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Esiclene has been commonly linked to bodybuilding for its aesthetic value. The lore surrounding this drug speaks to its ability
to temporarily galvanize the peak, shape, size and proportion of an individual muscle group, adding anywhere from one-half if
to one-full inch depending on the amount used and cyclical prescription. For some it is invaluable as a cosmetic finishing tool
used just prior to a contest in order to bring up a trailing muscle group. It is a fast-acting, water-based drug that is in and
out of the body within a day or two. The effects seem to be both dramatically temporary and temporarily dramatic.
The research and information on Esiclene (Formebolone) in this country are sparse at best. Certainly inquiring in a neighborhood pharmacy about its origins is a waste of time - it's manufactured in Italy - and often might cause a look of puzzlement. Apparently it is the ultimate conundrum of steroids. And make no mistake about it - Esiclene is a steroid. It seems curious that an athlete would ingest or inject such a little-known substance with no background information easily accessible. Well, come to think of it, perhaps that's naive In fact, most people don't think of Esiclene as a steroid at all. They believe the side effect - the swelling at the injection site - is its entire purpose for being. For a drug that is so misunderstood, its use is widespread. And, it turns out, there is some information available, albeit limited, if sought from the correct source.
In searching for background information on this drug, I did the only logical thing and went to the scientific source. I wanted to learn about its humble beginnings and to determine if it ever had a bona fide, legitimate clinical or therapeutic purpose prior to its adoption by bodybuilders. They had to admit that the on Esiclene were that it is a steroid and a very weak, ineffective one at that and that it is one of the few water-based injectables where the entire amount of the steroid is dissolved in the water rather than having particles floating. In that way it's unique. Though it's mixed in a lidocaine tincture to lessen the pain of injection, it's a very, very painful injection. It hurts while you stick it into yourself as opposed to others that hurt a few days later. The nice side effect that people use it for is that it will temporarily swell, giving you the illusion of more so it's great for arms and calves.
The fact that inflammation occurs at the site of an Esiclene injection is the whole reason for its use by bodybuilders. Yet this swelling is actually a side effect of using the drug. People aren't using it any more very much. The consensus is that accessibility is minimal.
Moving on, I then remembered my good friend, IFBB judge Enrico Baldantoni, who is a sports medicine doctor in Milan, Italy, and decided to punch in the numerous digits required to reach him. He was, of course, very familiar with the drug and said that it was created around 1970. It is manufactured by LPI3 Pharmaceuticals of Milan, and comes in injectable form (six 2cc vials, total 12cc) or in tablet form (20 tabs, 5mg each). It is true that the injectable drug is mixed with a minimal amount of lidocaine to minimize its painful effects although users will tell you that the lidocaine is useless-it's painful as hell!
According to Baldantoni, the therapeutic and clinical applications of Esiclene appear to be very much in line with other anabolics - "primarily to prevent catabolic wasting from the effects of certain diseases and in post surgery patients. It is also used in the treatment of mild forms of anemia, in the elderly, and to expedite the healing of bone fractures." What came next was the astounding news of its retail value in Italy. Once prescribed, a box of six vials, totaling 12cc, costs a mere $3.00 US! I mumbled amazement at the price, and we agreed that he single-handedly may have doubled American tourism figures for the Italian government in 1995. So we said our goodbyes and severed our fiber-optic trans-Atlantic bond.
Pleased with my own resourcefulness, I determined to locate people who would either dispute or substantiate all of the rumors surrounding Esiclene. The next step was to ferret out athletes who were willing to talk about their own use of Esiclene, and methodology behind amounts utilized, and choice of placement in lagging bodyparts. I've known about Esiclene for a good seven years myself and have heard all of the silly stories that go along with anything of notorious standing... how this guy injected it into his penis and its effects were permanent (don't try that at home - it's false), or how another's muscle exploded (imploded is more accurate), or about how Billy and Bobby use their physiques as pincushions! But there have been strongly substantiated rumors lately about two particular bodybuilders on the pro circuit who have gone one step too far beyond the realm of maturity, common sense and incidental craziness, taking their use of this drug to a level of abuse that is at once farcical, but upon deeper thought, very sad.
As I heard it, these are the folks who are purportedly using in excess of 120 shots of Esiclene per contest! It's mind boggling to think that someone would endeavor to experience so much pain and risk just to break even on the cost of the drugs themselves - if that - with prize money. How does one stand in a line of 30 sweaty men, under blazing hot lights for 40 minutes, and flex through all of the pain and swelling? It's ludicrous! Go out and get a real job, I say. That isn't bodybuilding. That's forging new paths in chemical engineering. That's not a champion. It's an escape from Transylvania!
