In the UK, Oli Cooney had been lifting since he was 16 years old, pursuing his dream of being a professional bodybuilder. Dubbed a “fitness fanatic” by his family, he was open to his physician about taking anabolic steroids to enhance his performance and physique, but ignored warnings that he was willingly putting his life at risk. He died after four years of abuse.
It was a year ago that Cooney went to the Bradford Royal Infirmary with complaints of chest pains. Diagnosed with chronic heart disease, doctors urged him to stop taking steroids, but the damage was already done. He suffered through three strokes and two heart attacks, but had been doing well with physiotherapy. Feeling better, Cooney returned to the gym where he worked out up to four times per week even though doctors recommended otherwise.
When a machine gives out
On September 22, 2013, he collapsed while hailing a taxi and was pronounced deceased by the time his body reached the hospital. His mother says, “As a mum, I couldn’t ask for anything more, he wasn’t getting into trouble. He was doing something he loved and was not hanging out with bad sorts or going out and getting drunk.” The dangers of anabolic steroids are plaguing men and women around the globe, but it’s taken until 2014 for the Designer Steroid Control Act to be signed into law in the US.
“How can you think going to the gym is dangerous?” his mother asks. “When somebody is anorexic they stop eating and you know it’s bad, but at what point do you think your boy’s obsession with fitness is unhealthy?” She reports that unlike other bodybuilders, her son kept his body covered, otherwise kept a healthy lifestyle and avoided social situations. She also believes her son suffered from body dysmorphia and was unable to see his “cut body” for what it really was.
An open addiction
“The weights could only make him so big and when Oli turned 18, he announced he was going on steroids. It was the only way he could get bigger; I went ballistic, I told him he could not touch the stuff. It was odd that he was so anti-drugs yet he couldn’t see the wrong in steroids.” Supposedly he stopped steroids when chest pains began at 19 and continued working out “clean” but the coroner reports that the cause of death was indeed steroid abuse.
“I don’t consider that Oli was addicted to steroids, he was addicted tot eh gym and to making himself bigger because he could not see himself for what he was.” However, as part of the US act, anabolic steroids will be better and more clearly labeled as a dangerous substance, which may help in creating boundaries for young users like Cooney. “Oli would never accept help; we are now left heartbroken because our boy, with so much promise, has gone and we had to watch him deteriorate before our eyes and there was nothing we could do about it.”