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  1. ITV Report

‘The pressure to look good led me to taking steroids’: The men on the dangerous pursuit to achieve the 'perfect body'

A man from Port Talbot has spoken out about how the pressure of wanting to have a perfect body led him to using steroids.

Tom Powell, appeared in the 2016 series of ITV reality show Love Island. Six months after the series aired, he injected anabolic steroids for the first time.

Despite being in shape during his time on the show, Tom said he ‘felt pressure’ to improve his appearance and compete with others.

“Everyone that’s been on Ex On The Beach or all these different reality TV shows, they’re all in very good shape. I’ve got to be on the same level as them, if not better.”

With a desire to break into the fitness industry and maintain his physique, Tom said he felt steroids were the only way for him to compete.

“The added pressure of people constantly, constantly judging you. With thousands of people watching me every single day, it just gets to you.”

What are anabolic steroids?

  • Anabolic steroids are manufactured drugs that mimic the effects of the male hormone testosterone. They have limited medical uses and aren't to be confused with corticosteroids, a different type of steroid drug that's commonly prescribed for a variety of conditions.
  • Anabolic steroids are prescription-only medicines that are sometimes taken without medical advice to increase muscle mass and improve athletic performance.
  • NHS guidelines state if used in this way, they can cause serious side effects and addiction.
  • Source: NHS UK

The latest National Image and Performance Enhancing Drugs (IPED) Info Survey suggests that there are now over 1 million IPED users in the UK.

1m
users of performance enhancing drugs in the UK.

Traditionally, IPED have been associated with body builders, power lifters and elite sports. However in recent years, IPED use has grown popular amongst everyday gym users, and young men on the pursuit of the perfect body.

To meet increasing IPED related demands in Wales, a specialist clinic has been set up in Newport to provide steroid users with support and advice.

Dr Rhys Evans is one of the doctors at the clinic which is run by the Gwent Specialist Substance Misuse Service. He said there are multiple factors at play which make our younger generations more vulnerable to IPED use.

“A lot of it is access. You’d be surprised at how easy it is to acquire these things. Almost to the point where you’ll go down to a local gym and there’ll usually be two or three people who either have access, or have it [steroids] in their bag with them.”

Frequent or reckless use of steroids can lead to numerous health complications. Dr Rhys said their aim at the clinic is to make users aware of the risks.

It can change lots of different areas with regards to cardiovascular health that can lead to heart attacks and strokes. It can increase to the point where the heart does not beat very efficiently and that can effectively turn in to heart failure.

– Dr Rhys Evans

You can see the full programme on Ein Byd, S4C, 9.30pm on Thursday. The programme is available in English subtitles.