After many tragic deaths in the sport, Johnnie O. Jackson gets real about his own drug use and near death experience as a warning for young bodybuilders.

Whether it be due to complete coincidence or some underlying common pattern, the bodybuilding world has lost many young men and women athletes over the past year and a half. In this week’s episode, Johnnie O. Jackson wants to shed some light on the true risks in bodybuilding as we try to make sense of the many tragic deaths in the sport. But rather than dig up more pain for friends and families who have lost loved ones – Jackson turns inward to reveal his own health battles during his career as a bodybuilder. In the latest episode of Hardcore Truth, Johnnie O. Jackson reveals his near death experience and his experience using PEDs.

In bodybuilding, it’s rare to get full transparency on how PED use is experienced by pro bodybuilders in the sport. Some have been open about it – but mostly after they have retired and ended their career. Johnnie O. Jackson joins this growing list of athletes – by holding nothing back and giving his honest truth and assessment of using PEDs. Not only that, but he also joins a growing list of bodybuilders by revealing a near death experience he had during cutting for contest prep.

Johnnie O. Jackson reveals all on his PED use

Johnie O. Jackson explains that he stayed natural for the entirety of his amateur career. But when he realized that he could truly make it as a pro bodybuilder, he started to consider drug use to enhance his gains. He didn’t take this lightly as he already had a wife and kids – so he sat down with his wife and talked it out. Ultimately, he gained support to take the risk and go for his dream.

Looking back, Johnnie O. Jackson plainly admits he had no idea what he was doing. The way he used PEDs was more than risky – it was dangerous. Now with more experience and wisdom in his older age, he regrets the kind of choices he made and considers himself lucky to be as healthy as he currently is today. This kind of open regret is rarely seen when bodybuilders discuss PED use. The bigger narrative is that the risk is worth it. While Jackson surely admits that he met his goal, he is smart enough to know that he’s more lucky than anything else.

Johnnie O. Jackson’s near death experience

Separate from hard PED use such as steroids, Johnnie O. Jackson also nearly died during the final week of his contest prep. Much like other stories that have been discussed by athletes, such as Santi Aragon, a foolish and very dangerous mistake during the dehydration stage put Jackson into the hospital. In the final weeks before his went into full dehydration mode, his coach suggested he stack up on taking potassium chloride. The problem was, that Jackson was not lacking in potassium – so this led to a very dangerous build up. Once he started dehydrating for the final days of prep – his entire body shut down.

His stomach stopped dissolving food, so the food he would eat sat to rot in his stomach. He felt stomach pains but kept on going. On the actual day of the show – he was so pale, weak, and unhealthy that the staff immediately noticed something was wrong. He called an ambulance and went to the hospital. When the doctor spoke to him his first words were, “I have no idea how you are alive right now.”

What we can learn from Johnnie’s experience

Johnnie O. Jackson reveals the most tragic part of his near death experience. He didn’t change anything. Of course, he never again built up that much potassium in his system – but he still took the same kind of risks. He admits that bodybuilders need to have short term memories in order to move past the dangers and achieve great things. It’s this mentality, he warns, that might raise the rates of death among young bodybuilders. If he were less lucky, he might have been dead too.

So the goal in telling these stories is less to shame the bodybuilders who have died and more to warn the bodybuilders today. He wants to shake the young athletes of today away from short term thinking and only focusing on bodybuilding greatness. You only live one life – learn from mistakes rather than repeat them.

He also wants this to be a message to fans. There are other dangerous choices being made in bodybuilding behind steroids. So he asks the audience to not immediately assume steroids is the cause of death during these difficult times for those who lost a loved one.

Johnnie O. Jackson also makes a very poignant statement at the end of the episode in honor of those we have lost:

“I also want to send out my condolences on the behalf of myself and generation iron for all the families and all the loved ones they have lost. This is a sadder world without you. A sadder stage without you being on it. Competing, pushing yourself, pushing competitors around you, and motivating the masses. God bless. Love you all.”

You can watch Johnnie O. Jackson’s full comments on PED use and his near death experience by watching the latest episode of Hardcore Truth above. Make sure to swing by every Thursday for new episodes!

Derek Dufour
Derek Dufour has been managing all digital operations on the Generation Iron Network for over six years. He currently manages a team of editors, writers, and designers to provide up-to-date content across the GI Network.