For many, Hollywood actors and bodybuilders among them, anabolic steroids have become a regular part of life.
But with side-effects that range from excess body hair to liver damage, using them can result in serious health issues as well as bigger muscles – as the stars of a new documentary fronted by former reality TV star Jodie Marsh prove.
Among the performance-enhancing drug users to feature on Jodie Marsh On…Steroids, is former barmaid Candice Armstrong, 28, from Walthamstow in London, whose steroid abuse has effectively turned her into a man.
Once a slender, pretty blonde, Candice is now a hulking brunette with muscles that wouldn’t look out of place on Arnold Schwarzenegger and body hair that sprouts from her back, chest and upper lip.
Candice had no intention of becoming so masculine when she began taking the drug, but says that it’s too late for her to stop.
‘No, it wasn’t my plan,’ she tells Marsh in a scene from the documentary. ‘You could argue that when I wanted big arms and broad shoulders, a bigger back and small hips, that that was a masculine look but I didn’t consciously decide I want to change from a woman into a man.’
The side effects have been severe. Along with excess body hair and acne, her clitoris has swelled so much, it has become a mini penis.
‘That has gone significantly bigger, yes,’ she reveals. ‘About an inch [long] and it’s shaped like a little penis. It looks like a little penis, you can roll back the foreskin…‘
Her breasts have also suffered and now hang lifeless from her hugely overdeveloped pectoral muscles.
Surprisingly, Candice is sanguine. ‘They’ve gone empty and they’re not particularly nice but I’m cool with that – they were never my best feature anyway.‘
What’s more, she has no intention of putting an end to her steroid use. ‘I think it would do more harm than good,’ she explains.
‘I’d lose all the muscles but I wouldn’t lose all the masculine qualities like the facial hair and the deep voice… It doesn’t really go back.
‘If I was to try and reverse that, I’d need the same sort of procedures as a male becoming a woman.’
Despite her drastically altered appearance, Candice says the pros outweigh the cons and have allowed her to do something else she loves – a drag act.
‘It’s opened doors and enabled me to develop myself the way I want to,’ she says.
‘It’s given the opportunity to live out one of my dreams. I’ve started doing a bit of drag and I love it. I’ve always wanted to do a bit of drag!’
She adds: ‘If I get called a tranny and a faggot when I walk out on the street anyway, I think why not make something of it!’
Shocking though Candice’s appearance is, she’s by no means alone in her abuse of anabolic steroids.
According to veteran personal trainer Happy Hill, who helped Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Philippe bulk up for roles, up to 20 percent of Tinsel-town’s leading men are using performance-enhancing drugs to get a buff body.
Another elite trainer, Mark Twight who trains Man of Steel star Henry Cavill, has spoken out against the use of steroids.
‘The guy who uses steroids and admits to it earns more respect from me than the guy who uses but insists he doesn’t and wants his fans to believe he did things the hard way,’ says Twight.
While lying to fans isn’t particularly edifying, worse are the dangerous effects steroid use can have on the star’s body.
One man who knows this all too well is former stuntman and bodybuilder, Ed ‘Spyk’ Gheur, who lives with his wife in East Sussex.
‘The thing with steroids is that it messes with your mind more than anything,’ says the softly-spoken muscleman.
‘It makes you feel invincible and you think the more you take, the bigger you’re going to be, the faster you’re going to be – and that’s what’s so dangerous about them.‘
But for Gheur, the consequences would prove to be more terrifying still. ‘One day, I felt like I had a pain stabbing through my heart and I shouted to my wife to call an ambulance,’ he remembers.
‘She found me on the kitchen floor. I was ice cold, had no pulse and I was clinically dead. She called the police and said my husband’s dead on the floor and they arrived with an ambulance like they always do.
‘The paramedics put an adrenaline needle through my heart to get it pumping long enough to get me to the operating theatre, and when I got there, they opened me up and my entire aorta [main artery] had exploded.‘
The reason for his terrifying collapse: steroid use. ‘I went into a coma for six weeks and I thought my life was over,’ he adds. ‘I had thought I was invincible.’