Body Transformations

Romario Dos Santos Alves Extreme Physique

“My muscles started to solidify and I couldn’t even inject my arms—they were full of rocks.” With big dreams of becoming a bodybuilder and living up to his nickname as “The Incredible Hulk,” Romario Dos Santos Alves was prepared to do anything to stand out from the crowd and see his dreams come true even if it meant putting his life on the line. Already training seven days a week without getting the results he envisioned, the Brazilian took things to the extreme in 2012 after he moved from his hometown of Caldas Novas to Goiania where a few bodybuilders at the local gym introduced him to Synthol, a potentially lethal injection of oil and alcohol used to create artificial muscle growth.

“I saw some really big guys in the gym with huge arms and I started to make friends with them,” Santos Alves said. “They introduced me to Synthol and I got excited about the results—I lost control.”

By the time he realized, “If you take it once, there will definitely be a second time,” it was already too late as he was hooked on the cocktail and so amazed by the results that not even the thought of risking his own life or leaving his pregnant wife, 23-year-old Marisangela Marinho, alone to raise their first child was enough to make him stop. Instead, he found new ways to feed his addiction as his muscles hardened so much that it was impossible for him to inject his arms with a standard needle. Desperate to get his fix, Santos Alves said, “I decided the only thing I could do was buy specialist needles to inject.” He purchased the strongest needles available—those typically used on bulls—and convinced his wife the Synthol was safe so that she would inject him in areas he could no longer reach. Before long, he logged fewer and fewer hours at the gym as his biceps grew to 25 inches in size.

As Marinho learned the truth about Synthol and saw the aftermath of her husband’s addiction firsthand as his life and sanity quickly deteriorated, she knew it was time to intervene. Giving him an ultimatum between their marriage and the Synthol, Santos Alves clearly recalls his wife’s words: “She told me that if I start using Synthol again or anything like it she will leave me because of what she went through.” At the time, Marinho was six months pregnant with a husband whose body terrified the community and an addiction that sent him straight into the hospital in severe pain and kidney failure.

As his condition worsened, the man who once dreamed of having the biggest arms in the world saw everything come crashing down as his doctor told him the only treatment for the intense pain was to amputate both arms. With solid rocks in his biceps and intense pain that cost him his job, his sanity and nearly his marriage, Santos Alves scheduled the procedure. “My wife was crying when I left at 5am to go to the hospital for the procedure,” he recalled. “I remember the doctor told me that they would need to amputate both arms. They said everything in there, all my muscles, were rock.”

Fortunately, the doctor found a way to salvage Santos Alves’ arms and, instead of a double amputation, surgeons removed the Synthol rocks that had formed in his muscles. The Brazilian bodybuilder couldn’t deny his luck and, by then, was ready to turn over a new leaf by giving up Synthol for good and educating others on the dangers of addiction. “I want other people to see the dangers,” he said. “I could have died all because I wanted bigger muscles. It’s just not worth it.”

Two years after the procedure, Santos Alves says that he hasn’t even considered getting Synthol injections again but, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t miss it. Now dabbling with performance enhancing drugs from time to time, he knows the addiction is still there after he recently bought a horse hormone called Estigor to try. With the needle stuck in his chest, he ultimately decided against it after experiencing intense panic. “My mind started remembering things that I’ve gone through and I thought that I couldn’t do it,” he said. “I couldn’t give in to temptation again.”

Today, the 26-year-old still dreams of becoming a professional bodybuilder but, after battling his addiction, he knows he has a long way to go especially after committing to stay clean. As for the Synthol, he says the temptation is always there but that he refuses to give in because of the extensive damage it caused to his physical health and his marriage. “I regret it a lot,” he said. “My ambition is still to become a bodybuilder but I’ve got a long way to go. I know I will achieve it though.” With plenty of time ahead of him to see his dreams come true, Santos Alves isn’t in a huge rush as he’s happy to spend time with his wife and son. In the meantime, we’ll definitely be on the lookout for the Brazilian Hulk to compete internationally in the years to come.