On steroids

By Maria Katsounaki

Bodybuilders are in a league of their own. They rarely make headlines for their achievements, their performance, or being role models. In contrast, they’re more likely to make the news due to murder charges (like the nightclub bouncer who killed a 20-year-old Australian tourist on Myconos island in 2008), participating in Nazi-inspired hit squads, being implicated in mafias, drug rings or violent beatings – in anything that thrives outside the contours of the law, on the fringes of society.

Bodybuilders are mostly walking pharmacies. We often read reports of bodybuilding champions who die of massive steroid use, have inflicted irreversible damage on their health, suffered from hallucinations, or ended up in mental asylums. Even if you distinguish between professional and amateur bodybuilding, you won’t find enough exceptions to bend the rule.

The murder of two bodybuilders by two 19-year-old men near Kalamata has brought the issue back to the forefront. It is not because the victims, and their killers, lived in the world of gyms, food supplements, steroids and all that these stand for, nor because an 800-euro debt (for the purchase of performance-enhancing substances) was the reason for the fatal meeting. Four men with clean records became embroiled in a nightmare.

Lashing out against steroids and the related lifestyle is all too easy and always comes in the wake of a horrible event that dominates news bulletins, social media and discussions between friends. Bodybuilders represent a value system in which they exist and reproduce, each time with new elements. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone resemble cartoon versions of that horrifying army that sunbathes on the beaches, sit around in coffee shops and raise flags of hate and aggression on Facebook. They mix strength with nationalism and ancient Greece, they decorate their bodies with misguided information and ideas, tattoos of swastikas and symbols of Russian-speaking mafia.

Let’s leave aside interpretations about insecurity, rejection of society, child traumas, narcissist outbursts and all sorts of disorders trapped in supernatural muscles. This abnormal, humanoid-like body shape, and the disregard for human life is rife in countries with high percentages of far-right parties; it is popular in places where artificial constructs are an easy way of gaining admiration, superiority, or ensuring acceptance of becoming a member of a like-minded group.

Up to the moment when a rifle creates victims and killers. And as the drama moves on to police reports, the causes fly around like steroid drugs. Always unobstructed and unchecked.