“Life is beautiful, it is a good thing… Any day you wake up and you’re still alive it is a good thing.” While he may not be a bodybuilding champion or a legend like Lou Ferrigno, Ronnie Coleman or Arnold Schwarzenegger, Greg Valentino managed to make a name for himself and earn a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the biggest biceps in the world. But, his biceps weren’t just the regular, run of the mill biceps that are common on the bodybuilding circuit. Instead, Valentino’s biceps were so big that they looked freakish and disproportionate to his 5’6” frame, which is one of the many reasons why Valentino has earned a reputation as “the most hated man in bodybuilding” since no one in the industry has ever matched his 28-inch arms.
Born in 1960, Valentino started working out when he was 14 years old and, after realizing that he would never grow beyond the 5’6” mark, he decided to pump iron with the hopes of adding muscle. “Well, I’m not going to get any taller so I’m going to get wider,” he said to himself. Doing exactly that and setting out to have the biggest bicep muscles in the world, Valentino followed a strict training routine and diet for 28 years without ever turning to performance enhancing drugs to add bulk. Unfortunately, staying natural and simply lifting weights and dieting didn’t give him the results or the title he wanted.
Valentino eventually added anabolic steroids to his already intensive weight training regimen with the intention to boost the size of his biceps even further; however, this still didn’t earn him the record. Desperate for answers and results, he started injecting the anabolic steroids and vitamin B-12 directly into his arms, which took his arm size to an entirely new level of huge. Continuing the same routine for years despite many arguing that he was injecting Synthol, the more Valentino saw results, the more steroids he injected in what became a tragic cycle of addiction. In fact, doctors described Valentino’s obsession as “Bigorexia,” which is an obsessive-compulsive attitude toward using steroids to look bigger.
With his biceps landing him in the spotlight, Valentino was thrilled with the results and made dozens of appearances on television shows like Maury Povich, Ripley’s Believe It or Not and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno while promoting his personal brand with films like Bigger Stronger Faster and The Meat Puppet. Along the way, he snagged covers and feature stories in magazines like Maxim, FHM, ESPN Magazine and Muscle Sport Magazine while, unknowingly at first, making plenty of enemies among other bodybuilders. Why? Many felt that Valentino misrepresented the true nature of bodybuilding since he cheated his way into the spotlight using steroids to gain size.
After some time, Valentino’s arms were so large that they were like rocks or pincushions, not to mention that he began to take his size and good fortune for granted. Instead of sterilizing the needles, he became sloppy with the injections and reused the same needles repeatedly. This caused a severe infection in his left arm, which caused a high fever. Worst of all, Valentino’s bicep eventually popped like a balloon. Rather than rush to the hospital, Valentino took matters into his own hands and tried to drain the pus leaking from the bicep himself. For over 20 minutes, he used a syringe to extract the fluid as blood poured from his arm. Eventually, he landed in the emergency room where surgeons repaired the damage with the hopes of saving the muscles in his arm. As for Valentino, his trouble had only just begun.
Since steroids are illegal, Valentino was arrested and jailed after he was released from the hospital. During the interrogation, law enforcement officials learned that Valentino had spent the last few years supplying other bodybuilders, athletes and fitness gurus with steroids as well, which ultimately caused him to lose everything—his gym, his cars, his house and his fortune. Losing what little credibility he had left in the bodybuilding world only to see his stardom skyrocket among fans thanks to the widespread media coverage, Valentino’s actions negatively impacted the sport and the bodybuilders who had long turned to steroids without going overboard.
Once Valentino was released from jail, he denounced the use of steroids at every opportunity and even made a brief appearance on ESPN’s E:60 where he talked about his own history of steroid use. Using himself as an example of what not to do, Valentino’s appearance on the show ignited even more fury among bodybuilders who thought he was selling everyone else in the industry out. By then, the phrase “Most Hated Man in Bodybuilding” was a perfect fit for the ripped Valentino.
While Valentino might be less hated today than he was during his prime, that doesn’t mean the 56-year-old isn’t still one of the biggest names in bodybuilding. Of course, he’s wise enough now to embrace his past. “There is a lot of bad shit in my past, but I’m at peace now,” he told Bodybuilding.com. “My demons died when I got arrested. My arrest sucked, but it saved my life in a round-about way. My glass is always half full. I don’t see the half empty side of things. I get knocked down, but I get up again cause you can’t keep me down!”
Looking at his current situation, there’s some obvious truth to the fact that Valentino can’t and won’t be kept down. Today, he works as a columnist for Muscle Sport Magazine and Muscle Development Magazine and has also co-authored Death, Drugs and Muscle and Essentials of Bodybuilding. When he’s not making television and film appearances, you can find him at bodybuilding competitions around the world where he’s happy to give commentary or simply greet the audience before the big show.