Don't take steroids! Steroids kill.

They cause cancer, make your hair fall out, cause 'roid rage, make your chin grow, and more. Some of these claims are somewhat true. But in the hands of the media, steroids have been branded as the devil's evil drug. Steroids were first used to heal wounded soldiers in World War II for their ability to regenerate damaged tissue. Steroids also fought disease, added recovery strength and gave a mental boost to the injured.

I remember reading in the early 60's about Bill Pearle, Mr. Universe. Bill was way ahead of the competition. He was awesome and word on the street was he was using steroids -- dianabol, to be specific. Steroids were legal at the time, requiring only a doctor's prescription and a good reason to ask for them. I had the same good reason and when I was 19 or 20, I got a prescription for dianabol. I started slowly, taking 2 per day, a total of 10mg. Within 2 weeks, I increased in strength and built a muscle thickness that I had never been able to achieve. What a pump! I thought my skin would rip open whenever I flexed. My appetite increased along with my libido. I felt great, in fact, never better. I used them for about 2 months before tapering off. About 1 month later, I dropped 4 pounds, but retained at least 10 pounds. I was ahead of where I was before I started using steroids. I had also increased my metabolism and cut body fat, which made me feel and look much, much harder. In those days, a bodybuilder's diet was meat, cheese and milk. We didn't know about carbs or fats, only that our muscles needed protein, but I still had fantastic abs. As other steroids became available, such as winstrol 2mg, I tried them, too.

They were more of a "cutting" drug. They made me very muscular and my skin became silky smooth. It wasn't until I moved to Los Angeles and Venice, CA that I was introduced to more advanced, injectable steroids, such as Primo Bolan Depot from Germany. This was injected weekly in conjunction with dianabol. Guess who really loved this combination -- Arnold Schwarzenegger! In fact, he and Franco gave me the injections! This combo was superb and helped Arnold win Mr. Olympia. Surprised? Don't be.

Everyone at Gold's Gym in the 70's was taking this combination. Everything was easy to get and really cheap. In the 80's, technology advanced beyond steroids to human growth hormones. I tried them, too. I ignored the recommendation to increase caloric intake to 7,000 a day, so they ripped me up to where I had veins popping on top of veins. In only 10 days, my incline press jumped from 90 to 150 pounds using dumbbells. Today, chemical technology has become so sophisticated that you need a chemistry degree to know what to take and that's what the Olympia competitors are studying. These guys spend over $50,000 a year just to compete. Honestly, I believe that if you are going to compete at that level, then you need to take them. It will never change. No drug-free competitor will ever be able to measure up against someone who is on the juice and no one will ever achieve such muscularity without drugs unless he is a genetic freak of nature.

Football great Lyle Alzado was said to have died from steroid abuse. Lyle trained at Venice Gold's Gym, and from what I understand, he spent a fortune on street drugs and eventually died of AIDS. From his frail, gaunt, balding looks at the end, I would say so, too.

Steroids can make your hair fall out. An overload of testosterone can block hair growth. Big muscles -- bald head. I don't care. I prefer a bald head. Steroids are now considered a class III drug and are illegal. The government wants to limit and control our muscle size. Roid rage? Sure, an overdose of hormone can change your mood. So do birth control pills. And PMS -- what's the difference?

Be aware of your mood swings. Roid rage can be controlled. Doctors now prescribe testosterone for men over 40 to compensate for the body's failure to produce it, which causes hair loss, aging and loss of sex drive. Research in older men shows that test therapy reverses these problems. Testosterone is even being used to fight AIDS and it's working. Growth hormone is also reversing the aging process. In all my years, the worst side effect I have ever seen from steroids is a pimple and a headache. And we would get those anyway. Since you can overdo anything, everything should be done in moderation and monitored by a doctor. The extreme bodybuilder who thinks that if 1 cc a week is good, then 1 cc a day is great, is asking for trouble -- just like taking too many aspirins, or drinking too much or overeating.

I am in no way advocating the use of steroids. If you can do without them, more power to you. If you are not competing or in the public eye, which demands specific sizes and shapes, then stay away from them. My point is that steroids have gotten a bum rap and every idiot on the streets thinks he is an expert because of sensationalist articles in the newspaper. I still take test on certain cycles. At 52, my body doesn't produce it anymore. I get pegged for 35 and sometimes even younger. Maybe this is why, or maybe not, but I feel good and have no ailments from them. I also have my doctor's approval and supervision. My wife and I have 3 healthy kids, so I know I'm not sterile.

Consider my experience and what I've learned and form your own opinions.

Ric Drasin 'The Equalizer'