Mar 2, 2009

Dan Duchaine, Steroid Nation and Anthony Roberts

Overestimating the impact that Dan Duchaine had on the world of steroids would be impossible. It's easy to say that "steroid gurus" are a dime a dozen in the internet age, but I would disagree. There are no steroid gurus, there was only (and will only) ever be one.

I say this in retrospect, with almost a decade having transpired since his passing, and nobody having stepped up to the plate and been either as successful or as influential in the world of anabolic steroids. Truthfully, there would likely be no steroid gurus today if it weren't for Dan Duchaine, who introduced the steroid world to Bruce Kneller, Patrick Arnold, Bill Roberts, and a slew of others who owe their professional lives to him.

Posthumously these people referred to Dan as a colleague, but this is a complete fabrication; the truth is that while he was alive, he was unparalleled. Well, it may not be a complete fabrication, but it is a pretty good example of revisionist history. None of the people who, after Dan's death, have attempted to portray the situation as if they were on equal footing (or even close friends with him), are telling anything resembling the truth.

Bruce Kneller was never referred to as much more than a research assistant by Duchaine in anything I'd ever read by him, and Bruce actually attacked Dan quite extensively while he was alive (Calling him "a demented elf, feeding anti-freeze to the reindeer"…which is a colorful, yet admittedly bizarre thing to say about someone you'd later claim to be a friend. Yet after Dan passed away, the story Bruce tells of Dan makes it seem like they were friends and colleagues. I have a contextual problem with this.

Duchaine's writing told of his time in prison, his fondness for pale-skinned red-headed women, and many other personal factoids of his life. Nowhere did it mention that Bruce was such a close friend, or something more than an assistant - nowhere did Dan's writings of Bruce even come close to achieving the level of parity that Bruce's public (and post-facto) recollection of their relationship did (many years later). Although I didn't know Dan, I tend to travel in the circles he once did, and this is the way it seems to me.

Frankly, BALCO chemist Patrick Arnold, and many others (Bill Roberts, et al.) who claim that Dan was a friend and colleague, are in the same boat. Dan had been established in the industry for over a decade before any of them appeared on the scene (ushered in by Duchaine himself), and it is doubtful that anything resembling equality existed in their relationships with Dan. Yet, after Dan died, they all spoke of him as if they were as highly regarded by him as vice-versa. Truthfully, most of Dan's writings about these people are luke-warm at best - and not amazingly, all of them claimed that all of the others were inflating their relationship with Dan. This isn't meant to slam any of these guys (I've got nothing against any of them), it's just a statement of fact.

Dan was the biggest name in the industry, and they were up-and-coming. Once Dan died, they all portrayed themselves as his accepted equal; although none had attempted this feat while he was alive.

Quite literally, there would be no Anthony Roberts without Dan Duchaine either.

I first began reading Dan Duchaine when I picked up an issue of Muscle Media 2000. I can't remember what magazines I had read before that, because none of them ever seemed as important afterwards. None of them seem as important today either.

People who grew up in the '60s and smoked pot will always talk about how this album or that album changed their life (usually the Beatles White Album, or something by Led Zepplin). If you grew up in the '80s or '90s and used steroids, Dan Duchaine invariably had this kind of effect on you.

MM2K was a magazine of mostly decent writers (little w), and one exceptionally talented Writer (capitol W). I didn't read entire issues of any magazines back when I was sixteen, but I can tell you, almost verbatim, about every column that Dan ever wrote, because I read them over and over until the next issue came out.

I was sixteen years old, walking home from a bus stop in Hackensack, New Jersey when I passed a 7-11 that sold magazines. I had walked in to buy a locally produced (and now defunct) magazine about the New Jersey punk rock scene, but instead I picked up an issue of Muscle Media 2000.

I can trace my entire career back to that exact moment.

At that time, MM2K was in the process of evolving from a bi-monthly magazine into a monthly magazine, and the wait between issues was unbearable. What was Dan going to say next? By reading Dan Duchaine, I learned how to convert Finaplex Pellets into an injectable, how to make GHB at home, and that Denise Rutkowski moved her ass like a stripper during her posing routine. I saw him expose people in the bodybuilding industry in a way that could only be described as fearlessly honest; I learned that the only thing as important as your number of fans is the number of people who you piss off.

Dan Duchaine was the Sex Pistols of the steroid world.

And just like the Sex Pistols, he spawned an entire new way of thinking about things. His contribution wasn't necessarily important in an artistic sense or a technical sense, as much as it was important in a cultural sense. Dan made it alright to admit to using steroids - he made it cool to talk about them in a scientific sense, but without losing the practical side.

