Ronnie Coleman is back in the public’s mind right now thanks to his recent Netflix documentary “Ronnie Coleman: The King”. And it is good to see one of the sport’s most likeable figures back where he belongs.
Ronnie is the most successful participants in the history of the Mr Olympia contest (tied with Lee Haney). He has had an incredible career that has sadly taken its toll on his physical health.
In this article, we are going to take a look at Ronnie’s career and attempt to answer the question “did Ronnie Coleman use steroids?”.
Who is Ronnie Coleman?
Ronnie Coleman was born in Louisiana in 1964. He played American Football at University as a middle linebacker.
After graduation he became a police officer in Texas, he ended up serving as an officer for 11 years.
It was a fellow officer who first got Ronnie interested in bodybuilding, taking him to Metroflex gym. The owner (Brian Dobson) trained Coleman for his first competition (Mr Texas) which he won.
He turned Pro in 1992 and won his first professional title in 1995 (Canada Pro Cup). In 1996 Ronnie competed in his first Mr Olympia, the pinnacle of the Bodybuilding season. He placed 6th in 1996 and 9th in 97.
1998 was the defining year for Ronnie Coleman. He won the Night of Champions, Grand Prix in Finland and in Germany.
But 1998 was the year that Ronnie won his first Mr Olympia title. He won the next seven titles making him the joint most successful Mr Olympia performer of all time.
In 2006 Coleman lost his title to Jay Cutler, managing to still finish second. He came 4th in 2007, but never challenged again, retiring after the tournament finished.
Since retirement life has not always been easy for Ronnie. With many injuries occurring, and multiple surgeries needed. Today, Ronnie requires crutches to walk due to spinal issues.
He is seen as one of the (if not THE) most successful bodybuilders of all time, and a legend within the sport.
What are Steroids?
Anabolic steroids drugs that are created to recreate the effects of testosterone, the male sex hormone responsible for building muscle.
They have many legitimate medical uses but are used illegally by bodybuilders and occasionally by sportspeople.
There are many benefits to taking anabolic steroids. And in bodybuilding, it is essentially impossible to win a Mr Olympia without using them.
Anabolic steroids are not the only form of performance enhancer that bodybuilders use, and often when we talk about “steroids” we are referring to any performance-enhancing drug that has been banned. Human Growth Hormone, insulin, clenbuterol, ephedrine, the list goes on and on.
There are different types of steroid, and these steroids can have very different uses.
The most common steroid (and the ones that everyone thinks of when you say steroid) are bulking steroids such as Trenbolone, Testosterone, Deca Durabolin, and Dianabol. These steroids are designed to help you build muscle mass as quickly as possible.
Next, you have steroids that are designed to improve your performance. These are the steroids that are used by sports professionals to gain an illegal edge over the competition. Winstrol is often used to increase strength and can also improve endurance.
Finally, you have steroids that are designed to help you burn fat while also maintaining (or even slightly increasing) muscle mass. This is something that can only really happen while taking steroids by the way. Clenbuterol is the most well-known cutting steroid, but Anavar is also popular.
HGH is used by bodybuilders due to it being an excellent fat burner, muscle builder. And because it can massively reduce recovery time from injury or between workouts. It also strengthens joints and ligaments which can increase the amount you lift and reduce the risk of injury.
Insulin is used to help speed up muscle protein synthesis and works well with anabolic steroids. Due to its fast clear rate, it is only measurable in the body for 4 minutes making it almost impossible to detect .
What are the signs that someone is taking steroids?
The most obvious sign that someone is taking steroids is absolutely massive muscles! The amount of Fat-Free Mass a person has is a huge indicator of steroid use.
Non-steroid users can build a lot of muscle and they can also maintain low body fat levels, but it is incredibly hard to do both.
Also, the amount of muscle mass it is possible to build without anabolic steroids is far less than is possible with them.
People who have built a lot of muscle mass in a relatively short period of time are also likely to be taking steroids.
It is not impossible for someone to transform from skinny to massive in a short period of time, particularly men aged between 17 and 22, but most of the time it is due to steroids.
If the 30-year-old guy in the gym has doubled in size over the last 12 months, then it is unlikely to be due to a growth spurt! Fast recovery from injuries is another telling sign, particularly if the bodybuilder in question is taking growth hormone.
Perhaps the biggest sign that someone is on (or in this case, has been on) steroids comes after retirement.
After years of taking massive doses of testosterone, a lot of bodybuilders find that their body no longer produces testosterone and can, in fact, be producing an enzyme called aromatase.
This enzyme converts excess testosterone into estrogen, leading to the development of female characteristics. Particularly breast tissue which can lead to a condition called gynecomastia.
Even bodybuilders who are in their prime can suffer from gynecomastia. Obviously, it is not as noticeable but you can still see some roundness rather than the hard edges of a well-conditioned pectoral muscle.
Most bodybuilders since the late 90s have been taking growth hormone. One of the side effects is a swelling of the gut, which can lead to a pot belly look, even when the bodybuilder has sub 5% body fat levels.
Nobody is 100% sure why this happens, but it could be due to abnormal growth of the intestines which push the gut out.
Acne on the back (or bacne as it is known) is often a good sign, but 1) not everybody gets it, 2) some people get it without being on steroids, and 3) people who are really good at taking steroids may not how to avoid it.
