Big Hollywood: Steroids find their role in entertainment industry

‘Baywatch’ star/’Conan the Barbarian’ reject says PED use is “very common”

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“It’s more than just sports,” said Victor Conte, former head of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO), who supplied Jones and other athletes with steroids. “Rappers are doing this. They’re all ripping their shirts off with six-pack [abdominal muscles]. In mainstream movies and action hero type stuff, it’s rampant.

“I’ll see photos of these guys. You can tell in a heartbeat if they’re using. Guys just don’t all of a sudden put on 25 pounds of muscle in two months for a movie role. And it’s not going to happen just from growth hormone. You’re using testosterone or some derivative of an anabolic steroid.”

Did they or didn’t they? Only the actors’ doctors — and perhaps their publicists — know for sure. Yet Conte isn’t alone in his skepticism.

Two years ago, Manhattan-based celebrity dermatologist Patricia Wexler said she knew of dermatologists and actresses who used growth hormone to slim abdominal fat and increase muscle tone. In 2008, Beverly Hills anti-aging doctor Andre Berger told CNN that he was getting calls from rappers and 30-something Hollywood actors about growth hormone and steroids.

Before a federal investigation and criminal conviction ended Conte’s role in the biggest sports doping scandal of the past decade, he was supplying athletes with a pair of undetectable designer steroids, the “clear” and the “cream.” The “cream” came from a Texas-based anti-aging doctor named Christian Renna, whom Conte met through former National Football League player Bill Romanowski.

According to a 2004 report in the San Jose Mercury News, Dr. Renna developed hormone-replacement treatments for “professional athletes, movie directors and movie stars” and worked with director Oliver Stone and actors Mickey Rourke and Chuck Norris, as well as Mr. Nolte.

From 1989 to 1997, Mr. Renna worked as the production physician on six Stone films and even appeared in bit parts in “Nixon” and “JFK.”

“What I knew was that [Renna] had another office in California, and that he had half the A-list in Hollywood using either testosterone or growth hormone,” Conte said. “Stallone, Oliver Stone, Chuck Norris, Mickey Rourke. I heard some other big names — not confirmed — that were using.”

Bigger is better

Steroids and Hollywood have a long, intertwined history, dating back to the performance-enhanced Venice Beach bodybuilding culture of the 1970s and 1980s. As admitted juicer Arnold Schwarzenegger went from starring in the muscle documentary “Pumping Iron” to becoming the world’s top box office draw, a new entertainment formula was established: More cartoonish beef, more profit.

Pro wrestling (meso)morphed into an anabolic funhouse, dominated by the likes of Hulk Hogan, who later testified in court that he used steroids. The palooka-looking Stallone of “Rocky” became the ripped, baby-oil-slathered, his-abs-have-abs Stallone of “Rocky IV.” When Los Angeles-based doctor Walter Jekot pleaded guilty to steroid distribution charges in 1993, his athlete and celebrity client list reportedly included — guess who? — “Baywatch” star David Hasselhoff, Mr. Jackson’s on-screen father figure.

“When I hit puberty, I started getting a little pudgy, getting a little belly,” recalled Mr. Jackson, saying he caught flak for the flab from “Baywatch” producers. “It’s not the show’s whole fault that I [used steroids], but there was definitely a seed planted there.”

Mr. Jackson’s drug use began with a trip to the new ground zero of Hollywood juicing: one of Southern California’s many anti-aging clinics. There, the actor began a course of hormone-replacement therapy designed to bring his testosterone and growth hormone levels in line with those of a 21-year-old man from the 1950s.

As Mr. Jackson began supplementing his therapy with hard-core steroid use — multiple doctors, multiple prescriptions, blood work, black-market drugs, punishing workouts, obsessive focus — his body bulged. His forehead seemed to thicken. Veins were popping from his neck and face. “Baywatch‘s” lithe and little Hobie Buchannon was long gone, replaced by a jacked actor reveling in the newfound attention he was receiving. Fitness magazines asked him to pose for photo shoots. Celebrity news website TMZ.com declared him “suddenly relevant.”

“Star Magazine had a picture of me coming out of the water at the beach, saying ‘Jeremy Jackson, best beach body,’ ” he said. “TMZ picked that up. That’s one step closer for me getting in a movie. That could be hundreds of thousands or even a million dollars. I don’t know who wouldn’t think about taking another cycle [of steroids] when that happens.”

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