In 1993, bodybuilder Ken "Flex" Wheeler was at the top of the professional bodybuilding hierarchy. The 28-year-old former martial artist had recently placed second in Mr.Olympia, the most prestigious bodybuilding title among which the previous winners included Arnold Schwarzenegger, who had won it 7 times. He was now in Columbus, Ohio preparing to compete in the Arnold Schwarzenegger Invitational Pro Bodybuilding contest, considered second only to Mr.Olympia in terms of prestige. Wheeler was, as usual, in superlative condition. He was known for his overall balance and symmetry, and when he posed on stage he was the personification of bodybuilding perfection, with no apparent weak points. In short, when he was in shape, Flex was virtually unbeatable. I was at the contest covering the show for a major bodybuilding magazine. During the prejudging, as expected Wheeler dominated his competitors, and by the end of the judging, the speculation was not on who would win, but rather who the runner-up to Wheeler would be. But about two hours after the end of the prejudging, I received a call to my hotel room. The man on the other line was Robin Chang, who today is the producer of the Mr.Olympia event, but back then served as Flex Wheeler's manager and advisor. Chang usually showed a placid demeanor when I spoke with him, but his voice on the phone had an edge when he requested that I come to Wheeler's room immediately. "Flex is having a problem," was all that Chang would say. I then went directly to Wheeler's room, greeted at the door by a somber-looking Chang. As I entered the room, I noticed Wheeler's fiance, who seemed to be near tears. I knew then that something wasn't going well. I was directed to Flex's bedroom, where he lay prostrate with his arms outstretched in a posture that resembled the crucifixion.
"How are you doing, Flex?"I asked.
"Not good, Jerry. I can't move. It feels as if my muscles are paralyzed."
Flex, similarly to Chang, wasn't the type to openly express emotion, yet I could sense fear and stress in him. I then asked him what he may have done to cause his present state of severe discomfort. A series of questions revealed that in an effort to be in "ripped" condition, Flex had ingested a certain drug that was popular at the time with professional bodybuilders. This drug was reputed to boost muscular hardness by not only reducing elevated estrogen levels that were a frequent consequence of using large doses of anabolic steroids but also to lower cortisol levels. Cortisol, an adrenal hormone, and a steroid had the reputation of promoting water retention, as did estrogen. So Flex took the suggested dose of this particular drug and added another drug that was supposed to also help. What he didn't realize was that both drugs were . . .