Brazilian Bodybuilder Claims Synthetic Material Brought Huge Muscles, but Also Medical Danger

Synthol has been used by bodybuilders in the past to bulk up quickly.

ByABC News
May 5, 2015, 5:55 PM
Romario dos Santos Alves, a bodybuilding enthusiast, works out his muscles in the gym, April 4, 2015, in Caldas Novas, Goias, Brazil.
Romario dos Santos Alves, a bodybuilding enthusiast, works out his muscles in the gym, April 4, 2015, in Caldas Novas, Goias, Brazil.
Pedro Ladeira/Barcroft Media /Landov

— -- A Brazilian bodybuilder said chemical injections helped him bulk up to an incredible size -- but also ultimately brought him close to danger.

In an online video for Barcroft Media, and on a Portuguese-language talk show, bodybuilder Romario dos Santos Alves of Goiania, Brazil, said he started using a chemical called synthol to help him get larger and larger muscles.

Santos Alves said on the Brazilian talk show "Hoje Em Dia" that by injecting the synthetic substance, he was able to bulk up his biceps size to more than 62 centimeters in circumference. He said his own skin wouldn't stretch anymore over his enormous muscles, but he became addicted to getting larger.

"Sometimes kids come up to me saying, 'Mom it’s the Hulk, the Hulk.' And they hug me, take a photo of me and that’s good," he said in the Barcroft video.

On the Brazilian TV clip, Santos Alves pointed out a part of his bicep that had been injured, causing muscle tissue to migrate.

The Brazilian bodybuilder could not be reached for comment and his medical claims could not be independently verified.

Synthol, mainly made up of oil, has been used by bodybuilders to pump up muscles in the past, sometimes with dangerous results.

In a 2012-published medical case study, a 29-year-old man had to undergo surgery after synthol injections left him with deforming lesions in his muscle. The study authors described the effects caused by the drug as a distinct "Swiss cheese effect."

Over years, the drug weakened the muscles and created tremendous pain for the patient, who had felt pressured to take the drug to appear larger, according to the study authors.

The drug doesn't work like steroids, but is more like a temporary implant that physically makes muscles larger.

In 2007, Ron Harris, a bodybuilder and fitness author, told ABC News those taking synthol had ended up with "weird lumps and bumps, as well as an almost bizarre shape to the muscle."

"There are some instances of absolutely freakish appearance because of it," he said in 2007. "The fact that a lot of individuals have this bizarre appearance shows that there is an attraction there, even if it is the same type of attraction you'd see at a bad car wreck."

In Santos Alves' case, he said on the Barcroft video that the injections over years had led to massive muscles but also to potentially dangerous complications. The injections had left him with "rock"-like deposits in his muscles, he said.

Dr. Alan Matarasso, a plastic surgeon in New York, did not work on Santos Alves, but said injectables can cause dangerous or even deadly consequences.

"Injections are a huge problems," said Matarasso. "Most of the injections that are put in if they're not medical grade you can’t get them out."

Matarasso said that by injecting the very vascular muscle area, bodybuilders or others using synthol as an injectable are at risk for serious complications including stroke and gangrene.

"If it goes into blood vessel, it can circulate in the body and give you a stroke and can cut off blood supply so that an area doesn’t get blood," said Matarasso. "It turns black and those are the risks of any injectable product."

Matarasso said the danger is even greater in muscles because they have many vessels than can move the material. He warned anyone considering off-market or non-approved injectables to talk to their doctor first.

"There’s a reason if it’s not approved, and if it’s life threatening and irreversible they need to think long and hard about this," he said. "You only get one body."