In this classic T Nation interview, one of the freakiest, strangest guys in bodybuilding answers some tough questions.
To normal, untrained people, those who choose to lift weights to get bigger are considered freaks. Why, they say, would anyone put themselves through all that just to get bigger biceps and more defined abs? Are they obsessed? Do they suffer from low self-esteem? To the people who lift weights recreationally, professional bodybuilders are the real freaks. Why do they risk their health to look like that when most people think they look disgusting anyway? Do they have psychological “issues?” Body Dysmorphic Disorder? Small penises?
But who is it that the professional bodybuilders call a freak? Who is the freak’s freak? Answer: Greg Valentino. If you don’t know Mr. Valentino, check out the pics below (and no, there’s no Photoshopping involved):
Greg is not a liked man. In fact, he’s quite possibly the most despised man in bodybuilding. Mention his name on an internet forum and this is what you’ll hear: “Why would he destroy his body with Synthol like that?” “Does he think he looks good?” “Who does he think he’s fooling?” “He’s a laughingstock.” “An idiot.” “An embarrassment to the sport.” “He gives bodybuilding a bad name.”
When TC told me that Greg had offered to do an interview with T-mag, I wasn’t sure what to think. When I was asked to conduct the interview, I really didn’t know what to think. You see, although I’d never spoken to the guy, I didn’t like him either. In fact, I pretty much agreed with the statements above. I wondered if it would be wise of T-mag to draw attention to this guy. I wondered if he deserved a forum in which to speak. But I also couldn’t help but wonder what he had to say.
The old psychology student in me has always been interested in the motivation of self-professed freaks. People with full body tattoos, people with ten pounds of piercings, women with breast implants the size of beach balls… I find them all fascinating. What would bodybuilding’s biggest freak have to say? What motivates him? And most of all, is Greg Valentino a glimpse into the frightening future of bodybuilding, or is he the death nail in a “sport” gone too far?
It was time to find out.
Q: Greg, I heard you were arrested, you’re not talking to me from jail are you?
Greg Valentino: No! I have been in jail, though. I had a lot of problems obviously, but I’m okay now.
Q: I also heard the other day that you were dead.
What it is this: everyone accuses me of Synthol. I don’t take Synthol. I was taking propionate and Equipoise into the muscle itself. Synthol just works one way: it stretches the fascia. With Equipoise and propionate you get the double whammy. You get the stretch from the oil plus you get the localized growth from the drugs themselves.
Synthol is like taking oil without the drug. It’s like taking dead oil – like buying fake steroids without a drug in there. You can only get so much for Synthol. I’ve got 27-inch arms, what, you think I have seven inches of oil in there? That would be ridiculous; they wouldn’t even look like arms anymore. Listen, I had 21-inch arms before I ever took a steroid in my life.
Yes. I’m in my 40’s. I trained for 25 years without ever touching a drug. Then when I took roids – I’ve taken roids for over six years now – my body just exploded. I was always a genetic freak with the arms. And I can back it up with pictures.
Q: I recall seeing some pictures of you from back in the eighties and you looked like a normal bodybuilder.
In some of those early pictures I was only twenty years old. I was a lightweight and won my class in a lot of shows. I had 18-inch arms at about 143 pounds. I didn’t even know what steroids were back then.
Q: After so many years of natural training, why did you start using steroids?
To be honest with you, I saw a lot of guys passing me –
guys that I’d been training for years. These guys had just started out lifting weights and all of a sudden, just a few years later, they’re already gigundo. And here I am training slowly, making gains over the years and they went from nothing and now they’re somebody. It’s frustrating. Plus I just felt like I’d earned it. Twenty-five years of lifting weights with no steroids and everybody accusing me of it anyway, I figured, holy shit, I earned it!
Q: Do you use steroids or other drugs now?
I haven’t taken steroids in over a year and I’ve never done growth hormone. I got thrown in jail, couldn’t touch a weight, came out and still looked fuckin’ big! My arms are still like 25 inches…
Q: You’re not using anything right now? No type of site injections or anything?
No, I can’t do anything! They’re on me. I’m in drug rehab and I don’t even take drugs. You’re talking to a guy who’s never drank in his life, no recreational drugs or nothing, but they have me in a drug program.
Q: You were busted with steroids and they put you in a drug rehab program?
