The ‘Egyptian Popeye’ Latest Synthol User Confused with Anabolic Steroid Side Effects

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The Guinness World Records company recently recognized Massachusetts bodybuilder Moustafa Ismail as the holder of the world’s “Largest Arms” category in the 2013 edition of the popular Guinness Book of World Records. His arms were measured at 26-inches when the company first measured them in 2011. Within a year’s time, Ismail has increased his arm circumference to 31-inches.

“They call me Popeye, the Egyptian Popeye,” said Ismail, “I like chicken, beef, anything but spinach.”

Guinness World Records publicly announced the new record at a London ceremony in September 2012. Accusations of anabolic steroid use were made almost immediately after pictures of Ismail were published online. However, anyone with even the slightest familiarity with bodybuilding and anabolic steroids knows that such arms are not the result of steroids.

“I wish it was just steroids,” Ismail told the Boston Globe.

While Ismail has admitted using anabolic steroids some four years ago, he denied his arms were the result of steroids.

Ismail used injectable testosterone when he last lived in Egypt. Since steroids were available over-the-counter in Egyptian pharmacies, they were inexpensive and readily available. But Ismail has avoided steroids while living in the United States since their use is illegal without a prescription and black market steroids can be pricey.

The general consensus is that site enhancement oils (SEO) such as “synthol” were responsible for Ismail’s abnormal arm size.

“Synthol” has been used in bodybuilding for approximately 15 years. It was introduced to the bodybuilding world by German Christopher Clark. Large volumes of “synthol” and other SEOs are typically introduced through repeated injections in smaller muscle groups (such as biceps, triceps, deltoids and calves) to cause a permanent or semi-permanent increase in circumference.

Yet, Ismail has categorically denied using SEO. He has reported being “hurt” by such accusations. He claimed that his arms are “all natural”. Independent doctors tested his blood for steroids and examined his arms with x-rays on behalf of a Japanese television show. The doctors found no abnormalities.

If not steroids or SEO, what does Ismail think is responsible for his unusual arm size?

Hardcore workouts at World Gym in Milford and a voracious appetite are the reason for his incredible arms according to Ismail. He reportedly consumes 4-pounds of chicken, 2-pounds of steak or fish, 4 cups of almonds, up to 9-pounds of carbohydrates and 3 liters of protein shakes every day.

Ismail’s explanation has not been considered very credible to many observers.

Sara Wilcox, a spokesperson for Guinness, acknowledged that the company was re-evaluating the “largest arms” category in response to the criticism.

Perhaps, the company will change the criteria for the “largest arms” category. Or perhaps they will split the category into a “largest natural arms” versus “largest augmented arms” category as it has already done for breast size records.


Daily Mail Reporter. (November 28, 2012). What steroids? ‘Popeye’ bodybuilder defends his ‘natural’ 31ins biceps – and insists they are result of protein and water (but no spinach). Retrieved from

Baker, B. (October 2, 2012). Guinness hails Franklin man’s 31-inch biceps. Retrieved from