By Jeff Clemetson
Dr. Tom O’Conner is one of the few, lucky people who has found his niche in life. Combining his love for power lifting and his passion for healing, Dr. O’Conner has reinvented himself as the Anabolic Doc – a self-described healer for the underculture of body builders.
“In life you look to hone yourself into a special person, special occupation, special calling – whatever it is. I’ve been lots of things professionally, owned several businesses, went to medical school and all the while was lifting. Then from down deep came this light that said,’ Anabolic Doc’”
Steroidology recently sat down with Dr. O’Conner to learn more about his unique practice and discuss some of the medical and legal issues facing the body building community.
How did you become the Anabolic Doc?
I’m a board certified internal medicine doctor here in West Hartford Connecticut. I started my training in medicine in New York 10 years ago. I’ve been a weight lifter since I was 13. I bench about 500 lbs right now. I got a bunch of state records right now in the APA. I guess I’m kind of a hardcore guy. I’ve been a hardcore weightlifter in the underground culture for years, I just happened to go to med school.
In about the late 1990s early 2000s I was in my clinic starting off, and even in medical school while doing my residency training, I had all these guys from the gym coming to see me. There would be these 285 pound men next to all my other patients, who are often older or Latino patients getting treatment for diabetes or hypertension, in my waiting room. These men would be coming to see because they may or may not have done some steroids, they got some problems, high blood pressure, they’re dizzy, they knows they’re laboratory work is looking bad and they’ve got some complaints medically and they want to see me because they trust me.
Fast forward that to three years ago and I’m finally out of residency in 2005 and I opened my own practice and by then I have a nice following of regional weightlifters, body builders, strong men, what have you and then I start to really learn a lot about testosterone replacement therapy. I specialize in that for anyone – well no women, of course, but a lot of executives and professionals like firefighters and police officers who need to stay in shape into middle age. I’m an expert in hormone replacement for men – that’s a medical specialty. And a lot of people are playing around with this stuff without a doctor. About two years ago I realized, “Wow, this is a great specialty. Why don’t I become the Anabolic Doc?” There has got to be tens of thousands of guys out there in need of a real doctor who understands them from the culture and is board certified, teaches at a medical school, the real deal guy.
Now I’ve dealt with hundreds of men and I have a regular practice specializing in this, I still have a few old lady patients left, but I’m transitioning over to what I’ve coined anabolic recovery medicine.
Men who’ve used steroids and need a physician to take care of them and yes I do prescribe testosterone in appropriate prescription doses because they’ll need that, not the underground stuff but real pharmaceutical grade stuff made right here in the States. My guys are real happy; we talk about fertility, blood pressure, prostrate problems, diabetes, and heart failure
How much of your practice is now devoted to anabolic recovery?
70 percent of my day is spent with men coming in from all over the United States, some from as far away as California, Wisconsin, Florida, that make the trip to what I call medical Mecca. And I take care of them, write prescriptions for them and I coordinate on the phone or email and make sure everything is working well. I wish I could break myself off into all 50 states and maybe in the future I’ll hire more doctors, but every day my practice is getting more and more into anabolic recovery medicine. But it’s not just for guys who have used steroids it’s for guys that are interested in replacing testosterone. A lot of them are executives or other middle aged men who has metabolic syndrome, has a big abdomen, has hypertension, abnormalities in his cholesterol, diabetic or pre-diabetic – if a physician doesn’t test his testosterone levels, he’s not a good doctor. This is now becoming mainstream medicine. I will probably be saying goodbye to some of my more regular patients because I want to get more into this exclusively and take this nationally.
My goal next is to travel this great country and teach this medicine in residency training programs and selecting the next anabolic docs.
What does it take to become an anabolic doc?
It’s not sports medicine, not orthopedics, it’s internal medicine – you have to know internal medicine and you have to understand the underculture of weightlifters and the Adonis complex.
What is a visit to your clinic like?
So their first visit is three hours, I take them into my office and I do a very in depth medical history, then we go to the physical exam room where I take it from the top with a physical exam from head to toe, including the head, the liver, the kidneys, the lungs, electrocardiogram, vital signs, blood pressure and then I draw the blood and I send it out for analysis. The blood will come back in about a week and then we set up a visit on the phone, we review everything and then we start the therapy. I can write prescriptions for any patient across state lines. I can do this because I follow a patient’s care throughout the therapy. The days of getting steroids online or through anti-aging clinics is over. This is why I have a business. The reason I can sleep at night is because I take care of these guys medically and they need testosterone replacement and I can offer it to them.
The service is a boutique medical practice; it costs $1,500 a year. If a patient has good insurance it will cover the labs and medicines.
Describe a typical patient and explain some of the common illnesses you see related to body building and steroid use and haw you go about treating them.
