Bodybuilding is rich in history and still popular today. The biggest difference between then and now is the level of competitiveness. Trying to gain any advantage is necessary in order to compete in the current bodybuilding environment, leading many to explore alternative approaches such as hormone supplements, steroids or excessive diuretics. Sometimes this exploration leads to major issues including death. Here are bodybuilders that went too far trying to create, in their minds, the perfect body.
Oli Cooney is a tragic bodybuilding case and although he didn’t make this list is worth mentioning. Starting at the age of 16, Cooney started openly taking steroids and despite warnings by doctors he was dead by the age of 20. If the doctors' warnings weren’t enough, the heart attacks (2) and strokes (3) really should have put a damper on his workout plan.
In 1972 Steve Michalik was named Mr. America and in 1975 he won the title of Mr. Universe. These victories came at a price, the price of extensive steroid use that would cause liver, heart and kidney issues, eventually leading to his death at the age of 63.
It’s time to flex our minds and see who the truly shocking bodybuilders that went too far are. Keep in mind these are exceptions and I guess also a potential tale of caution to those just entering this sport. We’ve got death, murder and an exploding bicep. You read that correctly, we’ve got an exploding bicep, folks! You may never want to go to the gym again. Here are 15 bodybuilders that went too far…
15 Gordon Kimbrough
The story of Gordon Kimbrough is not a happy one, nor is it a motivating tale to get you into bodybuilding, quite the opposite. Kimbrough was a gentle, some would say shy guy from San Francisco that was kind to others and loved by his family. He started bodybuilding and all was okay until he started using anabolic steroids, that’s when the tables turned.
Kimbrough started cycling on growth hormones to assist with his bodybuilding, hoping to make him huge with excellent muscle definition. The hormones had an adverse effect on his personality, changing Kimbrough from the quiet type to a raging machine. Everything escalated in 1993 when he snapped and killed his fiancé because he thought she was cheating. He was busted by the cops the day after. Kimbrough was found trying to commit suicide by injecting Lysol into the veins of his neck. Not really relevant, but I don’t know why anyone keeps that foul smelling stuff in their house.
14 Gregg Valentino
What happens when you get so big your muscle explodes? Hold on; wait a second, why did the biceps explode? That brings us to Gregg Valentino. At one point Valentino was known as the bodybuilder with not just big arms, but the biggest arms in the world. That’s impressive – the biggest arms in the world. It’s not clear how he got to this point, but we know what happened next. Valentino started injecting synthetic oil known as synthol, a substance that inflates muscles. Valentino’s biceps by no means looked natural, but they did look big.
It’s no surprise that after time, injecting oil into your biceps has a negative impact. For Valentino his arms started to leak, that’s right they started leaking fluid. How awful, definitely the worst, right? Not even close. So Valentino decides to take care of his problem and sticks a syringe in to drain his arms. His bicep explodes! That’s right, his bicep explodes! Score one for trying to screw with the human body…
13 Andreas Munzer
With bodybuilders’ stories gone awry, it’s often steroids; however, with the case of Andreas Munzer, it was diuretics. Bodybuilders use diuretics to decrease liquid, leading to a more “ripped” effect once the excess water has been removed. Problem is there is nothing excess about water in your body. We need this to live!
Wanting to have a body with zero fat, Munzer believed this was the best way. Participating year-round in events, Munzer never really let up on his use of drugs to build muscle nor did he let up on his use of diuretics. The latter were found to be the lead reason of stomach pain that put him in the hospital where he would pass away on the operating table. After his death it was revealed he had a liver ravaged with tumors, shrunken testicles and his heart was enlarged, all directly connected to his abuse of diuretics and supplements.
12 Ruben Arzu
We all have our YouTube curiosities, right? For me it’s watching bodybuilders fail on the bench press. The interesting part to me is how the mind and even the muscles try to force something that has no business happening. This is often directly related to intensity and rage caused from steroid use. Unfortunately for Arzu, he didn’t try to take out his rage in the gym.
In 2011 a couple arrived at their home in California. Ruben Arzu was naked, standing on their lawn awaiting their arrival. It’s not documented if his eyes were glowing red, but it sounds like that is a safe assumption given what happens next. Arzu went off on the husband first, beating the hell out of him, breaking his jaw in the process. The wife dashed for the house to ring the police, but then Arzu caught her and beat the hell out of her, leading to a fractured skull. Somehow Arzu was arrested before killing, oh, I don’t know, maybe 50 people… Remember kids, if you are the jealous type, don’t do steroids.