Don't get me wrong. My words aren't a moral lecture or ethical judgment by a journalistic jury of one. Nor are they a thesis on chemical dependency. Steroids are, without a doubt, the playing field upon which equability is measured in the sport. Perhaps that's not what a sport should be, but nevertheless that's a reality. Talking about drug use any more in this sport is passé and boring! So judgment and ennui aside, what's really lacking at the crux of this issue? Hard training! Esiclene is absolutely no substitute for training like an animal to earn your muscles, drugged to the hilt or otherwise. And though the visible side effects from one or two injections are undeniably noticeable, is that to mean that 100 shots a physique will make? Doubtfully. More than likely, 100 shots is a psychological panacea for a weak mind and sick spirit. Flaws can be found only in personality, not sports! With that in mind, I wanted to interview both those I thought would be the worst offenders, and those I felt sure wouldn't be. I wanted to see if this 100-shot-plus business was true.
The bodybuilders polled for this article are among the top professional and amateur athletes in the sport today. In order to preserve anonymity, by my own choosing, their names have been omitted. Some expressed their desire to come clean, on the record, with a devil-may-care attitude. One offered his mailing address and price list for order information. (I hope he was kidding!) Rather than throw caution to the wind and common sense out the window, or later having them regret a passing cavalier attitude, I chose to be the voice of reason and go with the anonymous approach. They aren't cowards, but they could be made scapegoats. Besides this is not a forum for confession, nor a bazaar for goods and services. It is a look inside a world that, no matter how immune one is to it, will continue to have shock value. This is what five of the most elite professionals and amateurs had to say about their use of the drug Esiclene and an idea of where they are in the sport today.
Professional Bodybuilder/European - Top 5 Night of Champions/Olympia Competitor - "I heard about Esiclene three years ago. At the time I had just heard that it was a precontest drug that you shoot into lagging body parts just prior to going onstage - small muscle groups like biceps, triceps or calves. Most of the guys were using it a week before the show, every day, for one week. If you have small arms, then you would shoot your biceps and triceps, but sometimes, with bodyparts too close together, it will smooth your appearance. I experimented in '92 and found that after using it for two to three days, you tend to smooth out- you lose the sharpness. I find that using small insulin needles can contribute to the smooth appearance because the drug tends to be distributed subcutaneously. In the biceps and triceps an insulin needle is okay, but in other bodyparts a longer needle - an inch or more - is better. A one-and-a-half-inch needle ensures that you will get into the muscle itself- especially the back. The rumor used to be that injecting more than one or two bodyparts, or muscles too close together, was bad. Now, I bow a lot of guys who will shoot every single bodypart. You shoot either exactly where there is a split, or if you want a peak, shoot where the peak is. It's really up to the person and his flaws. You can gain almost an inch in the arms. I feel that one ampoule per biceps is enough, but this is bodybuilding, so it's like, more is better.
Nowadays most people shoot about five to six cc per body-part. I personally use it in biceps and triceps, and I use it in the back for training. It is an anabolic steroid, and it seems to be anabolic at the site. Just an hour before a contest I use two ampoules for biceps. Doing it so close to the competition keeps you from showing bruises, if you will get them, and minimizes any spillage beneath the skin that might smooth you out. Some people use it starting a whole week out, but it does smooth you out.., definitely. Two to three days after a contest I can see that my arms aren't as hard. You get temporary gains from Esiclene, so it's an advantage for contests and photo shoots. The craziest use I have ever heard about was a contest between the pros... who's gonna take more? I know examples of 30cc just in the back. Also, a guy who finished in the top three of the Olympia used 150 ampoules within a week prior to the Olympia (300cc)! That's pretty crazy."
Professional Bodybuilder/Canadian/ Top 1O - Pro Debut - "I use it about four weeks prior to a contest to bring up a lagging muscle group and then I will use it the day of the show for a little extra size. Generally it only works on smaller muscle groups, like rear delts, arms, chest. I really use it for cosmetic purposes - in biceps, triceps and calves. You get a swollen effect for about three to four days afterwards. A lot of guys are just full of fluid at that point because of it. I use it for photo shoots as well. And contrary to what some people think, it's not difficult to get hold of. It has lidocaine in it as a local painkiller, but you will be kind of stiff and sore for a while. I use a 5/8" insulin needle and I shoot about Ito 2cc in the parts I mentioned. I'll try to space it out even in two places. It just gives you a little extra size, and in bodybuilding you can never be too big, I guess. I shot 36cc - about three boxes - into my body the morning of the contest that turned me pro. I put it in my traps, my rear delta, calves, front delts, biceps and triceps. Some guys put it in their lats, shooting it in a pattern up the side. If you shoot it right into the muscle, you shouldn't have any lumps. To further avoid that problem though, I space it out evenly. Anyone you see onstage with exaggerated biceps peaks has probably used a lot of it. One top, top pro I know of uses it all year round. Another top pro just basically points and shoots... he just does it all over his body, wherever he can. He's pretty extreme. Hey, you need a price quote on that? It usually goes for about $40 to $50. In Canada they're paying about $100! You can put my P.O. box on that!" (laughs).
