At first we tried "Cro-Mag," but it didn't roll well off the tongue. "Knuckle-dragger" and "Mr. Acromegaly" just seemed way too long. We finally settled on "Karloff" in honor of silver screen actor Boris Karloff, due to his classic portrayal of the Frankenstein monster.
Because the name was chosen as much for his caveman-like personality and lack of social graces as it was for his thick brow, jutting chin and prodigious use of growth hormone, the nickname (despite our every effort) wasn't taken as an insult. It stuck.
The following article is based on an interview with "Karloff" who was my training partner for over six months. When we met, Karloff hadn't trained seriously for about ten years but he still had an interest in the iron game. He had competed in a couple of physique shows when he was younger but got out of it while going to school to start a medical career. He weighed about 225 at 5'7" and had phenomenal natural calves and an athletic build. It didn't take long in the gym before he packed on another thirty pounds.
As we got to know each other, he shared some interesting stories about his involvement in the East Coast ‘roid scene - particularly where growth hormone was concerned. We've all read those "steroid dealer" interviews, most of which are so obviously fabricated as to be ridiculous. Karloff's story does not involve him being a major spoke in a multi-national anabolic cartel. His story is about a bodybuilder that just wanted to get big as hell and had more balls than common sense.
He said I could share his story since the statue of limitations has expired and he has been living "felony-free" for the past decade. We sat down and he recounted the story, in full, in about an hour's time. As the events took place over a decade ago he had to dig a bit for some details, specifically dates ("It was the summer of ‘88, or was it '89?") but I don't doubt the basic truth of his recollections.
Enjoy the story, which I am running with very little editing except for disguising the names of his partners and customers and some locations. [You will see these details in brackets.] Some of these men have appeared on the covers of popular bodybuilding magazines; one is a famous Mr. America/ Universe winner, one a top-five placer at numerous NPC pro-qualifiers, one is a top NFL lineman, another is the owner of a major supplement company.
Early Days (My Intro to Muscle Pharmaceuticals)
It began simply enough. It was the summer of '82 and I was in the eighth-grade. I started working out in my basement. I used a big Coleman cooler as a bench. One of those flimsy metal folding-chairs served as a preacher bench (I would sit into it backwards, with my legs through the opening.)
In the spring of '83, I joined [a hardcore gym]. We had a fair number of top national-level competitors training there. It was here that I began dabbling in anabolics and met the two men that would be my future "partners-in-crime." The first one, we called him "Chan" - that was his code-name - set me up with my first stack. The second guy called himself the Growth Hormone Cowboy. [Chuckling] It sounds stupid now but at the time we thought it was a slick codename.
I started out using Anavar and D-bol that summer, supplied by Chan. I only gained about ten pounds on that first cycle but I became noticeably stronger. I went up about fifty pounds on all my major exercises. The first time I started using injectibles was summer of '84. The first thing I took was Deca-Durabolin made by Organon. That stuff was floating around the area since it was made right in West Orange. Someone probably knew a security guard or something and it went out the back door into someone's trunk. I remember the first time using an injectible. The next day, it must have been psychological; I weighed five pounds heavier. I probably was so psyched that I just ate a lot more.
In high school I was about 180-pounds at 5'7." I did small mini-cycles - nothing serious - then around '87 I finally did a big cycle and took everything I could get my hands on. I drove my weight up to about 240. For orals, I was taking thirty D-bols a day, twenty Anavar, and four Anadrol. On top of that, I'd be taking shots every day; at least four to five CCs. I shotgunned Test Cypionate, Propionate, Deca, Durateston, and Equipoise. I would just get a bunch of shit and take it. Some days I'd take three CCs; other days, eight. There wasn't much of a scientific method to it, but it worked.
I was spending thousands but I had a lot of money. I had sold so much GH (which I'll get into later), plus I was landscaping at the time, so I was making decent money. I probably spent $2-3,000 on a twelve-week cycle. Stuff was a lot cheaper back then. After twelve weeks I was using all this shit and wasn't really making gains so I'd go off for three or four months. After taking all that shit I would obviously crash fast and lose a lot of weight and strength but I felt better giving my body a break every once and awhile.
The first time I competed was in 1985; it was a local show. [The owner of the gym] ran a show. All the local kids competed in it. There were two height classes. It was a little bullshit show but I got second in the short class. This Chinese kid named [name deleted] beat me. Both him and his brother are now pretty good powerlifters.