11 Moustafa Ismail
Hey, here is an actual successful, happy story. Yeah! Moustafa Ismail claims he never cheated with steroids, synthol or other types of injections while bodybuilding. No, according to him his massive biceps are legit. That’s where Ismail went too far, he only focused on his biceps. The rest of his body is fit, but not overly muscular, creating a freak like figure due to his giant arms. Apparently eating up to seven pounds of protein have created his 31 inch arms. He claims it’s difficult to shop for shirts, no kidding.
We all know the guy that goes to the gym and only focuses on his upper body. This guy has big arms, a barrel chest and skinny legs. “Monday, Wednesday and Friday is arms bro!” What about leg day? “No legs dude, no time!” Make time for the legs, bro. You may not look as strange as Ismail, but you don’t look good either.
10 Bertil Fox
You don’t just shoot up human growth hormone and get big right away, nor do you just go insane right away. Bertil Fox is an example of the latter, what happens to your state of mind taking human growth hormone over a period of time. Fox was known for his great muscle-bound body, winning titles in both the United States and England before retiring to St. Kitts where he planned to start his own business, a gym with his wife.
In 1997 Fox lost it and committed multiple murders. He went into a shop owned by his mother-in-law and shot her and then also shot and killed his wife. Fox was found guilty and sent to prison for life. Fox claimed self-defense, but most expect it was his inner rage that had been built up (and been suppressed) over the years, the intensity of suppressed rage aided by human growth hormone.
9 Sally McNeil
What happens when two Marines fall in love, get into bodybuilding together and take steroids? Obviously one of them is going to kill the other, it’s the really the only way this goes down. In the case of Sally McNeil, she not only murdered her husband, she had a long history of violence presumably linked to her post-Marine bodybuilding career and use of steroids.
For McNeil, it was the fueled jealously that got the best of her. First, she ferociously beat down a woman because she believed she was having sex with her husband. The problem with being married to a bodybuilder is their strength, right? McNeil dropped a 70 pound weight on her husband. This is not something most husbands need to worry about. Finally, in 1996 she unloaded a shotgun into the chest of her husband. McNeil is still in prison and still believes it was her husband who was at fault and the one with rage caused by steroids.
8 Gary Himing
Bodybuilders push their bodies to the limit, in many cases further than the body is designed to be pushed. Even when drugs or steroids aren’t involved, a bodybuilder’s training puts stress on the heart and other organs. Their diet is also extreme, often high on protein and low in other nutrients the body may be craving. Gary Himing had the worst fate a bodybuilder can have, he died on stage. While competing in an event in Victoria, he collapsed right on stage after his set. What was just as shocking was that after his body was removed, the show went on! In hindsight I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the best decision.
Can you imagine being the guy that had to go on next? I can’t. I would be mortified and demand the event stop. Still, this particular show went on and you have to wonder after each subsequent contestant the amount of relief that another performer did not pass away in front of their eyes.
7 Greg Plitt
So this one has nothing to do with drugs (well, not noted anyhow) and nothing to do with stress on the heart (well, not directly anyway). Greg Plitt, a West Point graduate and Ranger started his career in Los Angeles as a personal trainer. He even created a workout program named MFT 28 that would be featured on the website bodybuilding.com. Plitt made the covers of fitness magazines such as Men’s Health, Muscle & Fitness and American Health & Fitness. He even did some commercials for Old Spice Body Wash, Old Navy and Under Armour, leading to a spot on the reality television show Work Out.
In 2015 Plitt decided to go for a run, but being a big-time bodybuilding trainer he couldn’t just go for any run, it had to be extreme. Plitt decided to run on train tracks and outrun a train. Apparently he was trying to prove that an energy drink really works, but there were no cameras so I really don’t understand what the hell he was doing. Oh, yeah the train hit him.
6 Mohammed “Momo” Benaziza
A soccer player when he was young, Mohammed Benaziza started to work out and train his body, eventually entering and winning a bodybuilding event in Spain. He continued to enter events and even won The Night of Champions in 1990, given his dominance he was given the name Killer of Giants. In 1992 Benaziza was part of the Mr. Olympia championships where he finished in fifth place. It was shortly after this competition he was found dead in his hotel room.
