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Branden Liezert

Could performance-enhancing drugs used over 50, 60, and even 100 years ago still benefit bodybuilders and other athletes today? Is the allure of these once-popular drugs worth the consequences in today’s competitive landscape? Many of these weapons of mass construction first originated over half a century ago and were popularized by the Soviets, the Germans, and, of course, the Americans chasing the throne when it came to peak human performance in sport and strength culture. Some have vanished from the black market due to the health dangers they cause; others have disappeared due to the proven ineffectiveness new research demonstrated. Of course, some have continued to have a cultlike following in the bodybuilding circles simply because they work and work well. Read on as we revisit bodybuilding drugs of the past.


2,4-dinitrophenol (DNP) 

Although DNP is a very controversial drug in modern bodybuilding, it was extremely popular decades ago. Its fatal effects have been known since even before the 1960s, but its effectiveness in heating your body’s core temperature up to near-deadly levels is what may intrigue people into using it. Do not use this drug! Symptoms of DNP include extreme fatigue, excessive sweating, and raised body temperatures—so much so that an overdose of DNP can elevate internal temperatures to a point where you can literally cook yourself to death. In 1938, scientists pronounced that DNP was “extremely dangerous and not fit for human consumption.”

DNP still tends to have an underground following among uninformed bodybuilding competitors due to its ability to increase thermogenesis and boost metabolism. As calories come down, however, it is generally ceased in usage to help prevent catabolism of muscle tissue. At MUSCLE INSIDER we are pro-choice when it comes to PEDs, but this is one drug we think you should never take due to the health dangers. Don’t believe what you read online—there is simply no safe way to take DNP.

Boldenone (Equipoise Parenabol)

This drug was actually developed in 1949 and was the first synthetic testosterone derivative. The most common form of boldenone is boldenone undecylenate, which is found in the drug Equipoise. From a chemical standpoint, the drug has an undecylenate ester attached to it for prolonged time release in the body. The drug is a testosterone derivative that gives strength increases like a testosterone but with reduced androgenic effects. Like Deca, it also helps ease joint pain in many athletes.

At first, boldenone was marketed and introduced as Parenabol in the 1960s. It was promoted as a lean mass-building drug and was used clinically to aid weight loss and to spare muscle wasting. Additionally, it was also used as a treatment against osteoporosis.

It was then re-released under the name of Equipose as a veterinary anabolic steroid in the late ’70s. This is when boldenone gained popularity among the bodybuilding community as it was easy to get from racehorse trainers and veterinarians. Bodybuilders started to use “EQ” as a cheaper alternative to Deca and one that was and is much more available on the black market. It has always been a good lean tissue-building agent (with very few water-retention properties) as well as a powerful appetite stimulant. EQ might be the most potent appetite-stimulating drug out there in modern bodybuilding (next to cannabis, of course). It’s also popular due to its small conversion rate to estrogen, which of course leads to lessened chances of estrogenic side effects. It’s a popular choice in any mass-gaining cycle as it is interchangeable with Deca Durabolin, Durabolin, and Dynabolon.


CDMT, Oral Turinabol

CDMT (Chlorodehydromethyltestosterone) was the first original product of Jenapharm, which was an East German pharmaceutical company founded in 1950. It was a unique steroid and a bit of an outlier. It’s a cross between methandrostenolone (Dianabol) and clostebol. It is a very powerful anabolic steroid with again minimized androgenic effects. It was clinically proven to be highly effective in building lean mass and preserving bone mass. It was brought to light thanks to the East German steroid scandal in the 1990s.

At the time that the East German doping machine was active (1974–1989) Oral Turinabol was undetectable in its then-current doping tests. However, when the scandal was uncovered, Jenapharm halted all production of Oral Turinabol. Since then, the only manufacturers of it are underground labs and only buyers and sellers are on the black market.

