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Cycling on Steroids; There’s a Reason the Pros Choose to Cheat.  Allow Me to Explain….

I was on steroids for a little more than a week for poison ivy.  I have no idea why they put people on steroids for poison ivy, I just know it took the itch from 11 down to a reasonable 6.  It was unbearable at 11.  Spinal Tap 11.

Being a cyclist and being on steroids was an incredibly interesting experience as fitness goes.  I now understand why the Pros cheat.  The difference is not small – and I wasn’t even on the good stuff.

Now let’s bring the downer into this first.  Stay on roids too long and your body will eventually kick you in the groin.  Figuratively and literally.  Diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, etc., etc., holy moly, etc.  Now, this is just for steroids used to treat medical issues, anabolic steroids are a whole different mess but I’m going to keep it simple because I’m not a doctor… and the chances are, you aren’t either.  The following is my experience with being on Prednisone for nine days, cycling all the while….  With a gnarly poison ivy rash.  Hey, you’re gonna itch anyway, may as well do it with a smile on my face.

Day one.  Height 6′ tall, on the nose.  Weight 180.5 pounds.  Three 20 mg tablets of Prednisone.  The itching from my poison ivy didn’t subside right away but I felt an extra jolt of energy that was surprising.  I went for a ride that evening and it was AMAZING.  I was pressed for time so it was only 16 miles but it was supposed to be an easy pace in preparation for the big weekend.   There was no speed record but the easy 16 miles only took 50 minutes (19 mph pace).

Day two.  Weight 181.  Three more 20 mg tablets of Prednisone.  On waking I noticed I didn’t hurt.  No muscle aches, no pains, no “age pain”, and the itching of my poison ivy was mercifully reasonable.  I woke up at 2:00 am, for no good reason, but I felt quite amazing.  I had half a day’s work done before I would normally wake up on a Friday.  My energy was through the roof.  39 miles with my wife and friends, 18.3 mph.  I spent most of the ride up front.

Day three.  Weight 187.5 pounds.  Three 20 mg tablets of Prednisone.  187.5 pounds?!  Seriously?  Yep.  Woke up at 2 am again.  Still, I felt awesome and we were getting into the big weekend miles.  I did freak about my weight though.  I did a search on the internet to try to figure out what the hell.  Turns out weight-gain is common.  Damn did it suck though.  60-1/2 miles, 18-1/2 mph pace, I spent a TON of time up front.  No pain, no soreness, the whole ride, I felt spectacular.  Indescribably spectacular.

Day Four. 187.5.  Two tablets today, the dose starts to diminish. Up at 2 am again.  This is getting freaking old, in a hurry.  On the other hand…. UNLIMITED POWER!!!!  That 60 miles yesterday should have hurt… something.  Nope.  Zero pain, zero creaks…  I feel like I’m 20.  My energy is still through roof.  Another 48 miles and change, up front much of the ride.  Trying to make up for the lack of sleep at night with naps now.  I’m tired but have too much energy to sleep more than 4 hours at night.

Day Five.  Two tablets.  187.5 pounds.  Four hours of sleep.  Again.  My wife is starting to notice that I’m irritable.  I have zero patience.  Rain day so no cycling.  Legs feel frickin’ awesome – hell, my whole body feels amazing.  Lack of sleep is really getting to me, though I did manage an extra hour.

Day Six.  Same thing.  Carbon copy.  Mountain bikes because it was too windy, cold and crappy.

With Day Seven the dose dropped again and I gained another hour of sleep.  Still heavy and feeling chubby.  I felt awesome though and my weight did start to drop again.  Down to 185.  Day Eight I was down to 183.
The big change came on day 10.  No more steroids.  58 miles on the bike and the last ten miles hurt.  I feel like me again and that’s kind of a bummer.  There is no desire to try to “get more”.  I know me better than that.  Tomorrow is going to be tough.  Another 60….

61-1/2 actually, and it did hurt.  210 miles in six days, due to a rain day and a short Tuesday.  I can feel it too.

That is the difference and the allure of steroids;  Exercise doesn’t hurt the same.  I’m 46 years-old, and a young 46 at that, but I’m no spring chicken.  When I put in a hard workout, I pay for it.  On Prednisone it was all push, no pay.  All I can say is I wish I could feel that good naturally.

How good, specifically?  Good enough I no longer fear poison ivy.  In fact, I might have to make getting a poison ivy rash part of my normal springtime training.

I’ll bet you think I’m kidding.