Dan not only had his popular "Ask the Guru" column in Muscle Media 2000, but soon he also began writing another column, called "Rant" that dealt with whatever he felt like talking about. Shortly after "Rant" appeared in MM2K, "Rage" ("Romano's Rage Page") appeared in Muscular Development (in a more alliterative, though highly inaccurate analogy, I'd be able to say that Romano = The Ramones).

Before Dan Duchaine I can't remember a single article in any bodybuilding magazines that really stuck out in my mind. I remember dozens of articles that told me How to Build:

* Cannonball Delts
* Melon-sized Delts
* Washboard Abs
* Tree Trunk Legs

And even how to "Turn your Calves into Cows!" (Which is pretty much what the bodybuilding rags still talk about). At that point, nothing was ever more real or exciting than reading Dan Duchaine tell the world that he did not, in fact, care who won the Mr. Olympia (while all the other magazines at the time were fawning over the latest-greatest champ)

I remember home-brewing a mixture of Yohimbe powder and DMSO into a topical fat-loss product after Dan wrote out the recipe in an article; now, there are several brands of this type on the market…all earning money from an idea Dan had given away for free, over a decade ago. I can name several "innovative" nutritional products currently on the market, designed by alleged "steroid experts" and point to exactly the date that Dan Duchaine first introduced the idea to the steroid world, usually a decade before the product hit the mainstream supplement market. Everyone who has ever seriously researched anabolic steroids, and is involved in the nutritional supplement market has read Dan's work, and borrowed extensively from it; with 3 steroid books and 5 nutritional supplements that I've had a hand in creating, I'll be the first to tell you that I'm no exception to that rule.

Dan once wrote an article about what supplements he would use if he only had $100/month to spend - his recommendations can be found on my monthly supplement bill to this day, each month.

His writing had a fire and skill that nobody in the bodybuilding world has ever come close to matching. I had thought this back in the mid '90s when I started reading Dan's work, and I think it now. When Dan's writing really caught on, he forced change within the bodybuilding industry. People had to take the issue of drug use - and more importantly - drug information seriously. As Dan's popularity grew to titanic proportions, magazines began more regularly running their own steroid articles and began hiring (manufacturing) their own in-house experts on steroids.

But nobody was Dan Duchaine; he viciously attacked the medical community for their shortcomings in practical application of anabolic steroid therapy, taking no prisoners. Now, it seems like everyone has taken up that fight, but don't be fooled - Dan was the first. He did it when it was edgy and dangerous to be doing what he did, not when everybody else was doing it.

Dan was interested in bikes and speakers, and had a ton of hobbies - but bodybuilding wasn't one of them. He ran the risk of ostracizing himself from his core audience by admitting this, but did so anyway. He said that it didn't matter if he was big, because he had a big brain - and later dismissed the idea of him being a genius by telling everyone that IQ tests simply rewarded white guys who have a good memory with a high score. That was one of the most amazing things I'd ever read in an interview, until that point.

Even today, Steroid Nation, a relatively-poorly written book about steroids produced by ESPN books, reads like a Dan Duchaine biography. I say it's poorly written, but the truth is that it is the best effort someone who is so far outside of the steroid using community can accomplish - and of course, because it is in fact an unexciting book about an exciting subject. I should at this point note that the author of Steroid Nation has written a couple of other books, one about NASCAR and one about Professional Wrestling, and in both cases people who really know the subculture for these respective these industries have found the books boring and a bit fake. Nonetheless, I think that it would be impossible for one person to legitimately be an expert about NASCAR, Steroids, and Professional Wrestling.

Most importantly, I don't think Dan would have liked Steroid Nation. Dan would have laughed at the idea of somebody who doesn't use steroids writing about them…or at least I reserve the right to make that supposition.

Conversely I labor under the entirely self-important presupposition that a.) he would have liked my books, and b.) that people who have spoken to the two of us have said that we "share some similarities". Of course, out of those two statements, one is entirely fabricated by me (a), and the other is conjecture by other people (b).

In 1999 when I was almost out of college, Testosterone Nation (or whatever they are calling themselves now-a-days) interviewed Dan Duchaine, and I read that interview an embarrassing amount of times (one of my roommates had the "internet"). In 2006, they interviewed me, heralding me as the new Duchaine.

The truth is that there will never be another Dan.

The Real Dan Duchaine? by Shelley Hominuk

anthony robertsAnthony Roberts is the author of three published books on anabolic steroids, and the forthcoming book "Generation S". He has written numerous articles on that topic, as well as having had training, nutrition, and supplementation articles published by a variety of print and online outlets. Additionally he has worked as a supplement designer, specializing in sports supplements. As a trainer and consultant he has helped athletes at all levels of competition, including Professional Bodybuilders, Rugby Teams, MMA competitors, Powerlifters, and even figure competitors.

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