Top Amateur NPC/NABBA - "I guess in Europe they use Esiclene after an operation to arrest atrophy of the muscles. They put it into the muscle for quicker recovery. I've used it in my biceps and calves. I'm not crazy with it, hut I know people who are. They'll shoot into biceps, triceps, calves, shoulders, quads, etc. If you do it just right, and don't inject too much, you'll give the muscle a nice peaked look. But if you take too much at one time, or if the syringe does not go deep enough, you'll have some spilling over under the skin that will accumulate and ruin your condition. That's why I think the insulin needles are too short, so go with a hill inch into the biceps. Where you put it depends on your weaknesses. If you just want peaks, then you do lion the outside of your biceps. So you would flex your arm first to see where the peak is exactly, then relax it and shoot into that spot. I shoot only one cc at a time. You can do it once a week for a while, like eight weeks out, to train with it, and then one or two days out you can shoot for the show. I found out it was a steroid when I wasn't taking anything but still got an anabolic effect from it."
Professional Bodybuilder/US/Top 3 Night of Champions/Olympia Competitor - "Basically it's a cosmetic drug to accentuate a muscle area anywhere from a quarter to a half-inch. It's intramuscularly injected into a lagging bodypart. I've used it sparingly, because it's hard to get. I never relied on it for that reason. I've used it in my biceps, triceps and delts. I've never used it in my calves or quads, or any other bodypart. I know people who use it for what they call "connect the dots." They inject a series of muscles in their back. That's how they get that enhanced upper-back musculature. I use it right before show time... the day of the show.., about an hour or two prior. I've never trained with it, though I understand that people do train with it because it allows you to cross the threshold of pain with the painkiller built into it. I personally don't see the benefit to training with it. I've heard of guys who have used up to 120 cc over a week's time to give themselves that overly enhanced look. I use a short insulin needle - I think it's enough. I don't know what some guys on the pro circuit are trying to do, but coming out with lumps and trying to pass them off as freakiness on their backs, calves, or biceps, looks like skit and is a joke! I mean, it does make a nice finisher, and you can see the difference if you use is sparingly. Let's face it, a half-inch enhancement in the mirror looks like an inch of enhancement onstage. That's all you need. Otherwise it not only looks unrealistic - even for bodybuilding - but it also says something about your training. I've never used Esiclene for photo shoots either.., that's ridiculous. Hell, I've only used it twice in my career. I know individuals who wouldn't go to a hind miser without it. They apparently wanted that visual impact. At that point I think you're a drug addict. If you can't come out just as yourself on that type of occasion, or any other, and you need the constant enhancement of this or that, you've got a problem... some serious issues to address. What happens when it's all said and done? Are you gonna shoot up just to walk out the door so that people will accept you?"
Professional Bodybuilder/Top 5 Ironman Invitational - "I've only ever used it twice. I never used it for contests anyway. I just used it in the off-season to see what everyone was talking about.., how it's supposed to fill your muscles up and do this and do that, but, I have freaky muscle anyway. I noticed a small difference, but it really just made my muscles sore. I shot it into my biceps, triceps and calves. I think the claim that it has a painkiller isa fallacy because from the time you start shooting until the time it's all in there, it hurts. It feels like a couple of bee stings in one area. I think it's overrated, at least for training, because it makes you so sore that you have to train lighter, and not training heavy can't be beneficial for your growth. Besides, doing that to the muscle can't be too good for it. You might tear your muscle up if you train with it because it's so inflamed. You damage your muscle each time you train it anyway. You know, I'd always heard and seen people use it for a show. I put it in my triceps about three weeks out to see what it would do before! would consider using it. My triceps were cross- striated before, but after the injection they smoothed right out for a couple of days. It makes you hold a bit of water there I think. The little bit of difference it makes would not be noticeable onstage at the pro level anyway. It's not gonna make or break a placing. I think it's just one of these drugs that bodybuilders get hold of and they think it's a miracle drug and go crazy. I've heard of bodybuilders putting 5cc at a time into one muscle, but I wouldn't recommend that! I think people talk a lot of nonsense about it. They'll tell you it's the greatest thing for a lagging bodypart, but you've got to come to the conclusion that if you have a lagging bodypart, you've got to start training way harder! Plus, if people would realize that coming in more ripped makes you look bigger, they wouldn't rely so heavily on drugs like that. It's really people's egos that make them think everybody's going to notice, but unless you tell someone, no one's going to see it. I know one pro who, before a show, puts it into his calves, his arms, his back and his chest. The latest thing now is going away from Esiclene and shooting oil- based drugs into the calves. People have some perception that if you shoot an oil- based drug directly into the muscle, it's gonna grow-and that's unlikely. If that were true, bodybuilders would be walking around with the biggest asses in the world! People must get bored and think of stupid things to do to themselves. I have people approach me in the gym to buy it, but I just wouldn't waste my money on it. I'd rather spend money on food. You can put my name to this if you want. None of it is any big secret!"
The athletes who were gracious and honest enough to contribute to this article are in no way like the chemical Kamikazes mentioned previously by me or throughout these testimonials. These athletes use it, yes, and to varying degrees. But rather than abuse a substance, they are choosing instead to merely take small advantage of a drug that has a cosmetic benefit. These are the athletes who have paved the way experimentally for the masses, and to whom you look for advice and guidance in the pages of this magazine. Rather than listening to someone in your gym extol the virtues of this or any other drug, turn to the professionals who have actual experiences with success, failure and indifference.