Anabolic steroid abuse can also affect the testicles. Though how you would be able to find this out without getting insanely personal with Ronnie we don’t know! But it is a legitimate way to tell.
Did Ronnie Coleman use Steroids?
Yes. Absolutely. There is no way on earth that Ronnie Coleman achieved what he achieved in professional bodybuilding without the use of anabolic steroids and a whole host of other performance-enhancing drugs.
Ronnie was absolutely massive. Trained every day at a ridiculously high intensity, he worked so hard that he intimidated other bodybuilders! That’s not an easy feat.
He was much bigger in his prime than any bodybuilder who admitted to taking steroids (such as Lee Priest ).
A lot of bodybuilders claim that it is all down to being genetically gifted rather than from using anabolic steroids, but this is just not true.
The most genetically gifted bodybuilders on the planet would still not look anything like Ronnie Coleman in 2003.
To give you an idea. Take a look at photos of bodybuilders before the use of steroids, bodybuilders who operated between 1900 and 1950.
Charles Atlas, Eugen Sandow, and Steve Reeves all had great bodies, but they did not have the sheer mass, nor did they manage to get the definition of today’s bodybuilders.
Place Phil Heath next to Eugen Sandow and you’re going to see what anabolic steroids can do to a genetically perfect individual.
Ronnie has sort of admitted to taking steroids anyway. He is an honest man, and if it hadn’t been for him being a police officer he probably would have admitted to it a long time ago.
To be honest it is kind of strange that this was never an issue for him.
Anabolic steroids are undeniably illegal in the United States without a prescription. And even if Ronnie had a prescription, it would not be for anywhere near as much as he was using.
Ronnie Coleman was CLEARLY using steroids and was, therefore, purchasing illegal drugs. While he was also a serving police officer. Absolutely crazy when you think about it.
How does an officer go about arresting some 17-year-old kid for possession while his colleague is 300lb and under 5% body fat? But let’s not get started on the US legal system or we’ll be here forever.
During an interview in 2011, Ronnie alluded to steroid use, talking about asking Flex Wheeler for advice and being given “special vitamins” that you can’t buy in a pharmacy .
This is as close as you’re likely to get from Ronnie, which is fair enough really. No bodybuilder who plans on earning money from supplement deals is going to admit to taking steroids. Particularly not one who was a police officer for 15 years.
Ronnie Coleman has definitely taken anabolic steroids during his career, he has almost certainly taken Growth Hormone and Insulin. He has probably used ephedrine and has probably taken every single performance-enhancing drug that he can get his hands on.
That’s what you need to do if you want to be a professional bodybuilder. It’s an odd sport really. Everyone cheats, it is impossible to compete without cheating, but everyone has to pretend that they got their naturally.
You can understand why, anabolic steroids, insulin, Growth Hormone etc are dangerous.
Not like alcohol, marijuana, or cigarettes which are dangerous in different ways. You need to get your dosages just right or you can die (particularly with insulin), you need to stop at the right moment, you need to know what other drugs to take to counteract the side-effects etc … It’s not something that people can do easily.
So it can’t be promoted by bodybuilders, and believe it. If a bodybuilder pointed out that without drugs they would not look anywhere near as good, the supplement industry would fall apart overnight.
Why waste your money on whey protein and creatine when you could be taking clenbuterol and testosterone and getting real results?
None of this takes anything away from Ronnie Coleman’s achievements by the way. In fact, in some ways it promotes them.
Not only did he need to train as hard as possible, not only did he need to eat exactly the right food, but he also had to take the right amounts of performance-enhancing drugs at just the right time.
It’s another complication that will separate good bodybuilders from great bodybuilders.
Sure, there are moral implications, but if literally every single competitor is taking steroids you NEED to take them too.
This is not like Lance Armstrong and the Tour De France. It is possible to win the Tour without steroids (as has been shown by the recent winners). But it would actually be impossible to win Mr Olympia without steroids.
It would be like competing in Formula One without using a car.
Ronnie has had a fantastic career, has worked harder than probably 90% of the population. Has outthought and outfought the competition for eight straight years and deserves his place in history.
Hopefully, the next few years will be a bit kinder to Ronnie, and his injuries will heal. He could certainly do with a break.
How to Gain Muscle and Strength without Steroids?
You don't necessarily need steroids to build muscle and strength. However, if you are looking to get anywhere near Ronnie Coleman's size then, unfortunately, you will have to. And then live with the consequences.
Training intensely and eating loads would be a good start, but it's not all you need.
Supplements can also help, and while they are not as effective as anabolic steroids the legal alternatives should not be dismissed as they do offer various benefits of their own.
Crazy Bulk is a company who sell “legal steroids“. For example, D-Bal, which is a safe and legal alternative to Dianabol.
DMade from proven ingredients, which include numerous BCAAs, Whey Protein Concentrate and Tribulus Terrestris.
These ingredients when combined will help increase nitrogen retention, which will lead to an increase in protein synthesis.
Other benefits you will experience include:
- Strength and muscle gains
- An increase in endurance levels
- Better nitrogen retention
- More blood flow due to the additional oxygen being sent to your muscles
If you are wondering whether D-Bal works as claimed, then you only need to visit the Crazy Bulk website. They have numerous testimonials available to prove these claims.