How To Spot A St*roid User In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

How To Spot A St*roid User In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Photo: 3 pro Jiu-Jitsu fighters suspended for st*roids: 1. In 2012, RousimarPalhares tested positive for elevated testosterone levels in his post-fight drug test in the UFC. 2. Robert Drsydale failed 2 drug test in the UFC for an elevated testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio of 12:1. 3. After winning the IBJJF world Jiu-Jitsu championships, Felipe Pena faced a 1 year ban from USADA sanctioned competition for a positive result for testosterone.


Whether we like it or not st*roids and performance enhancing drugs are very present in BJJ competitions world wide. In the years that I’ve been training BJJ (all over the world) I have seen team mates, friends and acquaintances take PEDs in build ups for competitions or just for regular training. Some will hide it and never admit it openly, and some will openly talk about without any shame. Availability of PED’s also plays a big part. In Western Europe they are harder to come by and are more expensive. In Eastern Europe, and a lot of developing countries you can buy some kind of form of PED over the counter and for a fraction of the price. 

We all know the dangerous side effects of PEDs on the body, so if somebody wants to ruin their health for the sake of some possible athletic advantage, it’s their choice (or problem). The problem is that BJJ competitions don’t seriously test for PEDs (IBJJF tests after each world championship and Pan and only for the black belt adult champions). It is only serious testing if the testing is done randomly and out of competition.

I’ve rolled with a lot of st*roid users throughout the years. I just want to say that I’m 100% against it. My stance is that if you’re using, it means that somewhere you doubt in your capabilities and are mentally weaker. Like the great wrestler Dan Gable said:

“Besides the health effects, what you lose when you use st*roids is mental toughness. The key to victory is that the strongest mind wins. You can get physical strength with st*roids, but you lose the mental toughness (you would have gained) from brutal hard work.”


In my experience of rolling with st*roid users during the years, this is what I’ve noticed: you notice huge differences in their performance and bodies during their cycles. The same guy can have amazing super human strength, and a abnormally ripped body (I’m talking about a 100kgs guy with a 8 pack of abs and veins popping out all over the place) when he is at his peak and fast forward a few months down the line and he is a completely different person. No strength, no reaction time, no reflexes, gassing out. These kind of extreme changes do not happen when someone is clean. another sign is that those same people often have some ‘health problems’ that take them in and out of the hospital on regular basis. Increased jaw line, thicker fingers, and of course acne outbreaks on face or body for an adult, means that something isn’t right there. I knew a guy that was on the juice and had such bad acne breaks on his back that all the blood would go through his gi and stain it all over…


This article will showcase what are telling signs that someone you train with, compete against or that you know may be on some form of PED. This doesn’t mean that they are for sure on st*roids but if if they fit pretty much all of these points, then they most likely are. Remember we are not talking about creatine, protein powder or other legal supplements here. We’re talking about st*roids, injections etc…

Back Acne

Back Acne

But let’s put all the anecdotal evidence aside right now. Scientific proof of st*roid use usually involves a combination of these symptoms:


  • Acne is a common side effect – Unusually greasy hair or oily skin (often with stretch marks on the inner joints)
  • Small red or purplish acne, including breakouts on the shoulders and back
  • Gynocomastia, the abnormally excessive development of the breast tissue in males
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Thinning hair throughout the head or receding hairline (male pattern baldness)
  • Increased length and thickness in hair (on body parts other than the head)
  • Hair loss in bed, shower, comb or brush
  • Jaundice or yellowing of the skin; this signals liver damage
  • Skin eruptions and infections, such as abscesses and cysts
  • Drastic appetite shifts (extreme hunger or lessened/loss of appetite)
  • Joint pain; greater chance of injuring muscles and tendons
  • Disrupted sleep patterns (not sleeping well or sleeping too much)
  • Fluid level changes, bloating (face & body), and night sweating
  • Dizziness, trembling, nausea or vomiting
  • Rapid or progressive weight gain
  • Increased muscle size (sudden or progressive)
  • Hyperactivity or lethargy (too little energy)
  • Trouble urinating; discoloration or blood in urine
  • Rare and occasional side effects
  • st*roid abusers often experience mood swings

st*roids exist in both injectable and oral form. Orals are removed more slowly by the liver – a feature thought to be associated with many of the harmful sideeffects (Korkia & Stimson, 1994). Thus, unlike other drugs, injecting st*roids may be more advisable but still a huge number of issue lurks beyond. Negative effects include liver and kidney disorders, jaundice, tumors and cysts, acne, and stunted growth in young people who have not reached their full height (ISDD, 1993).

Smell is a particularly interesting aspect of it. Apparently it’s been scientifically proven androstenone plays significantly into a way one smells. Further, female subjects feel a greater degree of unpleasantness when faced with this type of sweat (Barbar, 1997). And if you think you’re fine because you can’t smell it on yourself guess again, females feel androstenone at one tenth of its olfactory threshold so odds are – even if you’re not smelling it – your teammates are. 

