OPINION: We need to have an honest conversation about steroids


Fitness and bodybuilding recently lost one of its most recognizable and important faces in Rich Piana. 

The oversized personality died on Aug. 25 after being placed into a medically induced coma. At his home, he was found to have 20 bottles of steroids and people have been quick to come to the conclusion that they caused his death.

Anyone familiar with Piana will quickly realize he would be the last person to die from steroid use. This hasn’t stopped the media from spinning it as another victim in the war against steroids. The reaction to his death should not be a twisted, one-sided conversation in which steroids are seen as a harbinger of death.

The American Society of Addition Medicine reports that prescription opiate overdoses killed 20,101 people, alcohol kills 88,000 people per year and tobacco kills 435,000 people per year. Steroids kill an unbelievable three people per year.

Yet conventional wisdom says steroids are worse than alcohol? A cigarette? A painkiller?

America needs to move beyond the stigma of “steroid abuse.” There needs to be a serious reevaluation of how steroids are treated.

Piana spoke in his videos about steroids, how prevalent they are and their dangers and benefits. But he used his platform in a way no one had done before. 

He brought knowledge and acceptance to a subject that America continues to reject and vilify.

An estimated 85 percent of steroid use in America is by the average gym goer. The multitude of different steroids like Trenbolone, Dianabol and Halotestin are used in a safe and controlled environment, without ever hurting or injuring anyone.

Yes, steroids are like any drug — in excess they’re dangerous. Mixing them with another drug is dangerous, but in moderation they can be safe.

Teens and adults are prescribed anabolic steroids to increase their testosterone levels for a multitude of reasons and live healthy, productive lives.

Some people with stunted growth are prescribed Human Growth Hormone, a steroid, and they live healthy, productive lives.

Even though they take steroids, they never show the dramatic “roid rage” or other side effects normally used to scare people.

It’s not that steroids should be sold over the counters to any person, but if someone is caught with a non-prescribed steroid, the penalty can be 30 years in jail. 

How does that make sense, when athletes like Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez were caught using steroids?

They walked free with only suspensions and shame. 

There is no reason steroids should carry the terrible legal penalties that they do, nor should society place such a stigma on someone like Piana using steroids.

Piana’s death should serve as the catalyst to open a dialogue about safe steroid use.

It should not be hiding in the back of the gym or an online forum.