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Steroid use distorts competition

Many bodybuilders in the UAE regularly use illegal steroids, says the secretary general of the sport's national body.

AJMAN // Many bodybuilders in the UAE regularly use illegal steroids, the secretary general of the sport's national body said at the Emirates Bodybuilding Championships yesterday. Asked if he thought any of the 59 competitors at the Ajman competition were using steroids, Hussain Ahmed al Saffar, of the Emirates Bodybuilding Federation (EBBF), said: "Personally, I think yes. Look at these men. You can't achieve that size just by eating fish and rice.

"I could tell you that every athlete here is clean... but I would not be telling you the truth." Next month the EBBF will start a series of seminars and workshops to address the dangers of steroids, which can kill or cause serious illness, for athletes and bodybuilders. The eight-time Mr Olympia, Ronnie Coleman, will speak at the first lecture in Dubai next month to raise public awareness. Many bodybuilders at yesterday's competition, which did not include drug tests, openly admitted using anabolic steroids such as Sustanon and Deca, and injecting themselves with growth hormones to build muscle.

"We must take these drugs because everybody else is taking them," said Yamen Khalil, 28, who has been bodybuilding for 12 years. "How else can we keep up?" Although drugs like Sustanon and Deca are not banned in the UAE, they cannot be legally sold without a prescription. This year, The National found anabolic steroids including Andriol, Sustanon and Deca - all banned by the International Olympic Committee - were available from some Dubai chemists without prescription, as well as from gyms and trainers.

Khalil, who is taking a break from competition, said: "I know many chemists in Dubai and Sharjah who will sell me these drugs without a prescription." He is adamant that using steroids like Deca is safe. The problem, he said, is that many bodybuilders in the UAE often don't know what drugs they are taking, how much to take or when to stop. "I take drugs like Sustanon, but only for a maximum of three months. Then six months before the competition, I stop," he said. "This is enough time for everything to be flushed out of my body. I know what I am taking and when to stop. I am a professional."

Rambahaduz Dahal, 29, who has been bodybuilding for six years, said he had planned not to compete yesterday because the competition did not enforce drug tests, but his friends persuaded him. "A lot of the guys have been injecting themselves and so they will win a medal. I don't use drugs, so I don't have a chance," said the Nepalese bodybuilder, who works as a gym instructor at the Radisson Hotel in Sharjah.

"But it's OK because my body is clean. And at the end of the day I am just competing with myself." Osama al Shafar, the president of the EBBF and Asian Bodybuilding Federation, said the seminars were the first step in ridding the sport of illegal use. "Doping is a big problem all over the world for many sports, not just bodybuilding," Mr al Shafar said. "In the UAE, we are trying to put a stop to it.

"Before any athlete can join the Emirates' national team he must first pass a doping test. Next year we will also be introducing courses about doping and steroids." Dubai's General Authority of Youth and Sports Welfare and the Ministry of Health this year started a programme to fight steroid abuse, improve the health of athletes and prevent injuries. The authority and ministry will also work together to draw up draft legislation on steroids. au@thenational.ae

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