My final two shows were in 1988. My friends talked me into going into the Jersey. I entered that show and the Long Island in [the late 80s]. I placed [top five] in the Long Island and [top five] in the Jersey. Since there were so many good bodybuilders in my class I was happy to make the final pose-down. At least I got a trophy.
I hated dieting and I hated the posing aspect of the sport. Plus, I was working at the time, doing landscaping. I was doing zero-carbs at the time and felt like shit so that was the last time I competed.
Yes, Perry White sent me...
I was hanging-out a lot with the "GH Cowboy". In '83, he was always talking about getting GH. He used to say, "We need the growth hormone so we can get taller." In our naïve thinking, we reasoned that if we could get taller, we could pile on more weight.
Cowboy had some serious balls. He used to go to local pharmacies and pretend he was doing a report on pharmaceuticals. They'd let him behind the counter and he would pretend he was taking notes and he would gank a bottle of Deca or Anavar. Once, he ganked a bottle of something called Acthar or Atamet or something like that. Somehow Atamet stimulated the pituitary gland to release more growth hormone. It didn't really do much but that was our intro to GH.
He went to this place called [pharmaceutical supply house] in [city deleted], New Jersey. We drove him down there. They had Ascellecrin (or was it Crescormin?) there. He went in a suit and claimed he was from Time magazine. He did an interview with the freaking head honcho of the lab and pretended to be taking notes and they let him walk around. He walked around and ganked the shit and left. I don't know what these guys were thinking to let him in there. Didn't they realize he was a kid? [Laughs] He took a cab home and burst into the gym yelling, "Hey, I got it!"
Cowboy didn't get that much. I don't know - he shoved maybe thirty boxes into his briefcase. I never took any of that. He kept it all for himself. At one point, he ran out of the bacteriostatic water so he mixed tap water with rubbing alcohol and injected it. I said, "I don't really know if that's safe?" [Laughs]
After that we all decided we needed the GH. We went to [city deleted], Massachusetts. I think we were going after Crescormin, if I remember right. I forget the name of the lab. Cowboy is kind of retarded about breaking into places so I went with him and broke the door open for him. He ran into the lab while I waited in a path in the nearby woods for him. He comes out with a box of shit and we ran back to the car as the alarm went off. He claimed he ran out of there because a guard was chasing him. He ended up grabbing the wrong box so, for our trouble, we ended up with a box of refrigerator coolant.
The summer of ‘86 was the year we made the first big hit. It was a home health care place in [city deleted], New Jersey. I was scouting this place out for months. This was when Protropin came out and this place had it. As we were setting things up, I backed out at the last minute. My brother-in-law's father was a cop in [that same town] and it just didn't seem right.
So I was sleeping at my girlfriend's house that night and Cowboy shows up. He says, "Come on! I already broke in" and he had a couple of boxes with him. So I drove down there, we went back; there was no alarm or anything.
Cowboy went in through the roof. I think he pulled off one of the fan covers. He was climbing on the rafters and fell onto some boxes. He actually said that he landed on boxes of syringes. [Laughs] We went back to the fridge and loaded up fourteen cases of the Protropin and grabbed a couple of boxes of syringes since they were so nice as to supply them for us. As we were driving home we went past two cops that were parked near the lab. We drove right past them laughing as we went. I heard that the break-in was in the paper. We got a total of seventeen cases. There were 144 boxes in a case. Figure out the street value today.
Cowboy was happy as a pig in shit and said, "We NEVER sell it. If we never finish it, we just throw it away." I was using that GH for awhile, shooting it everyday. To be honest, I didn't notice as much as I expected. He was telling me that we should gain around forty pounds. He took the Crescormin and got huge. I think the old cadaver-extract GH worked better than the early synthetic GH. I lost bodyfat and got leaner but I didn't really want that; I wanted to get bigger.
I had a friend from the gym, John [last name deleted]. He heard I could get GH. I was like, "Yeaaaahhh. I can get as much as you want." I was getting $50 a box ($25 each because two powders and water came in a box.) I could have probably have gotten more money but I had it just sitting there. One time he gave me fifty thousand in cash, the next time twenty thousand. That was the money I used to by my steroids in '87. He knew someone from the Giants, [well-known lineman] and [Mr. America/Universe winner], that bought from him.