Oral Turinabol was popular in the bodybuilding community due to its positive effects on protein synthesis, nitrogen retention, and increased red blood cell count. However, there are other drugs available that more significantly impact these traits. The real plus side to this particular drug wasn’t that it offered such mild ability to aromatize and carried such a low level of androgenic activity; it was that it would significantly reduce sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG). The reduction in SHGB promotes more active and available free testosterone. This means that the user could see impacts significantly increase from the other drugs in a cycle with Oral Turinabol. Many athletes think they’re on Turinabol but are usually taking substitutes (thanks to their source) without realizing it.


One of the DHT derivatives, Masteron is generally considered of moderate anabolic strength, again with considerably low androgenic side effects compared to other popular bodybuilding drugs. Masteron (a brand name for drostanolone propionate) was first invented in 1959 by Syntex. By the late 1960s, it was produced for the market by the American company Lilly. By the ’70s and ’80s, it developed a cultlike following with bodybuilders because of its anabolic properties and ability to build muscle without any water retention. It was eventually discontinued as a cancer treatment and thus no longer mass-produced for that purpose. Today Masteron is made nearly solely by underground labs, and it’s an absolute favourite among top men’s physique competitors and low doses are often used by female competitors as a hardening agent. We’ve seen more than a few top shows won with a little help from Mr. Masteron!

The selling point for Masteron is that it doesn’t aromatize, at any dosage. This means that a user will not observe any estrogenic side effects such as water retention, gynecomastia or elevation in blood pressure. However, normal androgenic side effects do come with usage of drostanolone, such as acne, hair loss, natural testosterone suppression, and increase in LDL cholesterol. Women who have used Masteron for extended periods of time or repeated cycles have experienced hair loss and facial hair growth.


Nandrolone (“Deca”, Deca-Durabolin, Durobolin, and Dynabolon)

Nandrolone has been extremely popular with the bodybuilding community ever since its inception. It was first developed in 1960 and two years later was made available under the name of Durabolin. This form of the drug was nandrolone phenylpropionate, but it was another form—nandrolone decanoate—that gained the popularity that has carried through to modern bodybuilding by the name of Deca-Durabolin. Even now, forms of nandrolone that do not apply to Deca-Durabolin are simply referred to as “Deca” due to the overwhelming popularity of the decanoate form.

It is often said that nandrolone was among the first few drugs used in the world of sports as a performance enhancer. It was banned at the Olympics in 1974, but famous athletes such as Roger Clemens (2000), Royce Gracie (2007) and Starling Marte (2017) have been caught far afterwards.

In the bodybuilding community, it’s well known that Deca is one of the most popular and effective drugs for those on bulking cycles or cutting cycles. For those dealing with injuries and inflammation, it’s also praised for its healing and painkilling effects. It’s a powerful anabolic agent, again with a much lower androgenic rating than most drugs available, especially at the time when it gained most of its popularity. Nandrolone is also one of the steroids that will most significantly increase nitrogen retention, keeping the body’s environment as anabolic as possible while diminishing the time spent catabolic.


Oxandrolone (Anavar, “Var”)

Searle Laboratories was the inventor of oxandrolone in 1962. They were foremost interested in the huge bang-for-your-buck payoff between anabolic versus androgenic effects in the drug. Oxandrolone was first used as a treatment for involuntary weight and muscle loss, but also was prescribed as a treatment for HIV/AIDS. The name Searle Laboratories marketed it under was Anavar.

Shortly thereafter, bodybuilders and powerlifters got their hands on Anavar. Due to an exponential growth of Anavar usage in the bodybuilding community, Searle Laboratories discontinued production of the drug in the mid-‘90s. In 1995, another company (Bio-Technology General CORP) re-released the drug under the name of Oxandrin, but all forms of oxandrolone were referred to as Anavar by this point.

“Var” has an anabolic rating more than triple that of testosterone. It’s also arguably the best performance-enhancing drug for increasing red blood cell count, which in turn increases muscular endurance. It is also arguably the only steroid that helps directly “burn fat” due to its ability to directly promote lipolysis. Anavar comes on the black market as an injectable, but orals come in 5 and 10 milligram tabs, which are hard to come by. But when Anavar tabs come to town, they get bought up by bikini, figure, women’s physique, and fitness class competitors due to the high anabolic-to-androgenic ratio. Real Anavar is perhaps the most sought-after steroid in existence among female competito