On Jan. 17, 1929, an American cartoonist named E.C. Segar created a comic strip character named Popeye, a good-hearted sailor who had cartoonishly large muscles and spinach-fueled super-strength. While fans immediately liked Popeye, his creator probably never expected anyone to ever want to look like Popeye.
But now, nearly 90 years later, a Russian ex-soldier named Kirill Tereschin is injecting his muscles with oil to gain Popeye-esque muscles, and it’s literally killing him.
The 21-year-old has been repeatedly injecting himself with a chemical called synthol — a substance commonly marketed as “site enhancement oil” — in an attempt to make his biceps and triceps look unnaturally large. As a result, he now has bulging 24-inch biceps and triceps that look red, inflamed and left him feeling ill.
The backstory of the Popeye bodybuilder
After leaving the army, Tereschin wanted to start bodybuilding and break some world records. In addition to working out, he began injecting synthol into his arms, sometimes liters at a time.
“In order to reach such a (record-breaking) size, you need to inject liters into your arms,” Tereschin said. “I was doing it and getting a fever of up to 40 degrees, I was lying in bed, feeling like I was dying, but then it all turned out fine.”
Synthol is a substance made up of oil, lidocaine (a numbing agent) and alcohol. Body builders sometimes inject it into their muscles to enhance the size and appearance of their muscles before bodybuilding competitions. But repeated use can cause nerve damage, scarring, cysts, ulcers, blockages, infections or potentially deadly blood clots.
The Popeye bodybuilder and some trans women share a common interest
While Tereschin’s quest for his ideal body may sound silly, trans women living in inner cities sometimes inject industrial-grade silicone and other dangerous substances into their bodies to help alter their appearance. The practice is called “pumping” and several women have gotten deadly infections or other serious medical ailments from it.
If Tereschin doesn’t cool it and just stick to regular exercise and spinach, like Popeye, he may soon find himself bereft of a body altogether.