Yeah, they don’t know where to stick guys for steroids so what they do is stick you in with the hardcore drug people. So I’m in classes with crack addicts and all that shit. So anyway, I can’t do drugs. I’m drug tested twice per week. I can’t do any steroids; they test me for that, too.
Q: So after your initial experiences with steroids, when did you decide to go all out with the arms and site injections?
The minute I started I fell in love with it because my body responded incredibly. Within the first month I smacked an inch on my arms. And I wasn’t even doing site injections yet. Then I just went hog wild, you know? I just kept going with it. Ice cold, my arms were 27 inches. And I’m a little guy. It’s not like I’m tall or anything. But I don’t just have big arms. I’m big all over. My worst body part is my chest. My chest is flat. It’s not bad but it’s not up to par with the rest of me. I have a very broad back and my shoulders are really wide.
Q: People always want to know why you do it because it’s just not symmetrical.
Yeah, but I’m not trying to be symmetrical. I’m trying to be a freak, you know what I’m saying? Like I’m the Tom Platz of arms. Guys like Paul DeMayo who’ve known me for years will tell you I’ve always had big arms.
Q: So you’re saying that much of your arm size is the result of genetics and if someone wanted to do what you’re doing they probably wouldn’t be able to get the same results?
Right. Synthol is available to everybody and anybody. Let’s just say that for shits and giggles sake, that’s what I did. Then how come there aren’t other guys walking around with 27-inch arms? I know a lot of guys who’ve tried Synthol who didn’t get nothing from it. They got a temporary pump and as soon as they went off, they lost it all. If it was that easy, then everybody would be walking around with big arms.
Q: Have you ever thought about doing an X-ray or an MRI to prove your critics wrong?
I would do that. You know what they’re going to say, though: you’re not going to be able to tell the difference between Synthol or if it’s steroids. But you can definitely tell it’s not no implant, so I’d be more than happy to do that.
Q: Now, you say you don’t use Synthol, but I read where you said that you have your own blend of MCT oil and other stuff that you use. True?
No, no, I’ve never said that. People say I say all kinds of shit. MCT oil? That’s nuts! I wouldn’t take MCT oil as a supplement, much less stick that shit in my body. You’d be nuts to do that. I have never talked on a forum, not even the one at my web site, but people use my name all the time and say the most horrendous shit. My web site is horrendous. I’m blowing it up and going to put a new one up.
Q: Give us an idea of what you did exactly to get your arms that way.
I did a lot of Testosterone. I did about 3000 mg of Test per week. I love Testosterone and I love Equipoise. The Test I did was mostly propionate. Once in a while I would do enanthate and I would always keep it with Equipoise. I’d probably do, oh God… I would do a shot every other day. I wouldn’t worry about the amount of oil; I would worry about the amount of drug. Over the course of a week, I take 3,000 mg of Test and probably put in 400 to 500 mg of Equipoise. Remember, that’s 15 mg shots. So that would be about 10 CC’s of EQ over a week’s period. I would do shoulders, triceps, and biceps.
Greg right before be started using steroids (according to him) and as a steroid free young man of 20.
Greg with 23-and-a-half-inch arms and finally with 27-inch arms.
Now, I would mix up the drugs. I’d throw sten in there sometimes in place of the propionate. People give sten a bad rap, but I happen to love it. It made me hard and ripped. You seem to grow a little more body hair from it and it’s definitely androgenic. There are some pro-bodybuilders who used to get drugs off me and they happen to love it.
Q: Is selling drugs what got you arrested?
I was arrested because I was a big time drug dealer!
Q: You owned a gym right?
I owned a gym, I’m the landlord now, but I had to sell the business because it caused a lot of problems for me. You know, I’m the guy that was on Comedy Central when I was arrested. They were making fun of me and everything.
Q: What was that all about?
My arms are so big and my shoulders were so broad, they were filming me when I came out of the police station. They do these spoofs about the local news on the Daily Show and they showed me and said, “What do you think this guy was arrested for? Hint: It wasn’t estrogen!” Then they showed me on tape and said, “Local police found that this guy was doing steroids. No shit! What, did you think he was storing nuts for the winter in those arms?”
Q: Now, you’ve told me that you know a lot of the pros like Ronnie Coleman and are friendly with them, but Lee Priest has said some nasty stuff about you, right?
