A MONTH LATER, when I added a basic anabolic steroid to the mix, I felt like I'd grabbed on to a car moving at 60 miles an hour. The effect was powerful, fast, and difficult to modulate.
Dr. Jones gave me a steroids tutorial over lunch one day, at a Middle Eastern place on Ventura Boulevard. He explained how "steroids" is a broad term for various synthetic substances related to the male sex hormones, and that they promote the growth of skeletal muscle and the development of male sexual traits. Though each steroid has different effects, they generally increase the amount of nitrogen in the body, which in turn stimulates protein synthesis.
All of which is a fancy way of saying that steroids help the body create muscle. They're used medically to treat everything from anemia to leukemia to AIDS, helping patients build strength.
Dr. Jones took out a pen and drew a chart on the paper tablecloth. On one side he listed various kinds of steroids: Anadrol 50, Winstrol, Deca, Anavar. Then he added columns labeled MASS, STRENGTH, WATER GAIN, RETENTION. For each drug, he filled in a number from one to a hundred.
"What you want is something that doesn't give you a lot of mass but adds strength," he said. "I'd start with Deca. It has almost no liver toxicity and has the nice benefit of helping joint pain. In Europe, it's used for arthritis. There's only one reason everybody doesn't use Deca."
"You grow two heads?"
"Worse, at least for most athletes. You can test positive for up to a year."
I stared at the chart, fascinated. Then it struck me that there was no column for side effects, nasty little consequences like liver damage, impotence, and steroid rage. I asked Dr. Jones about this.