The benefits of going to the gym and pumping iron are well documented – but some people don’t stop there. Just take these ten freakishly sized men and women, for example. From injecting synthol into their muscles to going hard on steroids, they all have pushed their bodies to life-threatening limits.
10. Arlindo de Souza
Arlindo de Souza, 45, lives with his aging mother in the Brazilian city of Olinda. He’s been called a “real-life Popeye,” and he’s earned that name by having biceps that measure an astonishing 29 inches in girth. But he’s the first to admit that his extraordinary muscles are the result of fakery.
Like many Brazilian bodybuilders, Souza has resorted to a witches’ brew of alcohol and oil that is injected straight into muscles. And he knows that what he is doing is incredibly risky. Speaking to the Daily Mail, he said, “My friend Paulinho, he passed away from doing these things. I felt his death a lot. He took it, I took it, but he went beyond the limit. I advise no-one to take this oil.”
9. Andreas Munzer
Austrian Andreas Munzer had started bodybuilding because he had a two-hour wait for his bus every evening after his work as a toolmaker. So instead of twiddling his thumbs, he worked out at the gym. Munzer then went on to have some success in professional competition, but he never quite reached the very top rank. To reach the level he eventually did, then, he took a horrifying cocktail of drugs, including testosterone, steroids, insulin and growth hormones.
His final competition was in Columbus, Ohio. It was the Arnold Classic, named for compatriot Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Munzer took sixth place and a check for $5,000. That was on March 2, 1996. By March 13, Andreas was in hospital with severe stomach pains. Doctors operated, but it was too late, and he died later that day. A post mortem found that his liver had in fact almost disappeared. A touching wreath from Schwarzenegger said simply, “A last greeting to a friend.”
8. Gregg Valentino
Gregg Valentino’s main claim to fame is probably being the subject of the 2006 film The Man Whose Arms Exploded. Now 55, Valentino took to bodybuilding way back in 1972 and upped the ante by resorting to steroid abuse when he was 36. Of course, it wasn’t to end well.
As a result of using dirty hypodermics, he contracted an infection in his bicep. At first, he tried to self-treat by draining his arm with a syringe. Unsurprisingly, he ended up in hospital for emergency surgery. Later, he was arrested for selling steroids and lost his gym business, and then his wife. Naturally, then, he’s now forsworn steroids altogether.
7. Valdir Segato
Looking at 48-year-old Valdir Segato today, it’s hard to believe that he was once a skinny little kid. Yes, the Sao Paulo native first used recreational drugs as a teenager, turning his physique even scrawnier. “I started to look skinny and people started giving me nicknames like ‘Skinny Dog,’ and ‘Little Skull,’ and so I decided to change my life,” he said.
That’s when Segato hit the gym. But he didn’t stop at working out: he turned to performance-enhancing drugs. “There was a time that I injected a larger dosage of anabolic steroids and I ended up in the hospital,” he told the Daily Mirror. Then Segato moved on from steroids to synthol, a substance that some bodybuilders inject directly into their muscles in order to make them swell. In Segato’s case, his muscles became grotesque. And he intends to continue, despite doctors telling him that he’s putting his health, and his life, at risk.
6. Candice Armstrong
Candice Armstrong is a former barmaid from London, England. But her heavy steroid abuse has almost turned “her” into a “him.” In fact, her bodybuilding trip started innocently enough with pole dancing and working out at the gym. However, she then got hold of steroids online, and her transformation began.
Now, Armstrong has facial hair, a deepened voice, and she no longer menstruates. Additionally, her clitoris has become so enlarged that it apparently resembles a small penis. Yet Armstrong is happy. She told the Daily Mail, “It’s opened doors and enabled me to develop myself the way I want to.” But the U.K.’s National Health Service notes, “[Steroid use] can also lead to potentially dangerous medical conditions, such as high blood pressure (hypertension) or heart attacks.”
5. Romario Dos Santos Alves
It all started for 26-year-old Brazilian Romario Dos Santos Alves when he moved to a new city in 2012. Speaking to the Daily Mirror, he recalled, “I saw some really big guys in the gym with huge arms and I started to make friends with them. They introduced me to synthol and I got excited about the results – I lost control.”
Naturally, his health started to go downhill fast. “I remember the doctor told me that they would need to amputate both arms. They said everything in there, all my muscles, were rock,” he told the Daily Mail. Luckily, doctors were able to nurse him back to health without recourse to amputation, and Alves has steered clear of synthol since. “I still feel like taking synthol but I won’t,” he assured the Daily Mirror. Let’s hope he can stick to that.
4. Sally McNeil
Sally McNeil was a sergeant in the Marine Corps, as was her husband Ray. Both were professional bodybuilders too – and both abused steroids in the pursuit of the perfect physique. But after leaving the military, Sally took to paid wrestling with men, titling herself “Killer McNeil” in what was a sinister portend of the future.
On Valentine’s Day 1995, Sally and Ray argued. Sally took a shotgun from a closet and shot Ray once in the abdomen and once in the face. Ray died in hospital two hours later, and Sally was sentenced to 19 years to life for second-degree murder. Blood tests showed that both were on steroids, and many concluded that “roid rage” played some part in this tragic tale.
3. Dean Wharmby
When Dean Wharmby of Rochdale, England, was diagnosed with liver cancer, he blamed it on his 10,000-calorie daily diet. He told the Daily Mail, “I can’t say it was the diet for sure, but things like the energy drinks could be contributing factors. Red meats – all things we have found out have so many impurities in them now.”
But after Wharmby’s death in July 2015, coroner Lisa Hashmi had few doubts about the cause. The Daily Mail subsequently reported her words. They read, “I find on the balance of probabilities that in such a fit, health-conscious young man the most probable cause of his liver tumors was the misuse of anabolic steroids.” Sadly, it seems that Wharmby’s death at 39 has to be chalked up to his quest for the perfect body.
2. Andrej Gajdos
Andrej Gajdos, who stood seven feet and two inches tall and weighed in at around 280 pounds, was a keen bodybuilder who visited the gym twice a day to keep himself ripped. Unfortunately, the teenager didn’t just work out to get his enviable physique… he also took steroids.
Gajdos, born in Slovakia but at the time living in Weston-super-Mare in southwest England, died suddenly and unexpectedly due to a ruptured aorta, the body’s main artery. He was only 19. A post mortem revealed that Gajdos had been taking steroids, although how much this contributed to his death was uncertain. However, a ruptured aorta in someone so young is highly unusual, according to medical experts.
1. Oli Cooney
Oli Cooney had already had one heart attack and three strokes before a final, fatal heart attack took his life in September 2013. After those first attacks, Cooney simply did not stop exercising, in spite of doctors’ advice against it. He did stop taking steroids, though. But it was too late to avoid the damage already caused. Yes, that last attack was sadly caused by steroid abuse.
Cooney, from West Yorkshire in England, had been working out from the age of 16 and was just 20 when he died. In a stark reminder of the price paid by family in a tragedy like this, Oli’s mother Sarah told the Daily Mail, “We would not want anyone to go through the hell we have been through. We will never move on from this.”