I could stand next to Lee Priest and you could hide him right behind me. I’m a little taller than him, but not much. But yeah, Lee has said a lot of nasty shit. But what he doesn’t understand is that I was training when he was in elementary school. I started in 1972! I know more about training than most of these guys, I swear to God. That’s why when these guys go off the shit they look like they’ve never touched a weight in their lives.
Shawn Ray was fucking flipping out on me at the Night of Champions too, saying he didn’t understand what I was doing. But you gotta’ understand, I’m big all over. I’m a lot bigger than him. My arms were bigger than Shawn’s before I did roids!
Q: Have you lost much size since you were forced to go off?
Yeah, I’ve lost size. My arms are 25 inches now. But I was just at Night of Champions and people were still going nuts wanting my pictures and all that crap.
Q: You say that as if you don’t like the attention.
Do I like it? Actually, I’m a little embarrassed.
Q: So what’s your motivation? You’ve got to expect that kind of attention.
My motivation is this [laughing], I’ve got small man complex, Napoleon complex, whatever it is. I’m only like five foot five and a half. I mean, a guy with 27-inch arms who’s only 5’5" with a 27 inch waist…it looks ridiculous. But then again, if I can’t grow taller, then I’m going to be the biggest freak I can be. I don’t give a shit about symmetry.
In bodybuilding, nobody gives a shit about Milos Sarcev up there all symmetrical with a beautiful body. You ask the crowd who they like to see. They like to see the freaks, Markus Ruhl or Paul Dillet, even though he can’t pose to save his life. People love to see mass. They like to see freaks. It’s what gets them into this sport.
Q: Do you think you motivate people?
No, I think I disgust people. I get rotten e-mail from all over the world from people that tell me I suck, I look like shit, I ruined my physique… Then again I do get people who are awed by it, the fact that I’m a freak. Anyway, I know I disgust people. I know I’m the laughing stock of bodybuilding. I know that and that’s okay with me.
Q: You know, I’m thinking about titling this piece “The Most Hated Man in Bodybuilding.”
No offense, but that’s the impression I get from listening to people talk about you.
That’s fine. You gotta know the kind of person I am. I’m a very easy going person. I understand that I’m the most hated person in bodybuilding, without a doubt! It’s not that that’s what I want, but it’s okay by me because that’s the truth. But people don’t give me credit. Most guys could never hang with me. I can do the most incredible amount of sets. I used to curl a ridiculous amount of weight. I can’t any more; I’m in my forties.
But nobody gives me credit. They assume it’s all Synthol or drugs, but they don’t understand. I had 18-inch arms in the 140’s. Right before I started taking steroids I was like 185 with 21-inch arms. It’s nothing for me to do 60 sets for a body part. I love volume training. I used to have to drink soda and eat rolls while I was training just to keep the carbs up because I would train for hours. I don’t do that anymore, but I still do mega sets.
Q: I have to ask, are there any daily activities you can’t do because of your arm size?
Everybody asks me that. I can shoot baskets and I can throw a football a mile. I play sports; I’m very well-rounded. I can hit fast balls over the fence. People don’t realize I’m a really good athlete. I’m not muscle bound at all.
Q: Now, you have an arm-training video, but come on, it’s not like you got your arms from just training alone. Isn’t that being deceptive?
It’s not an arm training video. It’s a regular training video with my philosophies and stuff. If I worked with you for one fucking week, I guarantee you I could put an inch on any body part you want without steroids or any injections.
Q: But when people see your arms, the smart ones say, hey, what does this guy know about training, he just shoots a bunch of stuff into his arms!
Exactly. But the people who’ve worked with me will tell you they’ve put inches on their arms and their whole body. I have different ways of doing shit.
Q: Any health problems from all this?
Oh fuck yeah! I have a video where I’d hit a blood vessel with an injection and it had exploded my blood vessel. It just kept bleeding and bleeding and I couldn’t do anything about it. Even after they stuck me in jail, they couldn’t do anything about it and when I came out my arm was fucking humongous. My left arm was like 29 inches. But it wasn’t muscle, it was like a balloon in there. So I videotaped myself pulling all this blood and shit out of there.
