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Commonwealth Games


Bodybuilder Justin Rys dying for a good body

Wednesday 30 Jul 2014 9:30p.m.

Dying for a good body

He was the Mr Big of New Zealand bodybuilding – now, he can barely cope with a short walk on the beach.

Justin Rys' body is failing him.

"Basically, something is happening to my brain. The doctors don't know why I can't speak, I collapse all the time, dribbling heaps."

And Justin's heart is giving out too. In fact, his prospects in general are not good.

In his heyday, Justin was Mr New Zealand, Mr Australasia and Mr Oceania. To make himself big, he took any kind of drug he could lay his hands on – including steroids.

Six years ago, Justin told 60 Minutes he was just doing what he thought he should be.

"I was just really selfish and just didn't even consider anyone and you know, all I thought about was getting my drugs."

But Justin was caught importing the illegal drug fantasy and sent to jail.

"At the time I used my body as a science experiment. I would just try this and see what happened, do this and see what happened, try some growth hormone, try some IGF, some imbuterole, try steroids - just do everything I could just to try and see what would happen," he told 60 Minutes.

Today, Justin's speech is slurred, he spits and sometimes struggles to make sense.

"I enjoy having fun and I enjoy having a laugh and I have lots of good friends, lots of people there for me – but it still doesn't make it any easier.

"I've lost 25kgs of muscle and I haven't even trained at all.

"I haven't done anything for a long, long time."

Sick as Justin is, he still struggles to stay away from the weights. He used to be able to lift 130kg, now he lifts around 55kg – and can't do more than 10 reps.

Justin knows 20 years of taking steroids and other illegal drugs are partly to blame for his health and now, he has a warning for others: You are not indestructible.

"That is something that I really want to tell people. Even though when you are younger and you think you can do anything, will never get hurt, that's a load of bollocks. You do this, you can hurt yourself. You can look like me; you can be dribbling, you can really kill yourself.

"It's not fun."

Justin's takes dozens of prescription pills daily, most of them for his heart.

His main cardiologist, Dr Stewart Mann, describes Justin's condition as a diagnostic puzzle. His long-term prognosis is "very variable".

"I've discussed this quite a lot with Justin and he's quite open about me talking about it. It's not looking particularly good at the moment, not necessarily just because of the heart, but because there are other problems as well."

Justin's problems may not be just caused by illegal drugs, but also over-the-counter supplements – supplements Dr Mann is extremely concerned about.

"I deal mainly in orthodox pharmaceuticals. We at least have controlled information about what the positive and negative effects there can be of pharmaceuticals," he says.

"A lot of supplements are sold as foods and not subject to the same sorts of scientific rigour in testing, nor of quality control."

We already know some of these supplements are potentially dangerous. Last year, 3rd Degree tested three popular pre-workout pills and powders. All three were found to contain illegal substances including synthetic amphetamines. And 15 more are currently under Government investigation.

Victoria Faint, a friend of Justin, is a competition winning bodybuilder. She knows all too well these legal substances can be risky.

Last year, she took a substance that made her very sick. It started with headaches and clammy skin, then became a lot worse.

"My stomach started to blow up, I couldn't pee, all these things started happening.

"They tested for steroids, there was no steroids because I hadn't been using them then and they asked me what kind of supplements I'd been taking. I told them the protein powders and I went in there with abs and by day four I looked like I was eight months pregnant so they started freaking out as well. They said in one of the tests the liver was inflamed. They were putting it down to some kind of hepatitis virus."

The protein powder she was taking was called Oxy Elite Pro, which has caused all sorts of problems. Fifty people caught hepatitis after using it in the United States, two people needed liver transplants and one died.

Justin, who used to sell Oxy Elite Pro at his supplement shop, was forced into bankruptcy because of his illness. The shop is now closed.

"Supplements are important as long as you know what you're taking," he says.

"But if you have supplements and no idea what you're using, then that's stupid."

He says he had no idea what he was selling could make people sick.

"All I wanna do is make it safer," he says. "I don't want to see people hurt. I have my friend who got hepatitis from a supplement that I sold. That hurt the hell out of me – I hated it."

Justin says all he wants is for other people to benefit from his mistakes.

"I'm not going to be a hypocrite and say, 'don't do this', because who the hell am I to say? Look at me. All I want is people to understand if they don't do it properly, they'll end up just the way I am. And I don't recommend that in the slightest."

Watch the video for Michael Morrah's full 3rd Degree report.


  • Reporter: Michael Morrah
  • Producer: Kim Hurring
  • Camera: Belinda Walshe
  • Editor: Paul Enticott
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01-08-2014 12:00