Was Steve Reeves Really a Natural Bodybuilder?

| by Truth Seeker |

Steve Reeves is the poster boy for retro bodybuilding. Thanks to his movie career and aesthetic physique, he became a sensation. He had a classic physique – wide back, tiny waist, big arms, big calves and athletic legs. Moreover, he often serves as an example of what can be achieved naturally without the use of steroids. It’s easy to convince people that he was natural given the current madness observed in professional bodybuilding, but is this really the case? Was Steve Reeves a lifetime drug-free bodybuilder?


Were steroids available during Steve Reeves’ career? 

According to the information in the public domain, anabolic steroids were discovered in the 30s.

Clinical trials on humans, involving either oral doses or injections of testosterone propionate, began as early as 1937.

Testosterone propionate is mentioned in a letter to the editor of Strength and Health magazine in 1938. This is the earliest known reference to an anabolic steroid in a U.S. weightlifting or bodybuilding magazine.

Steve Reeves won his first major bodybuilding contest, Mr. America,  at the age of 21 in 1947. In other words, anabolic steroids were available approximately 10 years prior to Reeves’ debut on the big bodybuilding stage.

Sergio Oliva Said that Reeves Was on Anabolic Steroids

In an interview conducted by Brian D. Johnston, the legendary bodybuilder Sergio Oliva stated the following:

BDJ: Could you relay your own experience with drug use?

SO: This is an area of great interest for people. I don’t care who wants to take steroids, because that’s a personal choice… that’s his life. Now, today, everybody has access to them. I even saw in one of the big magazines that Arnold denies having used them, but Arnold was one of the first to bring steroids over to America. And everybody in the old days used them: Zane, Columbu, myself, Arnold, Larry Scott, Harold Poole, Dave Draper, and even Steve Reeves. There’s no way to deny it.

Conclusion: Steve Reeves has most likely experimented with some sort of early testosterone-based anabolic steroids.


Steve Reeves was big (6’1″, 215lbs), but he was not very lean. What’s up with that?

Steve Reeves’ bodyfat looks higher than it actually is because he is holding water, most likely due to testosterone use, which blurs definition.

David K, Dingemanse E, Freud J, Laqueur L (1935). “Uber krystallinisches mannliches Hormon aus Hoden (Testosteron) wirksamer als aus harn oder aus Cholesterin bereitetes Androsteron”. Hoppe Seylers Z Physiol Chem 233 (5–6): 281.doi:10.1515/bchm2.1935.233.5-6.281.
Hoberman JM, Yesalis CE (1995). “The history of synthetic testosterone”.Scientific American 272 (2): 76–81. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican0295-76.PMID 7817189.
http://www.getbig.com/boards/index.php?topic=357912.125 .Retrieved on May 04, 2014.
http://www.stevereeves.com/Bodybuilder/bodybuilder.html .Retrieved on May 04, 2014.
http://www.ironmagazineforums.com/threads/46705-A-Sergio-Oliva-interview .Retrieved on May 04, 2014.

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  1. shane

    What ever they had those days , there body’s were really far better looking than today’s bodybuilders.

  2. John G.

    Amazing claims, require amazing evidence. People who claim Reeves took steroids “because he just had to” have never seen genetic standouts. Guys that can make amazing gains no matter how they train or what they eat (or don’t eat). I do not know of one person who ever said he saw or knew first hand of Reeves using steroids. Some years back, an idiot in Germany said he taught Reeves all about steroids when Reeves was in France during certain years. Reeves proved he was never even in France during those years. When confrunted by this, the German ass than said he got Reeves confused with another top bodybuilder of the time. Some guys can just build amazing muscle. Mike Tyson was amazingly thick on boxing training, never using weights until he was 31 years old. Ditto a young George Foreman who was enormous. I’ve seen these men up close.

    1. Igal Flint

      In first place let me say that I do believe Steve was all natural. In second place let me share this link about the history of testosterone (that started back in 1849 in Germany): denverhormonehealth.com/history-of-testosterone-new/
      In third place let me say that there are many huge native natural rugby players in New Zealand, Samoa, Fuji, England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Australia and France. These players can not use any steroid or other juices, otherwise will be banned from sport for life.
      For myself, I played rugby from 6 to 59 years of age. I’m 61 now and I weigh 238 pounds and I’m 5.87ft tall. I have always played as a left wing. I wasn’t a big guy but I could run 100 meters in 11 seconds when I still was 59 and in my early ages , 10.5 until I was 40. Never drank alcohol in my life.

    2. Sean

      everyone knows one bodybuilder with “elite genetics” who “doesn’t need steroids”, and all the rest are on steroids, but if you add up all these “elites” they will be more than the total number of bodybuilders in the whole country

  3. Eric Lahmy

    John G. is so right I don’t even have to add something!
    The two first Mr America who were on steroids were Bill Pearl and probably Ron Lacy, the 1957 Mr America. Before that, you could not find testosterone-like products on the market (Peal took “Bolden”, a veterinarian product, and Ron Lacy was a part in the first experiments of “Dianabol” on weightlifters and shot putters mainly at York

    1. Yo

      Lol. It’s amazing claim because it’s hard to believe a bodybuilder took steroids? Oh the horrors!

