Having dropped out
of the University of New Haven after his freshman year, Arnold was working in
construction when he tried steroids for the first time. A guy in a gym got him
a cheap counterfeit steroid that contained just enough methyltestosterone that
"it added 10 pounds of muscle in all the right places," Arnold says.
The side effects were minimal, and Arnold became convinced (as he still is)
that steroids had been given a bad rap.
piqued, he returned to New Haven and got his bachelor's degree in chemistry in
1990, then took a lab job in New Jersey that allowed him enough free time to
research performance enhancers. He took classes on organic synthesis at the
University of Connecticut and Montclair State. He also devoured books on
supplements and steroids, studying both approved and unapproved Western drugs
and those used by the East Germans in their doping heyday.
message-board exchanges starting in 1996, Arnold befriended Dan Duchaine,
author of Underground Steroid Handbook, a legendary instructional pamphlet then
circulated in West Coast gyms. Duchaine had served time for dealing steroids
and the so-called date-rape drug GHB, but like Arnold today he was venerated
rather than scorned by the bodybuilding set. Duchaine (who had a lifelong
kidney disease and died in 2000 at age 47) introduced Arnold to Stan Antosh,
the owner of Osmo Therapy, a supplement company then based in San Francisco.
Antosh persuaded Arnold to move his research to a small company in Seymour,
Ill., called Bar North America.
"I showed up
[in 1996], and there was no real lab. It was an old schoolhouse," Arnold
says. "There was barely any equipment."
BNA's business was
to develop and manufacture machines that process soybeans, which it then sold
to Third World countries. But saving the world rarely pays the bills, so
"we had to do other things to make money," says owner Ramlakhan
Boodram, 51, who is originally from Trinidad. "Stan had ideas for
supplements, and he told me he was sending me a brilliant young chemist eager
to get into the industry." The three had an understanding that if Arnold
developed any supplements with money-making potential, they would form a
partnership to market and sell the products.
Arnold lived in a
nearby hotel for six months and then in a dilapidated farmhouse for a year. He
did nothing but study and develop potential supplements, and it would prove to
be one of the most productive stretches of his career. He loved reviewing old
patents, looking for drugs that had never made it to market or were used only
briefly. "I relied on research other people had done and took it a step
further," Arnold says.
In late 1996
Arnold introduced andro in the U.S. When McGwire's use of it became public two
years later and products containing andro flooded the market, Arnold's
reputation within the industry began to grow. But because their company, LPJ
Research, didn't sell andro directly to consumers--only as an ingredient to
other supplement makers-- Arnold missed out on a financial windfall. That would
soon change. In 2001 the company introduced 1-AD. Like andro, 1-AD is a
prohormone that is easily converted by the body into testosterone, and it sold
so well that the company, now called Proviant Technologies, was able to move
into a new facility in Champaign, eight miles away, in 2003. But the boom was
short-lived. In January '05 an amendment to the federal Controlled Substance
Act banned prohormones.
"We lost 60
percent of our product sales when the ban went in place, and we have not been
profitable since," Boodram says. "Last year we lost almost $2
legend was secure long before the ban. Through his message-board postings and
interviews for bodybuilding websites and magazines, he became known as the
expert on performance enhancers. So when Conte called Arnold in 2000 seeking
undetectable drugs, he was simply contacting the most acclaimed scientist in
It is late, and
Arnold is sitting at a bar across the street from his apartment, smoking a
Parliament Light. All night he has avoided talking about Conte, but after the
wine at dinner and a beer at the bar, he takes a puff of his cigarette and
dives in. "It all started because Victor called me up and asked me if any
of the prohormones I made could be used by athletes and not be detected. I told
him, 'You shouldn't use them because I can't guarantee [that they won't be
detected].' But this was a friend, a guy whose knowledge I respected, and so I
also told him, 'A better way would be to try [norbolethone, which Arnold had
synthesized in 1998], because I don't think it will show up on any drug test.'
And that sort of opened up Pandora's box."