At 6'3" and 273 pounds, Dean Steinkuhler has one of those cement-mixer physiques—barrel chest, stonecutter's arms and legs, thick neck, lantern jaw—that seems not built, but poured. To be sure, it's a body that has served Steinkuhler well. He was a three-year starter at guard at Nebraska and winner of the Outland and Lombardi awards—given to the nation's finest collegiate linemen—his senior year. The second player picked in the 1984 NFL draft, he signed a four-year, $2.6 million guaranteed contract with the Houston Oilers, who switched him to tackle.
Steinkuhler is also a former user of anabolic steroids. "I took them beginning late my junior year and continued through my senior year," he told SI. He said he used steroids again during his rookie season with the Oilers, but quit late in '84 after a knee injury.
Steinkuhler, 25, the son of a gas station owner in Burr, Neb., arrived at Nebraska as a 225-pound fullback/defensive lineman but was switched to the offensive line. He gradually gained weight and reached a natural 260 pounds by his junior year. But then the dial on the scale stopped. "Sometimes you expect quicker results, and that's one of the reasons I wanted to do it," said Steinkuhler, explaining his reason for using steroids. "I wanted to be the best I could be. I wanted to be better than anyone else. I thought I was a good enough athlete, but I needed something to get over the hump."
That "something" was, initially, methyltestosterone, a fast-acting oral anabolic. Steinkuhler said he got the steroid from a Husker teammate whom he declines to identify. But Steinkuhler quickly discovered that methyltestosterone "made me real moody, violent. I wanted to kill somebody."
January 5, 1987
So he stopped taking the methyltestosterone and began using Dianabol, better known among athletes as D-ball, the bread-and-butter drug for those interested in a fast increase in size and strength. Steinkuhler said he "saw instant results from that"—like a 15-pound jump in weight (to 275) and a 50-pound gain in his bench press (to 350). He also had a new compulsion to train. "I never really gained that much strength," he said, "but it really gets you fired up about working out."
Steinkuhler's best results, he said, came after "stacking," or taking three drugs at once: 1) Dianabol, 2) Anavar, an orally administered steroid, and 3) an injectable testosterone. During the peak of his typical six-week cycle, Steinkuhler said his weekly dosage would be more than two dozen Dianabol tablets, half a dozen Anavar pills and a 1-cc injection of testosterone. While Steinkuhler was in college, the money to pay for the 100-tablet bottles of Dianabol ($40) and other steroids came from his wife. Sue, who was working. Not that she was happy about it. Said Steinkuhler, "She used to tell me, 'Why take the risk?' She really didn't care for it."
Steinkuhler said that during his junior year at Nebraska he was aware of "four or five, no, five or six" other Husker linemen using steroids. By his senior year, "I only knew of two," though he believes steroid use on the team "kinda took off."
Was head coach Tom Osborne, a critic of steroids, aware of the use? "I think he knew it was going on," said Steinkuhler. "I don't think he knew the numbers." In November Osborne told SI, "I think over the years we've had some guys who have taken steroids.... The thing I feel bad about is if the whole team over a long period of time is indicted."
Steinkuhler, who said the use of steroids in the NFL is "growing," added that he does not condone the practice: "I don't want to lose any respect that I've gotten. I was hoping I'd never have to tell [my father], but he's going to find out. The worst thing is what people will start to say about Nebraska. But it's everywhere. Things have happened, you know, that I'm not proud of. But I wanted to get this off my back."