Roids, Arnolds, gym candy, juice, stackers, weight trainers…Whatever you call them, steroids are the most common advantages bodybuilders and power lifters try to use to get ahead in a cutthroat industry filled with muscle-heads. However, while steroids are quick for packing on muscle and building strength, they are also known for a laundry list of negative side effects that include everything from mood swings and heart problems to one of the biggest male concerns—shrunken anatomy!
Regardless of the health concerns and legality, bodybuilders around the world have turned to steroids (or “gear” as some call it) to get pumped and ripped for major competitions like the Arnold Classic, Mr. Olympia, the Ironman Pro Invitational and the Night of Champions. Despite taking home major titles, however, many steroid users learn the hard way that their bodybuilding careers are short-lived and the side effects often cause more long-term damage than good.
So what happens when a bodybuilder quits steroids completely? From muscle-popping physiques and award-winning strength to injury, health scares and retirement, join us as we take a look at shocking transformations of bodybuilders who gave up steroids for good. Will you recognize these before and after photos? Let’s find out!
#10 – Dorian Yates
What better way to start our list than with one of the best known professional bodybuilders of all time? Born in England in 1962, Dorian “The Shadow” Yates was 21 years old when he first started working out after spending six months at a youth detention center. Shifting his focus to the gym, it took Yates around seven years before reaching the pinnacle of the bodybuilding world when he took home his first Mr. Olympia title in 1992. Winning five consecutive titles until 1997, Yates ranks behind Ronnie Coleman, Lee Haney and Arnold Schwarzenegger for all-time Mr. Olympia wins.
Enjoying the peak of success in the late 1990s, Yates’ career was cut short all too soon in 1997 when several injuries, including torn biceps and triceps, from extensive steroid use took him out of the competition for good. Yates gave up competing (and steroids) and bought a gym franchise with locations in England, California and Las Vegas. Now 54 years old and looking less like a sideshow strongman, Yates is a published author and trainer who spends the majority of his time coaching his son as a professional bodybuilder. Looks like the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree after all!
#9 – Paul Dillet
Just call him Freak-enstein! Once a player in the Canadian Football League, Paul Dillet retired from football and headed straight to the gym where he trained as a professional bodybuilder. Dillet made his debut and took second place in the 1991 North American Championships before taking the first place title the following year. He entered his first professional competitions in the 1993 Arnold Classic and the 1993 Ironman Pro Invitation only to enjoy his first major win six years later in the 1999 Night of Champions competition.
Wrapping up his career in 2012 after 21 moderately successful years and four top-five finishes in the Mr. Olympia competition, the 51-year-old Dillet looks much different today after ditching the steroids. Trading in his eight pack abs for what many people in the industry refer to as an “HGH Gut,” Freak-enstein looks a bit chubbier these days but that hasn’t stopped him from maintaining his reputation in the fitness world. Currently residing in Toronto, the former gym rat and professional bodybuilder is now the owner and CEO of World Beauty Fitness and Fashion Inc., HGH gut and all!
#8 – Gunter Schlierkamp
Though he’s still rocking an incredible bod these days especially after his cameo appearance in the 2006 flick Beerfest, Gunter “The Gentle Giant” Schlierkamp has definitely changed since making his professional bodybuilding debut in 1990. Growing up in Germany throughout the 1970s and working as a German IFBB throughout his 20s, Schlierkamp moved to the United States in 1996 and competed as an IFBB contender for more the 15 years. However, The Gentle Giant never managed to take home any major wins other than the 2002 IFBB GNC Show of Strength Champion.
Despite strong showings at numerous Mr. Olympia competitions over the years, Schlierkamp used his tenth place finish in the 2006 event to wrap up his career and taper his longtime steroid habit. Completely off the ‘roids today and using supplements instead, the 46-year-old Schlierkamp is still looking as strong as ever while maintaining his strength and muscle tone by religiously hitting the gym. Now working as a spokesperson for supplements as well as a personal trainer, this “Gentle Giant” is proof that you can still look good and build muscle even off the juice.
#7 – Kevin Levrone
Easily one of the most successful bodybuilders on our list, Kevin “The Maryland Muscle Machine” Levrone is a member of the IFBB Hall of Fame who has also found moderate success as a blogger, actor and musician. Making his professional debut in the 1991 NPC Nationals, Levrone competed in nearly 70 IFBB competitions throughout his 12-year career and won a whopping 23 titles. The two-time Arnold Classic winner and four-time Mr. Olympia runner-up wrapped up his career in 2003 after taking third place in the Show of Strengths Pro Championship.
Known for bench pressing an upwards of 600 pounds, Levrone’s steroid use led him straight to the operating table in the early 1990s after tearing his pectoral muscles. Despite never officially retiring, the uncrowned Mr. Olympia eventually turned to other opportunities and made his acting debut in the 2006 film Backlash with additional appearances in Redline and Burning Hollywood. Now 51 years old and sporting a “dad bod,” Levrone made a huge announcement in May 2016 when he confirmed he was training for the 2016 Mr. Olympia competition. We can’t wait to see his transformation!
#6 – Bob Paris
An all-around kid with interests in everything from painting and drawing to sports and the outdoors, Indiana native Bob Paris knew he wanted to become a bodybuilder after he discovered weightlifting in high school. Bulking up and eventually spending a summer at the U.S. Marine Corps boot camp in South Carolina, Paris later moved to California to pursue his dreams of acting and bodybuilding. With very little money and left with no other choice but to live out of his car, Paris was named Mr. Los Angeles and Mr. Southern California before taking the title as Mr. America and Mr. Universe in 1983.
