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Bodybuilding champion undergoes heart transplant

Three years ago we would have gone to the trouble of finding out who the article was about, but now that we are old, overworked and exhausted, we'll leave that up to you the reader. We're talking about a white guy, a well-known American bodybuilder who made it to the top five in national championships. In 2007 the man was 41, and all things being equal you probably haven't heard much about him in the last few years. The chance that he'll make a return to the big time is small; at least that's our assessment.

Bodybuilding champion undergoes heart transplant
Researchers at the University of South Florida have written about him in the Journal of Cardiac Failure. In the article they report that the bodybuilder admitted himself to Tampa General Hospital in 2007. He had been sick for two weeks already, suffering from breathlessness, nausea and vomiting.

It wasn't the first time the bodybuilder had had medical problems. A year earlier he had been to a doctor, who noticed that his heart was enlarged and therefore having trouble pumping the blood around his body.

Until then the bodybuilder had used steroids. He told the doctors that he took two courses of steroids a year. Nothing crazy. Just the normal stuff, the kind of thing other national champions use. He would do a six week course, not longer, during which he injected 250 mg of testosterone every five days. He also took diuretics to improve his appearance in contests. But that was it. Honest. And after a doctor had told him that his heart was not working so well he hadn't touched anything else.


Someone who knew the bodybuilder well told the doctors a different story. The bodybuilder had used more, and not just steroids and diuretics. He'd even taken IGF-1.

The doctors couldn't find anything wrong with the bodybuilder, although his liver enzymes were on the high side. They discharged the man from hospital with a firm warning to stay off the steroids. The guy went home, picked up the pieces and started to train again.

Case closed.

Well, no. A few months later the bodybuilder went back to the doctors, in a worse state than the previous year. He was now breathless even when resting, and he was always tired. He hadn't trained for four months.

To cut a long story short, he'd become a heart patient. He was prescribed carvedilol, digoxin, spironolactone, torsemide, captopril and dobutamine. The left ventricle of his heart, which is usually enlarged in power athletes, had almost burst and looked like a lifeless bellows. It was no longer capable of pumping oxygenated blood around his body. The combination of steroids and training had deformed the bodybuilder's heart. According to the doctors it was "extremely enlarged".

The doctors pumped the bodybuilder full of diuretics in an attempt to reduce the amount of moisture in his circulatory system. They hoped that that would relieve his heart and help him recover. And it looked like they were successful. They were satisfied enough that they fitted a pacemaker and sent the bodybuilder home.

Case closed.

Ermmm... No. A few days later the bodybuilder admitted himself to hospital again. He put on weight because he was suffering from oedema: his body was retaining fluid and his heart was not functioning. Because the bodybuilder would have died otherwise, the doctors gave him the heart from a healthy person who had just passed away. Somewhere else in a hospital, was a child, mother or father, someone old or young, who could have lived for many years with that heart.

Case closed.

Journal of Cardiac Failure doi:10.1016/j.cardfail.2008.12.014.