This is when Chan started with us. He knew a lot about alarm systems. The first time I did something with Chan it was just the two of us; Cowboy was away at school. We hit a medical supply business in [city deleted]. I don't recall how, but we found out that they had the Lily Humatrope there. There was a golf course across the street and we had a brand new pick-up truck. We parked it across the street behind some bushes. We dressed in all dark clothes. We went on the roof, looked around and then cut the phone line. We had police scanners with us and they were set to the frequency code for that particular town's police department. You could buy a book at Radio Shak that listed at the local police bands frequencies. (You got questions? They've got answers.)
The procedure was always to first cut the phone-lines, wait a half-hour to see if the cops come. The second thing would be to rip the alarm box off the wall, wait another half-hour and see if anything happens. After that we would break the door open and then wait a half-hour to see if anyone comes or if there was a call picked up over the scanner. We would be up almost all night on some of these jobs.
We go in and start kicking doors in. Chan was a big dude, 6'4" 270. We go into this one area and the door is locked. There was a glass panel above the door so he smacks it with the crowbar. It just rattles in his hand because the glass was bulletproof or something. He took a couple of swings and finally broke it. We got in and I think we got maybe six vials of Humatrope, which was a bit of a disappointment.
After that job, Cowboy came home for the summer. It was the summer of either '87 or '88. He found out that the [pharmaceutical supply house] that we hit the year before had moved to [city deleted]. We go there and scout out the building for a few weeks. We park on some side street, about a mile away. I pop the door open and we don't hear an alarm. We got (I think) eight cases this time, went home, unloaded it, and went back to get the rest. On our way back we were cutting through the buildings of the industrial park this place was in, and there were two guys behind the building in street clothes looking into the dumpster. We thought that they were probably detectives or something, so we took off. Best to be safe.
The three of us got back to my house around 1:00 AM. We were unloading the stuff into my bedroom and my Mom came in and asked, "What is that stuff?"
I said, "Oh, its fertilizer" since I was doing landscaping at the time. She knew it was bullshit but didn't push it.
Coverage was starting to get into the paper and the kid that was distributing some of the GH told me that cops were coming into the gym and asking questions. No one ever questioned me directly. My brother-in-law told me that his father (who was the cop down in Fairfield) knew I did the job down there but they didn't have enough evidence to do anything about it. I'm sure it was pretty obvious to him because I bought a new car and a motorcycle, and went out to eat every night and was taking friends with me -which is hard to do on a landscaper's salary.
At one point, the kid from the gym was moving lots of product but was slow paying me. He was feeding me a little cash each time I saw him. He owed me about three-grand but I hadn't been worrying about the money since I really didn't need it at the time. Then I see him show up in a new car and that pissed me off. So Cowboy and I go to the gym with our friend Tommie. We sent Tommie inside to bring him out because he would have known better than to come outside with Cowboy and I.
So the kid comes out and we get him in the car and start asking him what the deal is with my money. He starting to sputter some bullshit and Cowboy starts slamming his head into the dashboard and puts a big dent into the dashboard. This pisses him off even more and he screams "now you're going to pay to get my damn dashboard fixed too! You better have the money tomorrow or you're going to be dead!"
The kid is pleading now and he's like "OKAY! OKAY!"
The next day, I had to work so I couldn't meet him to get the money. Cowboy had football camp so Tommie went to pick up the money. The kid hands him seven-grand and goes, "Here! Call them off. I'm afraid for my life; these guys are crazy! Just call them off Tommie, I don't want anything to do with this." I threw a thousand to Cowboy and gave Tom five hundred for picking it up.
Chan wanted to do another job but he didn't want to do it with Cowboy. He came up to me one day and said, "[Cowboy] is crazy. He'll get us in trouble. He'll kill somebody." And he would too. He's a psycho like that. So Chan and I did the next job without him.
It was October of '89 and we headed back to the same place. Chan sent me down through the roof on a rope. Here is where little details make a huge difference. The rope was so thin that I couldn't grip it well and shot down, hitting the ground hard. When I landed, I tried to stay low, just in case they had motion-detectors. Looking across the room, I saw the refrigerator and, when I walked over to it, noticed that there is a heavy padlock on the door. All of a sudden, "Ding! Ding! Ding!" the alarm starts to scream! I'm like "Holy Shit!" so I run to the backdoor and see another freaking padlocks, so I couldn't get out. I had to run to the front of the building and finally make it out of one of the front office exits. So I left without even getting anything but sore ankles.