The average man who comes to me is about 37 years old, he’s typically a man who has been using steroids from the black market on and off for three to 10 years and he’s coming to me because at this point he’s concerned. It seems to me the number one concern is the cardio vascular system – they feel fatigued, they know they’re blood pressure is up, they’re exhausted and they don’t know what to do. Number two, they’re worried about fertility or erectile dysfunction because of the manipulation of the hormones. A lot of them don’t have doctors or they don’t feet comfortable with their regular physician, they don’t have a doctor they can confide in and trust – I don’t think its not that the doctors out there aren’t weightlifters per se, but I’m very special that way. Most of these guys are ashamed, or quiet and reticent and they don’t seek medical care. Men in general don’t seek medical care, not just weightlifters or men who use steroids. I also have a lot of healthy men who now have reached their mid-thirties and now they want testosterone and they don’t want to do it from the black market or from they guy in the gym, they want to do it with a doctor’s supervision.
I also get a lot of guys who have used prohormones. I get dozens of guys who have never used steroids but have done lots of prohormones, which are pills that supposedly jack up your testosterone yet their testosterone levels are in the tank as if they did do steroids and their confused because they never used steroids and they never got any bump out of it. And I have to get them started on prescription testosterone, which I do for all my men that require it. When a man has done steroids, even a limited number of cycles, a physician is obligated to offer that man replacement, pharmaceutical-grade testosterone.
I take care of the real medical health. I treat the blood pressure that no one has done. I treat the cholesterol, the diabetes, I look at their liver and kidneys and the heart. A lot of these guys have heart failure; they have the beginning of what is called diastolic heart failure. I’m trained as a cardiologist. All these guys are fucking up their hearts – untreated hyper cholesterol, hypertension, pre and frank diabetes – when you reach 30 or 40 and you have not addressed these issues and if you are a big man because you are a lifter its worse and if you are on steroids that’s the nail in the coffin.
What medicines do you prescribe your patients and what medicines won’t you prescribe?
I give them the medicines they need to take care of their diabetes or cholesterol or whatever or at least get them on their way to take these issues up with their primary physician. I also prescribe testosterone as long they play within the lines. And a lot of guys come and they want to inject other things, they want to add anabolics and that’s their risk. They have the right to do that but I’m not going to give it to them because there are no more steroids in CVS – we have testosterone esters, AndroGel. We don’t have Deca Durabolin, there’s no more Winstrol, there’s nothing left, and it’s all black market. It’s actually interesting all the media saying doctors give steroids. Doctors can’t give steroids, there’s nothing left to give. Testosterone you can give, but if you don’t abuse that drug, it’s not a steroid when it is used in replacement functionality.
I don’t give narcotics. I don’t give Human Growth Hormone, which is not controlled. HGH doesn’t work. If you do a lot of it, it will work and you’ll be all screwed up. The medical literature on HGH is looking dangerous for diabetes, for cancer.
With all the media hype against steroid use in the press, do you ever worry that the government or the medical community will impose regulations that would make your practice more difficult?
Legally, I stand on a soapbox and I use a bull horn. It’s very confidential what I do with my patients but I’m not hiding what I do from the law or the medical board. When you are a physician in this country you are a healer. For example, we have drug addicts that can come to a doctor and they are on heroin and there are laws that allow doctors to prescribe methadone. We realize that this is a reality in our country and we have programs to recover people. We also prescribe narcotics like Percocet and Oxycontin because people have pain. You have to write within the letter of the law. I take care of men who have already disabled their hormone axis and they’re suffering, they’re depressed, their testicles don’t function, they’re hypertensive, they’re diabetic, they’re at risk for heart attack, suicide. These are real medical issues. My practice is no secret. I have the ability, that I respect, to use testosterone. Men learn of me because I’m a lifter and they respect that, but they really come to me because of the diploma on the wall.
If you pump out scripts like some doctors do. If you see a man for three minutes and hand him a prescription for testosterone and you don’t manage that guy and make sure he’s not abusing that script like a narcotic or anything else you’re going to be in trouble. Me, I spend three hours, I have an exclusive practice, that’s what they pay for so my ass is completely covered. The bottom line is I’m addressing men who have already used steroids; it’s a whole other category.
What advice or warning do you want to give to young people thinking about getting into the steroid culture?
This is one of the absolutes about using steroids. You should not use steroids if you are less than 22, 23 years old because less than that, your skeleton is forming, your gonads are developing. Medically, you will mess up your bones, your hormonal axis, as well as cause depression and a host of other issues.
The reality is that if you do steroids in high school or your college years you will never go pro because you will peak too early. I have a lot of experience with this. These guys peak too young, not to mention the medical consequences involved and they become emotional train wrecks. Again, children, teenagers and young men who do steroids are a huge no, no. If you want to do it, beware, because you’ll come to see me later and the number one problem for those guys is their sex is going to be down. They’re infertile, shooting blanks. I work with these guys when they’re in their 30s who made mistakes when they were young and they regret it. It’s a big problem.