Named as the “most aesthetic athlete in the history of bodybuilding” by Flex Magazine, rumors ran wild that Paris used steroids despite his constant push for extended drug testing in the industry. Eventually calling it quits in 1991 to pursue his dreams of writing, the 56-year-old Paris looks completely different than his younger days and stays in shape by hiking with his spouse, Brian, around their Vancouver home. Now a published fitness author and photographer, Paris continues to be an advocate for the LGBT community in the United States and Canada.
#5 – Flex Wheeler
Likely the most aptly named bodybuilder on the list, Kenneth “Flex” Wheeler had a rough childhood growing up in California but coped with his struggles by focusing on martial arts and weight training. After working briefly as a police officer, Wheeler made his professional bodybuilding debut in 1983 and quickly gained a reputation as being arrogant and overly confident after taking home the first place title at the 1989 NPC Mr. California Championships. The four-time Arnold Classic winner also earned the compliment of his career when Arnold Schwarzenegger said he was one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time.
Involved in a near-fatal car accident in 1994 and forced to start over from scratch at the gym, Wheeler beat the odds again in 1999 when he was diagnosed with kidney disease and left with no other choice but to give up steroids. Officially retiring in 2000, Wheeler wrapped up his competitive career with a third place finish at the 2003 Ironman Pro Invitational before receiving a kidney transplant later that year. Now 50 years old and focusing on his martial arts training, Wheeler is looking out of shape and far less flexible than his early career when he was known as “The Sultan of Symmetry.”
#4 – Victor Martinez
Not to be confused with the Venezuelan MLB player by the same name, Victor “The Dominican Dominator” Martinez was only the second bodybuilder in Dominican history to turn pro. Doing so in 1995 at the age of 22, Martinez placed first in the 1997 NPC New York Metro Championships but saw the biggest win of his career in 2007 when he won the Arnold Classic and finished second in the Mr. Olympia competition. Continuing to compete today with his last ranking as ninth in the 2015 Mr. Olympia event, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Martinez.
Known for his massive size and obvious steroid use, Martinez was caught selling steroids in 2004 and experienced his second scare in 2011 when he was arrested upon returning to the United States with an expired permanent resident card. Threatened with deportation, Martinez was held at the New Jersey detention center for over six weeks and lost his restaurant—the Muscle Maker Grill—before being released. Steering clear of steroids ever since, the 42-year-old hits the gym even harder these days but looks more like an avid runner than a former heavyweight champion.
#3 – Mustafa Mohammad
Quite possibly one of the most dramatic transformations on our list belongs to Mustafa Mohammad of Jordan. Starting his career as a professional bodybuilder in 1989 with an eleventh place finish at the World Amateur Bodybuilding Championships, Mohammad was known for his incredible thigh development measuring in at over 32 inches. Despite this, however, he never reached the peak of his career as a result of such stiff competition although he managed a first place finish in the 1991 NABBA Mr. Universe competition in the Medium-Tall division.
After winning two world titles in 1992 at only 26 years old, Mohammad did the unthinkable and retired for a little over nine years before returning in 2001 in what proved to be a disappointing end to his career. Never placing higher than third and ending his run with a ninth place finish at the 2006 Grand Prix Austria, it only took two years before the lack of steroids kicked in and left the former muscle-clad Jordanian looking like every other 40-year-old at the gym.
#2 – Tom Prince
Although he isn’t one of the most popular bodybuilders in the world, Tom Prince has undeniably earned his place on our list of transformations. Launching his professional bodybuilding career in 1997 when he won the NPC National Championships, Prince joined the pro circuit but failed to bring home any other major championship titles outside of a third place finish at the 2001 Night of Champions. Preparing for the same event two years later, everything soon changed for Prince when kidney failure took him off of steroids and out of the competition.
Spending the next nine years undergoing dialysis three times a week, Prince underwent a successful kidney transplant in 2012 and is healthier than ever with a new lease on life. Happy with his retirement from bodybuilding and content with his thinner look, the 47-year-old has since traded in steroids and long hours at the gym for a more fulfilling (and healthier) lifestyle while working alongside his wife with their property management company. Admitting that he misses the friendships of the industry, Prince says he’s happy to support his wife’s dreams after the many years she spent cheering him on.
#1 – Chris Cormier
Coming in at the top of our list is California native Chris Cormier, a former bodybuilder who made his debut with a sixth place finish at the 1994 Mr. Olympia competition at only 27 years old. Cormier followed up the event with top-four finishes at the 1994 Arnold Classic and the Ironman Pro Invitation, which established him as a professional in the industry and landed him on the cover of several fitness magazines. Enjoying ongoing success well into the 2000s, Cormier’s career came to a halt in 2006 when he was injured after training with former Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates from earlier on our list.
Hospitalized with an infected spine, Cormier gave up steroids and bodybuilding for good after placing fourth in the 2007 IFBB Montreal Pro Classic in exchange for a career as an athletic trainer. Now 49 years old and thrilled to share his expertise from over 72 competitions and 12 professional wins, Cormier may have lost all of the muscle mass he once had from taking steroids but he’s looking as fit as ever with his body finally proportional to his head.