That job scared me. Because of the alarm, we knew the police were just minutes from showing up. At one point, I thought I might not get out and was thinking I might have to hide in some of the boxes or something. As we were leaving we saw all the cop cars heading that way.
Cowboy came home from winter break. This was around New Years eve night (1988-89). We had found another [pharmaceutical supply house] location in [city deleted], New Jersey. It was about a ninety-minute drive. We were going down there about twice a week scouting it out. There wasn't really a good place to park and right behind the place was a major highway. We were trying to figure out how the hell we were going to do this because the nearest side street was just too far of a run. We typically looked for woods or places to hide so we wouldn't get caught out in the open with boxes in our hands. This place offered none of those things.
Chan finally came up with the plan. We parked on the highway berm and jumped the fence. From the shoulder of the highway to the backdoor of the place was only about forty yards. Still, we didn't like that passing traffic would see us. We drove there in Chan's black BMW M3. At the time I was driving a black 300ZX. I left it at home and my brother was driving it that night. We parked at a section of the fence that had some bush cover, cut a hole in the fence with some bolt cutters, and started checking things out through the windows of the building.
At this point, security was starting to get more advanced so cutting the phone-line didn't work; they had systems that worked separately from the phone-lines. With the old alarm systems, once you cut the phone-line, you had ALL night.
This time we decided we weren't going to bust open the door. We decided we were going to smash through the windows. Unfortunately, these windows had some sort of break-resistant layer in them, so that, instead of shattering, they clumped together, similar to a car windshield. We used an axe to hack through and cut a square in it. I was the lucky one that got to chop through the window while they waited in the bushes. As I'm doing this, cars are flying by and I'm thinking that they HAVE to see me. Fortunately cell phones were rare back then and most people driving by were more concerned with their New Year's festivities. We got into the building, didn't hear any alarms, and our scanners stayed quiet. We saw the refrigerators (about ten yards in), ran inside, grabbed a couple of cases of GH each and then ran out. There was more there but, because of the situation, we didn't have time to grab any more.
After that job, we did the [city deleted] lab again. Cowboy set it up. Chan called there posing as a doctor and asked if they had Protropin. The three of us went down there, popped the door open, ran in, grabbed the shit, and then took off. As we were driving down the road, we heard the call on the scanner. They knew that we were in a black car headed southbound. Just to be safe, we threw all the tools out, including the bolt cutters and the scanner. As we were driving home, the police in my hometown are pulling over my brother (who was driving my car). They asked him, "Where is your brother tonight?" There were looking in his car, searching in the trunk, under the hood and everything.
My brother told them, "He's up in Vermont." The detective told him that he wanted to talk to me. It got so that whenever anything pharmaceutical got hit, they would case me out.
When we got home from the job, we opened up the boxes but there wasn't any GH in them. It was some kind of IV stuff. They were GH boxes but they must have known we were coming.
None of us really cared for Protropin. Cowboy said, "Let's get Humatrope; It's better." We were looking for a local place that had some but the best we could find was a place up in Connecticut. All three of us drove up there to case it out. There were a lot of woods near it and it was a huge building. We had to walk almost two miles to get there from the nearest safe parking spot. When we arrived, there was a cleaning crew so we had to wait two more hours until they finally left and, since it was winter, froze our asses off.
Chan was the alarm expert. He thought that more than likely they had the new wireless system. We also assumed that they probably had cameras in there so we covered our faces. I broke the back door open. There were cameras all over the fucking place. The refrigerator was like a huge vault and we realized we didn't have the tools or expertise to get it open in the time allowed. As we were leaving, we heard approaching sirens. We also heard over the scanner that they were sending in a canine unit so we sprinted almost two miles back to the car. With the three of us being between 240 and 280 pounds, we are lucky none of us had a coronary. We got out of that one but we came up empty-handed.
We settled down for a couple of years. We scouted places in Pennsylvania and Ohio. I found out that Cowboy and Chan did a job without me. The [pharmaceutical supply house] that had treated us so well moved from [city deleted] (which we robbed; it was our biggest score ever), then they moved to [city deleted] (we hit them a few times there), and then they moved from there to an industrial park in [city deleted]. Cowboy and Chan hit that location and were rewarded with about four cases each.
