Los Angeles Daily News
Bodybuilder keeps it real
Teen champ believes steriods have no place in sport
By Eric Leach, Staff Writer

Sunday, December 26, 2004 - MOORPARK When it comes to bodybuilding,17-year- old James Tangherlini is a natural.The Moorpark teen,who has been training since he was 13,has taken a number of bodybuilding titles this year,including fi rst place in the teenage boys category of the California Natural Body Building and Fitness Championships.

The "natural " contests he enters test com- petitors to ensure steroids and other per- formance-enhancing drugs have not been used."My goal is to help usher natural body- building into the Olympics," said Tangherlini, who attends Chaminade Preparatory School in Chatsworth."The only way that bodybuilding can get into the Olympics is if it gets rid of the stigma of steroid use." Tangherlini counts Lou Ferrigno,former Mr.Universe and star of the television show "The Incredible Hulk," among his sup- porters.The two met at a comics convention in San Diego when Ferrigno gave the 13-year-old Tangherlini his autograph and told the boy "good luck with your career." "That 's what inspired me to begin bodybuilding.Lou Ferrigno became one of the major mentors in my life," Tangherlini said.The two have kept in touch."I 've been helping him off and on for about three years. At his age,he 's doing remarkably well.I 'm extremely proud of him," Ferrigno said."If bodybuilding becomes an Olympic sport, I think he 's got a chance."

Tangherlini said athletes his age face temptations to build muscle through performance-enhancing drugs in part because of recent revelations that some of the nation 's star athletes have used them.Even California Gov.Arnold Schwarzenegger acknowledges that he once used them as a bodybuilder,although he speaks out today strongly against the use of steroids, which he called "stupid."

Authorities say that although most high school students view them as dangerous,some use them to boost their performance when they train for strength and endurance sports,including weight lifting and bodybuilding."Clearly there 's pressure among high school athletes to take steroids to try to bulk up.They hear about professional athletes who have admitted to using some types of steroids," said Dr.Glenn Braunstein,chairman of the department of medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles."Most of what they get is basically black market,from coaches,other players and drug dealers.High school girls also use steroids,not as much as the boys."

Steroid use by high school students must be discouraged and can have numerous ill effects,including growth retardation, hostility,liver damage and possible premature heart disease,Braunstein said.According to the Monitoring the Future survey funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse,most users of anabolic steroids are males.Among male students,1.8 percent of eighth-graders surveyed in 2003 said they had used them in the past year,along with 2.3 percent of 10th-graders and 3.2 percent of 12th-graders who said they had used them in the past year.The tendency to associate bodybuilders in particular with steroids has been so strong that some people think he uses them simply because of his big muscles,Tangherlini said. "By my sophomore year in high school classmates began to notice the change in my physique,and I was accused of drug use.I still am," he said."People walk by and say 'Steroids.' They gossip about it."Some kids have actually asked me for advice about using steroids,and I always say it 's never worth it." Tangherlini said he trains hard for the muscles he has.He works out with weights several times a day,with a contest preparation routine that includes, for example, five sets of leg presses with 12 repetitions for each set using more than 1,000 pounds.

In school he has a special interest in biology and kinesiology because it is related to his bodybuilding,and he has obtained certifi cation through an Internet course to become a personal trainer.

He set up his own Web site at www.jamestangherlini.com.He said he likes to be known as a natural bodybuilder who shuns drugs."I chose natural bodybuilding because of my parents ' philosophy of no drug use," he said."It gives me a great feeling of satisfaction if I can be a role model and discourage people from steroid use."
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Eric Leach,(805)583-7602 eric.leach@dailynews.com

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