Steroids are still very accessible on the black market, say most bodybuilders. A one-month cycle of low-level steroids that yields 10 to 15 pounds of muscle growth usually costs about Dh500, said Murshed Mubarak, a champion bodybuilder and Mohammad Ameen, owner of Power Gym in Karama.

A very strong cycle, though, can cost over Dh3,000, they said.

Some bodybuilders here even seek veterinarians for cheap, high-concentration animal hormones. The hormone AB3E, used to increase fertility in horses, is popular because one injection only costs Dh70, said Dr Mohammad Al Najar, a veterinarian who owns Al Ameen Veterinary Supplies Centre in Sharjah.

"The bodybuilders will come into my store, asking for the hormones, and you can tell they don't look like horse trainers," said Dr Al Najar. "Sometimes they even ask, ?Will this injection hurt? Is it safe for humans to take it?'"


One local personal trainer, a former professional bodybuilder who wished to remain anonymous, said he recommends veterinarians because horse hormones aren't tainted with the impure and unhygienic fillers that black market steroids are sometimes laced with.

"I've seen lots of former Arab bodybuilding champions forced to retire after winning, because of the amount and type of steroids they were taking," said Suresh Pai, who manages the nine Al Raisi Gyms in Dubai.


That makes Mubarak, himself a former Arab champion, both lucky and wise. He took the world's elite bodybuilders out to dinner after competitions, and then asked them for suggestions and guidance on the safest steroids. He was able to avoid black market steroids, veterinarians, and most importantly, a burn-out.

Now, after leg pressing 560 kilos in Power Gym, steroid-free, he says that he is bigger, better and stronger than he ever was.

"I am just genetically strong," he said, then boasted of recently lifting more than the current Mr Olympia.

Looking for a sponsor

He has his eyes set on the Qatar Olympics in December, 2006, his first bodybuilding competition since his Mr Italy title in 1997.

But first, he said that he needs a financial sponsor. Without steroids, he eats Dh6,000 worth of food every month to maintain his strenuous, six-day-a-week training schedule, and his paycheques are maxed out quickly.

"I will double your money, guaranteed, if I don't bring you back a gold medal," he said.