I think it was 1992 that we did our last job. Chan was pushing hard for this. I was getting kind of nervous by now, particularly because of the incident in which the police pulled-over my brother. Of course, Chan was telling me I was crazy. Still, I knew it wasn't smart to push things. I definitely wasn't going to store anything at my house. I told him that for me to do this job; we had to do it, get rid of the GH and get paid THAT night. After that, I was out. We set up the sale. [Top NPC competitor] was going to make the buy and had cash in hand.
The target was in an industrial park. Adjoining it was an abandoned building so we broke into there first, since it would have no alarm. We were equipped with sheet-rock cutters and began the slow process of cutting a hole in the wall. We had to use bolt-cutters too because there were aluminum beams in the walls. It took us about ninety minutes to tunnel through the wall. Once we had the hole, we ran in, which set off the alarm. Once we got to the fridge, we found it had a huge lock on it. I couldn't even cut through it. Chan had to help me cut it. Once we were inside, we saw the motherlode! There were STACKS of GH! I took a whole pile into my arms and started running with it. The cases were smaller now, which was great. All the tools were left behind because we needed our hands to carry the GH.
We ran back to the car, loaded the shit up, and drove directly to [top NPC competitor's] house. I left with $18,000 in cash. Chan got money but also kept some product for himself. I went to Florida and Cancun twice with that money, taking about a month's vacation. I used some of the money to pay for school. It lasted me awhile.
Chan and Cowboy kept doing jobs but expanded into non-pharmaceutical thefts. They knocked over this nightclub in Sayerville. Chan used to bounce there and he said that they used to have a shitload of cash and the owner would store it in a safe. They broke in one night and stole the safe and had it on a hand-truck. As they were rolling it out, it tipped over and the door swung open. They got $27,000 in cash. They also tried to hit a diner that Chan had worked in. The owner was an old Italian guy who kept all the cash in the safe. He cut the phone-line and the cops came so they didn't get anything.
Cowboy stopped lifting around "92-93. He started doing coke and went into a downward spiral. He hit bottom when he robbed a video store. He busted-in and was walking around and they saw him on camera. He went to jail for a year and cleaned -up his act and stopped using drugs. My brother still sees him around. He's around 5'7" and 260, not really lean.
Chan went to jail too. He used his money to start a construction company. That could have been a good thing but he tried to sell the same house to four different people and thought he was going to be able to keep the money. I saw him on the TV news yelling at those trouble-shooter news guys to, "Get off his damn property!" That was five or six years ago and was the last I heard about him.
After I left for school, the FBI came to my house. Two agents showed up early in the morning. My brother answered the door and they asked him where I was. He told them I was down at school. They knew everything about me. They knew where I lived, that I was living with [my new girlfriend], about what I was studying in school... all that shit. Apparently someone must have done another pharmaceutical job or something. They knew all my friends by name and were asking if I had been coming home. I also remember one time I went out to dump the garbage and there was a guy standing there taking pictures of me. I think I definitely quit at the right time.
When I finished school I went back home to Jersey and I ran into my old Jersey girlfriend. Actually, it was one of those things where I arranged to accidentally bump into her since I was trying to hook back up with her again. She told me that the FBI had questioned her about me. She didn't tell them anything - although I'm surprised she didn't.
It is harder today. I could never do things the way I used to. I heard on the news a couple of months ago that there was a big GH heist - either in California or Arizona. One of the guys ended up killing one of his partners. It's so much more expensive now. Imagine if I had all that GH now; I'd be a millionaire.
Towards the end we had to come up with new strategies. We were even thinking of jacking the Fed-ex guy that picked up the GH from one of the labs. I guess it would be the deliveries for the dwarves or whatever. We had talked about just stopping the truck, knocking the guy out and then throwing on his uniform and doing the pick-up. It seemed a little too risky though. Too many things could go wrong. We finally abandoned the idea when we realized there would be no way we could ever fit into the typical delivery guy's uniform.
I managed to make it out clean because I was careful and lucky enough to bail out before things went sour. My training is going well and I'm considering going back to school to become a MD. Who knows? Maybe I'll eventually run a hormone replacement clinic? You can bet we will have the best security system available.