Anabolic st*roids are inherently dangerous, no matter what else the pills may contain. The average adult male produces 35 to 50 milligrams of testosterone a week in his testes; athletes may inject 300 to 1,000 milligrams or more. That induces a kind of hypermasculinity, like adolescence on, well, st*roids. Users may develop “horrific” acne, Wadler says, and can suffer an early onset of male-pattern baldness. Women are at risk for a whole set of masculinizing changes including body hair, enlargement of the cl*toris and a deepened voice.

Paradoxically, st*roids can also cause feminizing changes in men. The pituitary gland, which regulates hormone production in the body, responds to an oversupply of testosterone by signaling the testes to shut down, causing them to shrink. Another way the body deals with excess testosterone is by converting some of it to estrogen, which can cause men to grow breasts. Admittedly these effects are unusual, and sophisticated users try to manage them by taking the drugs in cycles of four to 20 weeks, timed to their training regimen. Many people claim to have been using st*roids for years with minimal problems, says Pope. But there’s an enormous range of variability in how people respond to st*roids–and some of the effects are permanent.

A st*roid user’s upper body muscles are often disproportional in comparison to his lower body counterparts. This is due to the fact that upper body muscles have more androgen receptors than other muscles and respond better to resistance training.

There are other risks as well. Adolescence signals the beginning of the end of skeletal growth, and st*roids can hasten this process, shutting down growth prematurely. st*roids cause muscles to grow without a compensating strengthening of the tendons that attach them to the bones, an imbalance that increases the risk of crippling injuries. st*roids lower levels of so-called good cholesterol and raise the bad kind, sometimes to alarming levels, and they can be toxic to the liver.

Anabolic st*roid use can induce significant left ventricular hypertrophy – a heart condition. The pattern and severity of remodeling can mimic hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This is a potential life threatening condition.


Personality and Psychiatric changes often happen suddenly and without visible triggers or reasons. They include:

  • Extreme mood swings
  • Increased aggression or irritability
  • Becomes disrespectful or abusive (verbally and/or physically)
  • Poor decision making stemming from feelings of invincibility
  • Becomes secretive and/or starts lying
  • Withdraws from family members
  • Depression (usually when st*roids are discontinued)
  • Hallucinations – seeing or hearing things that aren’t there
  • Paranoia – extreme feelings of mistrust or fear

What are some likely Psychological implications of injecting enough chemicals to look like that?

One usually hears about the detrimental physiological effects but here are some of psychological changes you could expect of an individual taking PEDs: aggressiveness, euphoria, diminished fatigue, changed libido and mood swings (Kibble and Ross, 1987).  Diminished fatigue is the most common because it’s present even in studies done with very low doses.

Expecting that one’s spectacular muscle growth spurt will go unaccompanied psychologically is unrealistic. If especially unlucky, you might also find that person incredibly irritable, with paranoid ideas and experiencing heavy bouts of depression (Pope and Katz, 1988). There is some evidence testosterone even plays a role in schizophrenia explaining why men are generally about 40% more susceptible to it than women.

One long term study even went so far as to confirm a significant increase in hostility for st*roid users at all time (not just during the 3 cycles observed). Psychological interviews done with st*roid users also highlight newfound sense of grandiosity, feelings of power, paranoia and violent aggression.

Use of PEDs also has significant connections to anger, violence, drug abuse and dependence. But surprisingly, some of these manifestations are much more prominent in women (Gruber & Pope, 2000). And abuse of PEDs isn’t limited to the professional sports circuit – as many as one million highschoolers in USA have taken nonmedical st*roids for at least a cycle* (Weaver, 2005).

*Cycle usually lasts between 8-12 weeks 

AS users are 6 times as likely to have driven after binge drinking and almost 80% are likely to admit using one or more illicit drugs in the past year.  So what happens in competition?

Anabolic st*roids also impact how an individual interprets social situations and what he attributes to the other participant of interaction as well as a response pattern. Biologically speaking, testosterone has behavioral activating, aggression inducing and reward sensitizing properties with correspondent reductions in fear and social avoidance (Putman and van Honk, 2006). So, when we jack up testosterone we end up reducing sensitivity for social punishment as well as accenting reward approach over punishment withdrawal.

One psychological research dealt with how st*roid users perceive the use – Respondents’ beliefs about st*roids fell into two main categories. Predictably, most st*roid users were more positive about the benefts of st*roids, and tended to underplay the negative side-effects and to attribute them to ignorant or illinformed st*roid use. Whilst st*roid users saw their use of the drug as enhancing their training regime and proving their total commitment to body-building (all participants in this study were bodybuilders), many non-users interpreted st*roid use as cheating, for those who did not have the stamina or drive to achieve muscle growth `naturally’(Wright, 2001).


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