Tragic Tales – Paul Demayo

Tragic Tales Paul Demayo: Part and parcel of the bodybuilding world is the use and abuse of the drugs that make the sport what it is- a massive freak show.  Though it is not much of a secret and something of a black mark against a sport that is ostensibly considered “healthy,” the use of performance enhancing substances by elite athletes dates as far back as the ancient Olympics, and in spite of cautionary tales like this one, more than half the elite athletes surveyed still say that they would take a drug that would allow them to become the best at their respective sport even if it would kill them in the next five years (Reynolds).


One such cautionary tale is that of Paul Demayo, a 90s bodybuilder nicknamed Quadzilla who seemed poised on the brink of massive success.  Demayo exploded out of Massachusetts in 1991, beating Kevin Levrone to win the Jr. Nationals at age 23 and then taking third behind Flex Wheeler and Levrone at that year’s Nationals.  Not only that- Demayo finished ahead of Ronnie Coleman in that contest, which means he had not only enough size and density to potentially beat Dorian at his own game, but he would have enough room to grow that could could potentially have had a reign that spanned both of those legends’.  Because the NPC field at the time was stacked, however, it took another three years for him to earn his pro status.


After winning the 1994 NPC Nationals, the 27-year-old Demayo stood 5’10” and 255lbs and had enough mass to challenge all of the biggest names in the sport, though his definition hadn’t really had time to cement himself among the creme de la creme.   As such, DeMayo finished 12th in his Olympia debut, a contest he’d wanted to skip but was forced into entering by his main sponsor.  He then finished similarly in three contests immediately following the O and the distaste the experience left ensured that was the last time Demayo would ever step onstage.


Throughout 1995 and 1996, the bodybuilding mags were filled to bursting with pictures of Demayo training his massive legs, there were entire workout spreads devoted to the newbie phenom, and speculation swirled as to when he’d compete next and what condition he’d bring.  Behind the scenes, however, Demayo was falling apart.  Like many of the bodybuilders of the 1990s, Demayo used percocets and Nubain to numb him for endless cardio sessions and training while injured, and like those other lifters, Demayo was hooked.  He became unable to train without handfuls of percocets, and rapidly landed himself in jail for waving around a loaded firearm in public.


Upon his release, Demayo attempted to reenter the bodybuilding world several times, but his issues with opiates stymied him each time.  They would eventually claim his life in the form of an overdose in 2005, though his friend and training partner insists Demayo’s death was actually a revenge killing- Demayo had robbed a woman in a wheelchair of her percocets, and it so happened that Demayo’s heroin dealer was her brother.  As such, the story goes, Demayo’s death was an engineered “overdose” as opposed to an accidental overdose.


Either way, it’s a nice reminder to avoid the opiates.






Reynolds, Gretchen.  Phys Ed: Will Olympic Athletes Dope if They Know It Might Kill Them?  New York Times.  20 Jan 2010.  Web.  10 Jan 2020.


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