The autopsy was telling, showing signs of major dehydration and it was heart failure that killed him at the young age of 33. A potent cocktail that included diuretics was found. Prior to the show (earlier in the year) Benaziza made a statement that American bodybuilders were “sissies.” He referred to them by this name because of their refusal to use drugs. Well, no one can call Benaziza a sissy now, can they…
5 Aziz “Zyzz” Shavershian
This one is mysterious because we don’t know what really went wrong. We know something went awry because young people don’t drop dead (as was the case with Shavershian), but those answers have been kept secret. Originally from Moscow, Shavershian and his family moved to Australia where he took up bodybuilding. However, he didn’t just “bulk up”; instead, he focused on creating a muscular, sexy body. It worked as he started receiving national attention as a YouTube star with a large group beginning to follow.
It was right around this time that he died of a heart attack. There was a ton of speculation around his death and many started to suspect drugs despite Shavershian never admitting or suggesting he did such a thing. The toxicology report went to the family and has never been spoke of and don’t ever expect to find out the real reason Shavershian died right as it appeared he was reaching his peak.
4 Lyle Alzado
Football players are often muscular and cut, but Lyle Alzado, a defensive lineman for the Raiders (also the Broncos and Browns, but probably most famous for his twilight years with the Raiders) was built like a God, a bodybuilding God. Alzado was more of a football player than bodybuilder, but is definitely one of the bigger names and one that has admitted to using steroids during his career. Alzado died of brain cancer at the age of 43.
Alzado believes the cancer was related to his constant steroid use to enhance his body and presumably generate a rage that would help on the football field. He was known to have a “short temper” and would channel his anger to the opposing team. Not fun if you are trying to block him. He personified the Raiders, a team of doom and gloom and will always be a fan favorite in Raider Nation.
3 Curt Hennig
Lots of bodybuilders have tried to break into wrestling which makes sense given they have the body and all. However, there is a lot more to wrestling than just looking good. Curt Hennig, broke through the pro wrestling circuit. He was nicknamed, “The Hawk”, but had a short career, one that took such a sharp downward turn he ended up in wrestling inside high school gyms for a handful of people.
At 32 years of age Hennig committed suicide. Steroids were not directly involved, but they were very much a part of what destroyed his life. Anyone who has seen the movie The Wrestler can understand. I mean, if you have to work the deli counter during the day and then go to the high school gym at night… Yeah, that’s pretty depressing. Maybe bodybuilding and pro wrestling isn’t for everyone. Still, he must have had something to live for, I mean, he was nicknamed “The Hawk” at one point of his life. That’s pretty awesome.
2 Anthony D’Arezzo
A lot of bodybuilders focus on the look and not so much the health aspects of bodybuilding. Not all, but some mind you. Anthony D’Arezzo is an example of this. After college, D’Arezzo trained to the point where he could bench press 535 pounds, leading to a 1992 first place finish at the American Bench Press Championships. He had a series of injuries over the next few years. Not long after (2002) he was diagnosed with a heart condition and ordered to stop bodybuilding. Doctors specifically told him to stop training and not use steroids.
He obliged for a while and stopped training, but in 2006 decided to start working out again. He was also taking growth hormones via injections. He passed away in a hotel room the night before an even in Pittsburgh. He died while he was practicing his bodybuilding poses in front of a group of close friends.
1 Chad Brothers
So I think by now we’ve established that bodybuilders and steroids are a dangerous combination that can lead to disaster. What happens when the “roid rage” occurs in public? Meet Chad Brothers, a bodybuilder with one of the most famous meltdowns of all time. It all went down in a New York Gold’s Gym in 2011.
Brothers was using an elliptical machine and apparently fell off. It’s not clear if anyone laughed or he was just embarrassed, but he decided to go on a rampage through the gym. He verbally threatened other people who were working out and then started knocking over and tipping heavy gym equipment. Did I mention he was jacked up on PCP and steroids? Didn’t have to, did I? Anyway, the cops finally showed up, shot him twice with a Taser gun and he died an hour later. I bet a lot of memberships were terminated after that day at the gym.
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