A portrait of one of the most infamous bodybuilders of all time.
When most bodybuilding fans hear the name Gregg Valentino the first thing that crosses their minds is the image of a bicep post explosion. Is that a fair assessment of who Gregg is as a man? Probably not. But when you consider the fact that the man possessed the biggest biceps in history at one point then ignoring the fact that those same monstrous arms went through such trauma is near impossible. Despite his infamy, Gregg is way more than just one incident. Love him or hate him – there’s no denying that he is a force to be reckoned with. His story is more complex and deeply rooted in the sport of bodybuilding than most would imagine.
Gregg wasn’t always the mountain of muscle he is today. His journey into weightlifting and bodybuilding all started in high school. He wasn’t a particularly large youth and in fact stood around 5’5”. He was always athletically gifted, but not enough to set records or turn heads. At least not until the lifting started. Weight lifting proved to be the solution to not only building up his body, but getting the recognition he yearned for. He loved the sport so much that during his high school graduation ceremony – he tore off his gown and flexed for the entire graduating class. The principal and parents hated it, but the class loved it while cheering him on.
Love/hate relationships would follow him throughout the rest of his bodybuilding career and lead him to opening up a pair of gyms after high school.
Gregg spent time in southern California in the early 80’s, pumping iron at the infamous Gold’s Gym during when bodybuilding was in its heyday. He worked out with Lou Ferrigno, Arnold, the Barbarian Brothers and a slew of other characters who frequented the gym. All that time, steroids were not a part of his life. Then, after returning to his roots in NY, his gym businesses began to suffer. That’s when Valentino took it upon himself to start selling illegal steroids. It kept him afloat despite all the risk and danger involved. As the years went by, Valentino finally started using the steroids he sold, which packed on seven inches to his biceps. From then on, Valentino was turning heads and gaining popularity, not all of it positive. Valentino was arrested for the sale of the steroids. Around the same time of his arrest, the incident that caused his bicep to explode, his son accidentally hitting him with a bat, is one that would go down in infamy. Valentino would go on to try and remove the built up fluid in his bicep and even video tape the event. Not a pretty sight. It was truly a dark chapter in the enigmatic bodybuilder’s life.
But that wouldn’t be the end of the road for Valentino. After being released from prison he became a columnist for Muscular Development magazine, where his column entitled the “Ramblin Freak” gained a cult following, especially with military soldiers fighting in the Middle East. His column was as open and honest a look into the use of steroids, not just in bodybuilding, but other sports as well. Many of his articles also featured extremely honest accounts of Gregg’s wild experiences over the years, both in and out of the world of bodybuilding. With his steroid use now behind him, Valentino has gone on to denounce steroid use, keeping his wild years behind him – but he still has his stories that he loves to tell both in print, video, and television. Although no one may ever really figure out what makes him tick, this ESPN video portrait released in 2009, does a good job in summing up the highlights of Gregg’s story…
Hate him or love him, Gregg Valentino is a man unafraid to speak his mind and lay it out there, which is the main reason why he has garnered so much attention over the years. It’s easy to judge a man as open and honest as Gregg, but really, isn’t that just what we need in a sport shrouded in secrecy?