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Arnold Schwarzenegger Claims He Only Used Steroids Safely: "Now People Are Dying"

The bodybuilder and actor says that bodybuilding is no longer "a safe sport" because of rampant drug use.

Before he was the Terminator, Conan the Barbarian, or a kindergarten cop—and long before he was governor of California—Arnold Schwarzenegger was a competitive bodybuilder. During his career, he became No. 1 bodybuilder in the world, winning the Mr. Olympia competition seven times. He also went on to write books on the topic and starred in the 1977 bodybuilding documentary Pumping Iron. Now 75, Schwarzenegger opened up about his use of steroids during that time in a new interview and explained why he believes he did so safely, while many bodybuilders today are putting themselves in danger.

Speaking to Men's Health, Schwarzenegger rationalized his use of steroids, which he says he took under the guidance of medical professionals. Read on to see what the actor and politician had to say about the subject, including recognizing that he's hardly the best person to give advice.

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Anabolic steroids for bodybuilding are illegal.

Syringe and pills next to weights
Jiri Hera / Shutterstock

The steroids used by bodybuilders and athletes are anabolic steroids, which are synthetically produced to mimic testosterone. According to Mayo Clinic, there are many potential side effects of anabolic steroids, including: undesired changes to body parts including genitalia, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, liver issues, heart and blood flow issues, addiction, and many more.

While there are few medically approved reasons for use of anabolic steroids, they are illegal for use for sports or bodybuilding. The Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 1990 established these drugs as schedule III substances. Anabolic steroids are only one type of performance-enhancing drug (PED) that people might take for muscle building.

Schwarzenegger said bodybuilding is not "a safe sport" these days.

Arnold Schwarzenegger flexing muscle in an ad for a German protein product circa 1967
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In his Men's Health interview, Schwarzenegger shared that he took testosterone and the anabolic steroid Dianabol (aka Dbol). "One hundred milligrams a week," he said was his dose of testosterone, "and then three Dianabol a day, so that was 15 milligrams a day."

He also said that he was taking the drugs under a doctor's supervision, which felt safer to him than what athletes are doing now.

"Bodybuilding always, always was considered a safe sport. But now it's not," he said. "Now people are dying—they're dying because of overdoses of drugs and they don't know what the [expletive] they're doing. They're listening to charlatans. If I want to get medical advice from a doctor, I go to UCLA or I go to the Cleveland Clinic."

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There have been deaths in the bodybuilding community.

Rich Piana at the premiere of "Generation Iron 2" in 2017
Richard Stonehouse/Getty Images for The Vladar Company, Vlad Yudin

In 2022, Insider reported on several deaths in the bodybuilding world. Bodybuilding stars Rich Piana, who was 46, and Dallas McCarver, who was 26, died within days of each other. Both were found during autopsies to have enlarged hearts. The coroner in McCarver's death said that the condition of his heart indicated that steroid use was a contributor to his death.

"I am totally 100 percent aware that damage is being done to my body in the choices I am making," Piana, who had spoken regularly about steroid use, said in one interview, as reported by People. "For every positive I'm getting from these steroids, there's a negative that's going to come along with it."

Schwarzenegger advised bodybuilders to stay away from steroids.

Arnold Schwarzenegger at the premiere of "Terminator Genisys" in 2015
Tinseltown / Shutterstock

"Don't go there," Schwarzenegger said of using drugs to bulk up. "Yes, we are at a time now where we always look for the easy way to make money, the fast way to get rich, the easy way to be an influencer. Anytime you abuse the body, you're going to regret it. So I just want young people to know that I have seen people getting kidney transplants and suffering tremendously from it."

That said, the 75-year-old actor realizes that he might not be the easiest person to listen to, because he already did the drugs and had a hugely successful career in bodybuilding, and later in acting and politics.

"I recognize the fact that, who am I to say this?" he said. "This is the guy who climbed without a rope."

He doesn't regret his actions, however.

Arnold Schwarzenegger at a business forum in Kyiv in 2018
BLGKV / Shutterstock

This isn't the first time Schwarzenegger has spoken out about using steroids, and he previously shared that he wouldn't change that part of his past.

"I have no regrets about it," Schwarzenegger told ABC News in 2005, "because at that time, it was something new that came on the market, and we went to the doctor and did it under doctors' supervision. We were experimenting with it. It was a new thing. So you can't roll the clock back and say, 'Now I would change my mind on this.'"

As in the more recent interview, he encouraged people to "stay away from drugs." Schwarzenegger continued, "Of course we want to keep the sport clean. It says 'bodybuilding,' not 'body-destroying.' It's bodybuilding. Of course we want to go in that direction."

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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