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Pumping Iron – Steroids & Pole Dancing

I had an interesting conversation with a large profile pole artist the other day. We were discussing the evolution of pole, and I asked her; ‘ do you think any of the performers/competitors are taking steroids?’ Her face was a picture, she blanched and shook her head, ‘Why would anyone take steroids?’ she replied, ‘They just need to work hard and the strength and discipline will come like it does with me.’

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Although vaguely amusing that she thought so highly of herself(!), it was interesting to see that she couldn’t comprehend the concept of steroid abuse in the pole world. But why is it such a difficult thought to imagine? What makes steroids so attractive that it leads to abuse? I got curious about the whole idea so decided to look into performance enhancers and sport in in general.

The use of steroids is in fact a legal and prescribed treatment around the world. Dermatologists prescribe it for skin problems and surgeons to help relieve pain and acute joint problems. So when does it become illegal? My research unearthed a horrible fact that many adolescent boys start dabbling in steroids owing to the pressure to play competitive sports being so high. Many youngsters fall foul to the allure of the quick benefits that come with injecting performance enhancers.

Olympic athletes across the world are consistently drug tested to check that they are not abusing the system, and that medals are being won fairly without help from illegal substances. Many famous cases exist where athletes and sportsmen have been caught and their dreams of medals and successes are snatched away from them. So what drives an Olympic athlete to take an illegal drug?

Competitive sports evolve constantly, records are broken and personal bests are bettered. Human beings have always pushed at every barrier. Competitive by nature, we try to achieve higher, faster and stronger performances. Bodybuilders get bigger, sprinters run faster and horses jump higher (yes they are often involved in drugs too!).

Just take a look at this picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger at the time he won Mr Olympia, and now fast forward 41 years and 2010 winner Jay Cutler – notice the change in the physiques.


Arnold himself has admitted to steroid abuse – one can only begin to imagine the cocktail of drugs current bodybuilders are on.

Now lets take a look at this female bodybuilder (Iris Kyle Miss Olympia 2010). Her muscularity, size and definition far outweighs an ‘average’ female body. The lack of body fat, the protruding muscles and the strong jaw line. Notice the masculine features and over-developed biceps and quads.

I ask myself the question, as a young healthy woman, if I was to train every hour of the day, eat loads of protein, lift heavy weights and dehydrate myself – would I look like this? I can confidently say the answer is no – and the reason, because muscular development like this needs testosterone. (Not that Iris would admit to this, nor am I implying she is taking testosterone, it’s just my opinion).

Medically speaking all women have testosterone in their system. The amount varies but it is possible for some women to have sufficient levels of testosterone that can contribute to better muscle development during high intensity training. Reports of steroid abuse but reports of steroids abuse suggest that women are far more likely to inject steroids or testosterone.due to the aggressive side effects that can occur. Medical studies on women taking testosterone show signs of increased facial hair, jaw growth and even enlarged genitalia are reported.

So what allows an Olympic athlete to abuse steroids? The fame, fortune and notoriety of winning the Olympics. Why would a female pole dancer take steroids? So she can compete to an even higher level, with greater strength and power than any of her ‘average’ counterparts.

I teach men. I think men bring a brilliant masculinity, strength and poise to the pole world. I believe that women of all shapes and sizes can embrace pole and find sensuality and beauty in their movements and training. But personally I draw the line when female or male pole athletes start taking drugs. Who knows if any are taking them – but next time you watch the worlds top athletes compete, notice their jaw line, their shoulders, the amount of fat they carry and ask yourself – is that normal?

Pole Dancing is becoming more and more an accepted art form. With competitions and even a petition to join the Olympics, pole is becoming a widely accepted form of sport as well as expression. If they do start introducing drug tests to the pole world and competitive scene, I wonder what the results will be and who will start to miss events and competitions due to the obligatory urine test?

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