Also, I was taking 3,000 mg a week of Testosterone alone. Throw in about another 500 mg of Equipoise and you’ve got about 3,500 mg of drugs. Well, they stuck me in jail, so I went from 3500 mg to nothing! Thank God I didn’t lose muscle, but my dick was like holy shit! I was at the point where Pam Anderson could come in and suck it and nothing would happen. It’s destroyed my libido.
My body is bouncing back now. I never got no nut shrinkage though. I don’t understand that, but I didn’t. They were still the size of eggs, but I definitely fucking lost sex drive. I can get a hard-on now, but it’s been over a year and that’s why. But when I first came out, I was like, holy fuck!
I don’t get any bitch tits or nothing. I never took any anti-estrogens. I believe that’s something that’s genetic. Some guys can sniff steroids and their nipples get sore. Other guys can take whatever and they don’t have any problems. I think guys who naturally have bigger nipples are more prone to getting bitch tits than guys with small nipples. I always had small nipples. I have a lot of theories on shit.
Q: What about scar tissue?
I’m sure there’s some scar tissue in my arms from taking injections. I get hard spots and stuff. I’ve had abscesses. That’s why my one bicep doesn’t peak. I went to an emergency room doctor and he fucking sliced my bicep to fucking clear out an abscess. It flattened out my peak in one arm.
Q: Tell me, are you making money off of this?
[laughing] No! Nobody likes me! I’m making no money. Well, I do make some money off my videos. I haven’t sold a ton, but I’ve sold quite a few.
Q: If you don’t do Synthol, why do you sell it on your website?
Everyone is always asking me about it and asking where can they get it because they think I do it. So why not try to capitalize on that? So I get it from my friend who owns Zoe Labs. I’ve only sold a couple of bottles actually.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 20 or 30 years?
Hmm, maybe with 30 inch arms! No, I’m just kidding. I don’t know. I know I’ll always be in shape. Hopefully I’ll still be alive.
Q: Think you’ll be around at age 60? I have to wonder given your past run-ins with the law and heavy steroid use.
I don’t blame people for thinking that about me. I’m not taking any drugs anymore. I want to get a doctor to put me on Testosterone because I know I have low Testosterone now. But I’m certainly not going to sell that shit anymore. I don’t take any other risks. You’re talking to a guy who’s never drank in his life. I don’t even know what beer tastes like! I’ve been a best man at three weddings and I’ve toasted with water. It has nothing to do with bodybuilding. It has to do with the fact that I idolized my father growing up and he never drank, so I never drank. The only risks I’ve ever taken in my life involved steroids and I’m done with that. I’ve got kids and I don’t want to spend my life in jail.
Q: Just out of curiosity, do you think Synthol should be allowed in professional bodybuilding?
I do. I think Synthol is useless, personally. Well, not useless, it has a small place in bodybuilding. Women have breast implants and that enhances their physiques without a doubt. Without the implants they’d look like men in bikinis up there. If they can do that, I don’t see what the big deal is with guys using Synthol. Synthol doesn’t make the bodybuilder. If people say my arms are all Synthol, then I challenge anyone else to get 27-inch arms just by using it. There’s no way. You’ve got to have the drug to get the localized growth.
Q: What do you think about the state of competitive bodybuilding in general?
Bodybuilding is definitely going backwards. It’s a terrible sport. The promoters make money, but the bodybuilders make next to nothing. You’ve got guys in the top five at the Olympia who are bouncing in nightclubs just to support themselves. Mike Quinn was bouncing in nightclubs yet he was sixth one year in the Olympia. If he were the number six player in baseball he’d be making millions.
Bodybuilding is a terrible sport. I like it for me. I like being a freak because it makes up for the fact that I’m a little guy. But as far as who wins the Mr. Olympia, I could give a shit. As long as the Yankees win the World Series I’m a happy man.
Q: Any last words for your critics and haters out there?
Well, I guess if they keep talking about me it’ll keep my name out there. There’s no such thing as bad publicity. Everybody hated George Steinbrenner but the Yankees kept winning.
Q: But if you’re not making money off of it, why do you want the publicity?
One day I’d like to make money off of it. The thing is, when people meet me they like me. When I’m at the big shows, people always mob up to me and tell me they didn’t realize I was a nice guy. I give everybody the time of day and give them respect. I’m not a bad person; I’ve just done some bad things.