Every morning without fail, 20-year-old Anthony Iudica wakes up before dawn. He makes himself a batch of banana protein pancakes then spends an hour on the treadmill before heading off to work.
After he clocks off, he stops by the gym for some heavy weight training making sure he’s home in time for dinner with his family. By 10pm, he’s in bed – ready to repeat the process again the next day.
As far as anyone can tell, Iudica lives a reasonably normal life, however, there’s one thing that sets him apart from most.
On an almost daily basis, Iudica chooses to inject himself with a needle full of synthetic testosterone – an illegal substance commonly referred to as anabolic steroids.
The most recent study conducted by the Australian Crime Commission suggests that Iudica is merely a speck of a much larger trend taking over the nation.
It revealed that the number of performance and image enhancing drugs detected at the Australian border has increased by 751.6 per cent over the last decade.
While this doesn’t disclose how many Australians are currently using anabolic steroids, it is a clear indication that the demand for supply is at an all-time high.
For competitive bodybuilders such as Iudica, steroids are the only way to achieve “the hard, grainy look” so many athletes long for. Without this drug, Iudica says there’s no point.
“You can’t compete against other guys because they all use them … There are way too many risks involved if you stand up on stage naturally. It’s sad to say but nowadays you need it.”
With the competitive bodybuilding industry currently booming, more and more athletes are turning to steroids to help them reach their full potential.
However, a spokesperson for the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority says the use of performance and image enhancing drugs goes against the spirit of sport.
“The winners of any sport should be those with the most talent, determination, courage and honesty, not those who are willing to take the most drugs.
“Australia has a strong reputation as a nation of clean, fair sport and our role is to protect that reputation.”
Except that ASADA directs its resources only to federations who comply with World Anti-Doping Agency policies.
In the bodybuilding world, many federations do not enforce these policies, therefore, drug testing is non-existent.
“They turn a blind eye because it makes money,” says Iudica. “If they see someone competing who looks really good, they look good for the federation – regardless of whether or not they’re on something.
“When they upload a photo the caption will say ‘Look at all the talent we have here’ and everyone will want to be a part of it.”
Iudica claims that between the bodybuilding community, it is commonly known which federations administer routine drug tests on their competitors.
“If you’re competing in a natural federation, you should be natural,” says Iudica, who vows to never sign up to compete naturally due to his extensive history with anabolic steroids.
The International Natural Bodybuilding Association, arguably the most reputable natural federation, pride themselves on the strict drug-free rules set in place for their participants.
Working together with ASADA, INBA recently outlined the increased sanctions and consequences for those who fail to follow their rules.
In addition to being disqualified and potentially receiving a lifetime ban from all ASADA regulated sports, steroid users run the risk of having their name, photograph and drug-test results published on the INBA website.
“Cheating is a serious offence and harsh penalties are necessary to work as a deterrent,” says INBA representative Ron Ziemiecki.
“The corner stone behind the success of the INBA has been the resilience of our competitor’s ethics. They chose the INBA because they value the concept of fair play, refuse to take drugs and are aware of the harmful effects of drug use.”
However, Iudica says that these penalties are simply not enough to eliminate steroid use within natural federations.
“I know a lot of people who claim to compete naturally but still use it. Even if they try to regulate it, there are ways to cheat the system.
“I’m not saying that testing doesn’t happen, but if you do get tested, you’re very unlucky. You have to look way out of the ordinary for them to suspect anything.”
In addition to random drug tests between heats, INBA claim to test their competitors on the day of the competition specifically targeting those who display characteristics of drug use.
When asked how accurate the drug test results are, INBA refused to comment.
According to Dr Susan White from the Australian Sports Drug Medical Advisory Committee, getting caught isn’t the only thing steroid users should be worried about.
“There are thousands of articles and reports on how anabolic steroids affect both the body and the brain but users choose to ignore them.”
As well as increasing the risk of heart attacks and potentially damaging the liver and kidney, White says anabolic steroids can cause paranoia, impaired judgement and extreme feelings of anger – or “roid rage”.
Still, these side effects don’t discourage individuals who favour aesthetics over health and wellbeing.
“It’s like taking Panadol,” says Iudica. “On the back of the box it tells you to take two. If you go ahead and take six, well, there’s going to be problems … I think with everything you do these days there are risks involved.”
He also believes that steroids simply do not compare to some of the harder drugs making their way into the party scene these days.
For Iudica, the only thing he’s concerned about is having to hide his secret from his family. “They always said they’d kick me out if they found out I was on anything.”
Regardless, he continues to chase his dream physique, stopping at nothing to become to best possible version of himself – aesthetically.
“For me, it’s a push. When I’m on steroids, I can do anything. Any weight, any reps. I feel invincible.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with steroids or thinking about taking them, you can contact DrugInfo on 1800 85 85 84.