Actually, I am, but only barely.  The pull to recover fully and quickly, with a cherry on top of a good jolt of energy (on par with a few good cups of coffee, that doesn’t fade after 30 minutes) is strong… and my livelihood doesn’t depend on my performance on a bike.  I just ride for fun.  To put a bow on this post, I was better off ignorant of the benefits of ‘roid use.  It was easier to maintain my righteous indignation.


  1. James L says:

    6.5 pound weight gain in a day – wow! I can understand why some people become addicted to them, particularly if they don’t feel the recovery pains from it!

  2. Andy says:

    Did you gain and or retain any muscle? Or was it just an energy surge?

  3. chape says:

    And that´s a single product, and you needed it! Usually is a mix of roids, and you don´t even need one. Side effects are pretty clear on some pro athletes, but people still think they are naturally gifted. Of course they are, roids don´t increase talent, but pro teams and athletes also have good doctors 🙂
    Thanks for sharing,
    Big hugs!

  4. fitnessgrad says:

    This was an interesting take on steroids for people who ride bikes for a living. I obviously know athletes in most sports have used them and everyone benefits from them different depending on what their goals are, but I have always known to be bad side effects from them but in many cases for the pros, the good outweighs the bad if it means a bigger paycheck 😀
    This was a good topic choice Jim, good for you!


  5. saoirsek says:

    Wow, scary stuff. Thanks for a great post.

    • bgddyjim says:

      The only scary part is how much this godforsaken poison ivy rash itches now!!! Crime in Italy!!!

      • saoirsek says:

        Ouch…can you take antihistamines?

      • bgddyjim says:

        Probably, I don’t have much of a knowledge base when it comes to that kind of thing. I am very basic. If it bleeds, rub dirt on it. If it hurts, Aleve. Everything else will work out in the wash. I didn’t know that if you itch, you take… Oh, benadryl… I didn’t even know that was an antihistamine.

  6. The super recovery is one of the big reasons body builders use steroids, then can train like mofos day after day and incredibly high intensity and recover from it while gaining like crazy! As for cycling they recon riding on EPO feels like you’re a total boss. I can see why people do it.

    So, if they were legal…?

  7. I know you’re not kidding. Had to take ’em for dislocated clavicle during the Tour of Sufferlandria – 9 days straight of maximum suffering – but I didn’t suffer ONE BIT. I felt better than I had in a long time and my watts were 10-15% more than usual. When the cycle came to an end, the effects lasted for another 4-5 days before the creaks and aches came back. *side note, no weight increase, clavicle still dislocated.

  8. Archetype says:

    Good post Jim. Corticosteroids have benefits as you have seen first hand!
    Not too mention they can be utilized as masking agents for pro’s As was the case with froome and wiggo. Cheating their way to TdF wins in 2011 and 2012. Oh wait… it was AHEM, ‘legal’ because they had TUE’s – lmao

    I have done a lot of research on anabolic steroids over the years, their benefits are simply amazing. Of course dosage and cycles are super critical, not only to performance but to health as well. Typically 6 to 12 week cycles are followed by the same amount of off time. Thing is, there is a period of fall off, because initially, dosage has to ramp up over what your body is producing, then coming off, your body has to ‘restart’ the production of test…

    So some athletes ‘stack’ or use other types of anabolic supplements to combat that window of crashing. Smart athletes know that there is a line between good usage and abuse. Most of the problems come from long, term abuse, not long term use with proper on and off cycles..

    Of course there is a ton of misinformation and outright lies about steroid use. Most of the reliable data on Pubmed comes from outside the US, because our scumbag government won’t allow any testing here.

    Every sport from football to tennis to soccer to badminton to cycling,track, etc use some type/form of juice. Cycling needs to stop worrying so much about it, calling attention to it and making itself look just plain stupid.

    • bgddyjim says:

      Man, I had no idea

    • MJ Ray says:

      Froome is asthmatic and his usual steroid is so mundane that it no longer even needs a TUE. Then I think he’s had a couple for related chest problems and turned down one he wasn’t sure about. He’s been calling for the system to be tightened up.

      Wiggins is a more curious case. As well as the routine inhaler IIRC, there were kenacort injections just before grand tours and a mysterious jiffybag claimed to contain a decongestant delivered to his team by a related women’s team’s coach, but the medical records weren’t kept. But then again, if that’s meant to be secret doping, it was a bit inept, so I’m inclined to think another Murdoch-funded cock up rather than conspiracy.

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