect the liver and kidneys and can cause other serious harms. Agreed VM Katoch, director general of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR): ‘Using steroids for building muscles is not only wrong but is illegal.’
However, a visit to some of the premium as well as affordable gymnasiums around the city revealed that business is booming. The gyms are more than willing to provide the steroids if you have the money.
A popular gym in west Delhi suggested capsules, a box that would last around three weeks for Rs 5,000, which would ‘burn fat and turn them into muscles in a month’s time’.
Another gym in south Delhi suggested shakes to increase stamina. Questions on side effects or withdrawal symptoms were simply ridiculed.
However, national-level weightlifter Joginder Singh Saluja, who also owns a gym in the capital, said that in several cases, steroids were being given by their trainers in the garb of health supplements.
‘Health supplements do benefit the body, but steroids produce dramatic results. So, fake supplements mixed with steroids are promoted,’ said Saluja.
‘A good quality protein supplement would cost anything between Rs 3,000 and Rs 4,000 for a 2.5 kilo pack, but a copy of that same product would be available in the grey market for around Rs 1,000,’ he added.
Saluja, despite suffering from polio, has been working out for over a decade and his east Delhi gym takes special care of the differently-able. ‘Usage of harmful supplements is promoted due to the huge margins of profit in most cases,’ said Saluja.
Available as powder, pills and injections, steroid abuse, experts believe, is a vicious circle someone who indulges once can never quit without harming his body.
‘Once your body starts to bulk up, there’s no turning back. People become dependent on steroids as they are afraid to lose their desired physique,’ said Saluja, adding that withdrawal symptoms include mood swings, depression, insomnia and tiredness.
Saif Miraj, a 22-year-old who once aspired to be a model, agrees. Miraj saw his dreams shattered when excess steroids damaged his kidneys and liver. ‘I just didn’t want to stop. It was an obsession, and by the time I realised the damage done, it was too late,’ he said.
The solution, doctors feel, is to urgently spread awareness on the issue as not many who suffer due to steroid abuse come out in the open. ‘We don’t get to know about such cases often. It is happening but people don’t like to admit it,’ said Tickoo.
This was corroborated by Delhi Medical Council (DMC) registrar Girish Tyagi who said that no such case had been registered with it.
Saluja said that many find it embarrassing to admit that they wrecked their kidneys with steroids for a muscular body. Steroids like cortisol are different from anabolic steroids that body-builders use.