severe acne | 

Ex-bodybuilder reveals how illegal steroids almost cost him his life

‘Blood was running down my face in the gym... it was two years of literal torture’

Dave Hartry

Dave Hartry’s face and body were damaged with acne

Dave Hartry’s face and body were damaged with acne

Denise SmithSunday World

A former bodybuilder has revealed he felt suicidal after steroid use led him to develop such severe acne that he was left with permanent scarring.

Dave Hartrey ( 24) is bravely speaking out about his experience with anabolic steroids – which are used to increase muscle mass but can cause heart and liver problems – to ensure impressionable young people are informed before they dabble in the performance-enhancement drug.

Since posting images of his broken, welted skin on TikTok, the personal trainer and podcast host has been inundated with an outpouring of support.

Deciding to show-off his keloid scars with a body-positive message, Dave’s videos have since gone viral with one reaching 5.7 million views.

“I don’t want to come across as anti-steroid. I am the one in a million that this could happen to, however, if I had seen this when I started I may have thought twice.

“On TikTok you have so many people documenting their gains in such a short space of time and talking about the positives in 15-second clips, but nobody is taking the time to talk about the negatives.”

Dave Hartry’s face and body were damaged with acne

In the same week that the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) announced that the number of anabolic steroids illegally imported is on the rise, the fitness expert has revealed his concern as many uneducated young people are turning to the potentially deadly drug as a quick fix.

While it is illegal to procure anabolic steroids in Ireland without a prescription, many people are using these drugs – which produce a synthetic version of the hormone testosterone in the body to build muscle mass outside of competitive sport – and the consequences can be costly.

Infertility, erectile dysfunction, severe acne, breast development and increased risk of prostate cancer and liver failure are just some of the listed side effects.

For Dave, who devoted three years of his life to competitive bodybuilding, the toll was both physical and mental.

“I was about a year in by the time I noticed the spots coming up and by then it was too late. Even if I had come off the steroids completely the problem was still there.”

Speaking candidly of his hellish ordeal, the young entrepreneur who offers online coaching through his Instagram platform @davehartrey revealed:

“It was two years of literal torture. Every time my back touched against something – whether I was driving, sitting on a chair or in bed – because there was blood and puss around the sores it stuck to whatever top I was wearing and the skin was ripped off into big open wounds.

“I could only wear black clothes because of blood stains.

“If I was training in the gym, sometimes the pressure of some exercises would cause the wounds to explode and there would just be blood running down my face.

“It nearly killed me. I was suicidal,” says Dave.

“I let my skin control my life and I hid it from everyone and it was destroying me.”

The courageous Waterford man is now urging people to take the appropriate precautions if they insist on using the prescriptive drug.

We reached out to one seller who offered a six-week course for €300, he advised: “You do six weeks on and take a week off. You inject twice a week.”

Sending a picture of the goods, he explained: “The pink tub is for when you finish the course so the muscle doesn’t go straight out of you.

“You use the wipes before you jab, the blue needle is for injection.” Spending €1,500 on a 16-week course Dave said: “You don’t know where it is coming from, is it being made in someone’s bathtub is it coming from a lab?

Dave Hartry’s face and body were damaged with acne

Speaking of his competitive career and the benefits of using steroids in the bodybuilding arena, the personal trainer revealed: “It allows you to be the best you can be if you want to compete.

“You make so much progress.

Where I draw my line is, does what you are trying to achieve justify the hit you are taking on your health? “If you are not in a natural bodybuilding competition it is expected that you are taking steroids.

“There are people that are coming in and are educated and have a coach that is constantly monitoring them.

“It’s when people start abusing it that it comes an issue, or if you are the one in a million person that it disagrees with

“I also don’t think people realise that once you start injecting testosterone your body will stop producing it naturally.

“When you stop you go through post-cycle treatment. For 8 to 12 weeks you will be producing no testosterone. You have to kickstart your body to produce it again, when you do that you are rolling the dice.

“You might only produce a quarter of what you were before. When I came off it I felt deflated and I had no motivation, and no drive.


don’t think anyone will look you in the eye and say steroids aren’t bad for you. There is a risk with it and young people just want a quick fix.”

Calling time on his bodybuilding career, Dave was just nine weeks out from competing in the UK when he came perilously close to ending his life.

“I said, ‘if I keep going I am going to kill myself,’ I made the right decision by walking away. “I am about three months now completely clear of new spots and that’s a year after I stopped.

“That picture shows my body now, they are all keloid scars.

I will have them for the rest of my life. I am now on a waiting list for a skin specialist.

Dr Lorraine Nolan, chief executive of the HPRA, has said many young men are driven to achieve the perfect body.

“Young men are seeking to gain muscle and ‘bulk up’, and whilst use of illegal steroids was previously associated with competitive bodybuilding and enhanced sport performance, nowadays usage appears dominated by the desire to have the perceived perfect body image.”

Brian (35), from Dublin first took up steroids when he was working abroad.

“I noticed that they worked fairly fast. After four injections I was able to lift heavier on everything.

“I would find it difficult to increase my bodyweight but I put on nine kilos, which was the biggest I have ever been.

“In order for you to get that Love Island body there is a lot of sacrifice involved. Does it work and increase your strength and work rate and size, yes. But if I had the option of doing them again I would give them back.”

Today's Headlines

More Irish News

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices