It's "a sport that for years has operated under the halo of health and fitness." But the reality that Washington Post reporters Jenn Abelson, Nate Jones, and Ladka Bauerova found after delving into the world of bodybuilding was so unhealthy it was often deadly. They interviewed more than 70 people as they delved into the deaths of more than two dozen bodybuilders, mostly in their 20s through 40s, who died shortly before or after a competition. They zero in on the relationship between the athlete and the coach—many of whom have experience in the sport but no formal education or medical license, and who advise a regimen of steroids, diuretics, and other drugs.
The bodybuilding federations that put on the contests don't regularly drug-test the athletes, and "bodybuilders and coaches say the risks have intensified in recent years as contest judges increasingly reward athletes with nearly impossible-to-achieve physiques," the authors write. Those "freaks" of nature are what the industry wants to see, say some, which doesn't exactly incentivize those in charge to put safeguards in place. Using text messages between coaches and bodybuilders, the reporters piece together the plans some of them were on before their deaths and the extended cramping, breathing difficulties, and heart palpitations they experienced. One bodybuilder whose coach had him on six kinds of steroids was told by a nurse practitioner he knew to go to urgent care. "Being 23 days away from my show I don't want to get pumped with fluids and ruin my physique for not a heart attack," he texted her. By the next day, he was dead. (Read the full story.)