      John, this claim did not come from some random dude in Germany, this came from Sergio Oliva himself. Do you know who Sergio Oliva is?

  4. James lemos

    Claims need proof, specially when youbwant to slander . The first anabolic roids in 1937 had tiny to zero anabolic effect. It created rage. The others that came out with real anabolic effect were being used in the soviet union and nazi germany in the 40’s. Highly unlikele steve while in the navy was hanging out with hitler and stalin. Third . Steve competed mainly in the 40’s and last competition 1950. Sergio olivia was born in the 40’s and woukd have been 9 years old and living in cuba when steve last competed. So there is no way he ever saw steve take anything. Hus statement is some bs he got from somewhere else, just like someone else teading this article continues the information. It doesnt take a genius to not even count olivia’s claim when he wasnt around in those days. Fourth , steroids were brought to america in 1954 by dr. Ziegler. Thats 4 years after steve quit bodybuilding. He experimented in grimmick and is credited as introducing steroids to the bodybuilding community as well as athletes. Uou should be ashamed to pass along such missinformation without investigating its truthfulness.

    1. Johnny

      Yes, I met Oliva when he was trained by Arthur Jones in DeLand Florida. He was full of shit then, he is full of shit now. When he was dying he said he never knew how dangerous steroids were. Oh really? I was there when Jones was telling him how dangerous they were and what he was doing to himself. Jones had a no steroid policy of anybody who trained with him in Florida, but, he made an exception for Sergio. May I ask when did you meet Sergio and what was your impression of his intelligence or honesty? I have stated mine.

    2. Potato

      To the guy that said “The steroids in the 30s had very little anabolic effect” bullshit, by 1939 testosterone in forms of testosterone suspension, testosterone propionate and methyltestosterone existed, testosterone suspension is one of the most rapid and potent bulking agents out there, methyltestosterone is also a potent anabolic. Bodybuilders have been using anabolic steroids since they have been available (so around early to mid 40s). I’m not against steroids at all, and to the other guy who said Sergio was full of shit and how he didn’t know how dangerous steroids were and whatnot. Sergio Olivia died aged 71 (not particularly young) from renal failure. Anabolic steroids have a myriad of POSSIBLE long term effects such as left ventricular hypertrophy with possibly impaired diastolic and systolic heart function (or not), increased atherosclerotic plaque build up from altered cholesterol (more of an issue with Orals), hepatotoxicity (orals) and a few others however steroids are far less dangerous than many other drugs out there and when used responsibly (rare nowdays) I believe is relatively harmless. Was his death related to AAS usage, probably, anabolic steroids, specifically C17AA steroids show a degree of renal toxicity, however it is possible his renal failure could have been related to plain old age or something else. Test is very effective and a very potent mass builder and it’s been around since the mid 30’s in America, to think bodybuilders only figured it out in the late 50s is absurd

  5. James lemos

    Sorry for misspellings on a train.

  6. james lemos

    Let me clarify, Steroids in the Unites States has very little anabolic effect. the one in medical use was methyltestosterone, in which studies showed it had very little anabolic effect but it did increase rage, stunt growth, etc.

    Testosterone suspension and testosterone propionate we’re created in 1939, but in Germany and were only available in Germany and the Soviet Union. highly unlikely Steve Reeves while also a soldier during WW2 was hangin out in Germany buying testosterone suspension. highly unlikely he was traveling to Nazy Germany in the 30’s to get some too. Also extremely highly unlikely he was traveling to the Soviet Union to buy these drugs. These drugs were introduced in the 50’s to the USA. Steve had ended his career well b4 that . Dr. Ziegler was the one that brought those steroids to America after seeing what the Russians and germans were doing for performance. Its also well known that the 1954 German World Cup team were juiced up. So yes bodybuilders have been using roads since the 40’s but not American ones, cause it wasn’t available here.

  7. Carl M Jacobson

    I believe that Steve Reeves was Natural during his Bodybuilding career
    BUT – he did use steroids later in the late 1950’s when he was trying to heal an injury and recover lost muscle mass.
    There are pictures of Reeves on a hotel pool with George Eifermann and a beauty queen, in 1956 and Reeves is then biggest I’ve ever seen him. He’s in his mid-late 30’s at this point.
    His arms and legs were much thicker with muscle than during his Bodybuilding career almost a decade previously.

  8. ken Johnson

    I was always a Steve Revees fan, dating way back before his Hurculies stardom. I know he had some walk on parts, like on the Geroge Burns and Gracy allen show, The movie Athena! Jailbait, and others. Curiousity is getting the best of me on this, I remember seeing a “Topper” the friendly gost epasode when i was younger, and it looked to me that Reeves did a scene where he was laying on a bench in a jym, and he got up and walked away! this was from the late 50s tv show. Is there a way you can find out?Eather that was STEVE, OR IM GETTING SENILE IN MY OLD AGE.

  9. Jon doe

    Mike ohearn isnt natty.never was.

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