Last week, 24-year-old Mostafa Adel Ismail's biceps were named the biggest in the world by Guinness World Records. Since then, a flood of criticism has followed, with skeptics blasting the Boston-area resident, saying they believe he used steroids.
Now, officials at Guinness World Records say they have hired a specialist and "are considering looking at this record category in different ways." Not only that, but today a former friend of Ismail's and a fellow bodybuilder told Metro he distanced himself from Ismail because he "doesn't agree with or condone his method of obtaining" the record-breaking biceps.
The controversy started after Metro reported Ismail's record on Thursday, when the Guinness
World Records 2013 edition was released naming Ismail's 25-inch upper
arms as the biggest in the world.
When asked to respond to critics yesterday, Ismail told Metro that he used to take steroids while living in Egypt before he moved to the U.S. in 2009, saying they are legal there and easily obtained in drug stores.
"I’m not shy about saying I used before," Ismail said in a phone conversation Monday. "In Egypt, it's legal. I was living there. But now, from the time I came to the U.S. like four years ago, I've spent all of my money at GNC. That’s why I kept the shape that I reached by using some stuff, and I improved it."
Metro started getting feedback from readers almost immediately after publishing its story Thursday, with one man who called himself Steven Ricot writing in an email, "I can't believe that a few cycles of steroids is all it takes to get into the Guinness Book of World Records and if cheating is a criteria then they have lost whatever credibility they have ever had."
Ricot also called Ismail a "fraud" and that he should be "ashamed that he is lying to people" about how he got his massive muscles.
Another Metro reader commented under the name "Paperemu:" "As an avid fitness buff, I can tell you this man HAS ARTIFICIAL HELP. While I'm sure he works out a ton and drinks plenty of protein shakes, he's lying when he says that's all it is."
When Metro asked Guinness World Records last night whether it tests for
enhancement drugs, a spokesman responded with a statement that said:
"Based on the feedback we have received from members of the public we
are considering looking at this record category in different ways and to
this extent we have commissioned specialist research on the subject."
Today, Metro heard from a former friend of Ismail's, 31-year-old Foxboro resident Justin Sulham.
"I had to make the decision to professionally and personally walk away from (Ismail) altogether because I don't necessarily agree with or condone his method of obtaining the record breaking biceps," said Sulham, founder of 50 Feet Closer to a Cure, a non-profit organization that raises money for charity through feats of strength, like airplane and truck pulls.
Sulham said he connected with Ismail at the gym, and decided to make a documentary on the bodybuilder. Starting in October 2012, Sulham and a partner started following Ismail with a camera, grabbing footage of him working out, eating and driving - doing his daily routine.
However, Sulham said after four months of filming, he and his film partner decided to put the movie "on hiatus" after they realized "what he was doing behind closed doors."
Sulham did not want to go on record with specifics.
"I can say he is passionate. He definitely has his heart in it. But the more we learned about his psyche, the more we realized he had personal things going on that he has to address before he can go breaking world records," Sulham said.
"If you're going to do something, it should be legitimate. If he can obtain a record, and go down in history, and it is all fabricated, then it takes away the credibility of Guinness (World Records)," he said. "If he wasn't lying to people -- if he was truthful -- then that is one thing. Because if at the end of the day Guinness knows, and lets him keep the record, then that's fair. But he's hiding it."
Some critics have accused Ismail of using a a site enhancement oil called synthol, which dramatically increases the appearance of muscle.
Ismail said that not only has he has never used synthol, but he is not familiar with it.
"I just heard what they're saying about that substance. I asked a gym friend - another body builder - and he was laughing. I wanted to understand what that substance is about," he said, adding that "I came here to build a better life. I'm not stupid."
When asked why critics would throw so much shade, Ismail said, "Jealousy. One-hundred percent."
"Maybe they’re not doing the right thing," Ismail said, referring to people who try to build muscle. "People just talk crap randomly without knowing… I am just trying to ignore those comments."