As a counter-example, here is a rare picture of what Swiss tennis player Roger Federer looked like while changing shirts on the way to winning the French Open in 2009, the 14th of his record 17 tennis major championships from 2003 through his victory at Wimbledon this year. He's the top seed in the U.S. Open, and if he wins will tie Jack Nicklaus for the most grand slam championships in the two big country club sports, no doubt much to the dismay of his friend Tiger Woods, who is stuck on 14.
Yet, it turns out that Federer is built more like, say, Sean Connery in 1962 than Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1984 or Carmelita Jeter in 2012.
Federer may well be the greatest tennis player who ever lived, but there are relatively few pictures of him online changing shirts, much less posed beefcake pictures of him like the many we see of more ripped athletes without half his success.
In theory, if you are on the juice, you should want to stay covered up -- the way the rational and suspicious Barry Bonds switched to bulky, long-sleeved uniforms after he started doping in 1999. In practice, however, there seems to be a strong correlation between how much you look like you are doping and how much you want rip your shirt off at center court and strike Mr. Universe poses. It must be the juice doing the thinking for you. And, why not? Nobody much seems to notice. Maybe Skip Bayless will point out on ESPN that there's something a little off about you, but Bayless will just get flooded with online comments calling him a jerk.
I don't know if that's because there doesn't seem to be much demand for pictures of an athlete who merely looks extremely fit by the standards of 1975, but who doesn't look like the living anatomy charts we've come to know so well since. Moreover, pictures of a shirtless Federer on the web often come with comments suggesting that people these days find it kind of creepy that he doesn't shave his chest hair.
Anyway, this is not to say that Federer must be innocent of any and all doping. Endurance drugs like epo, for example, don't change body shape, so looking at pictures wouldn't help.
My point, though, is that Federer's body raises doubt about the usual explanation you hear when you point out that some sports hero looks like a bodybuilder: "That's because he/she works so hard. If the other players were as dedicated to winning as he/she is, they'd look like him/her too."
But, Roger Federer seems to be awfully dedicated to winning grand slam titles. He's won three more than any other tennis player in history. He's won three more than his friend and rival Tiger Woods. He's playing in what would seem like the toughest era in tennis history, against all that talent from countries that used to be stuck behind the Iron Curtain.
Federer has earned $73 million in winnings, and, at age 31, is back to World #1, and is the favorite entering the U.S. Open. Last year, he was the fifth highest compensated athlete in the world, behind two boxers, Tiger, and LeBron, and ahead of Kobe. In other words, he is extremely good at prioritizing among the trade-offs involved in winning at tennis.
For example, would shaving his chest help him win? He's not a swimmer, so why bother? Sure, the magazine photographers who specialize in shooting the massive, oiled up abs of athletes would insist that he shave his chest. But, he's not going to let somebody oil up his abs, which aren't massive, for a beefcake pictures that he's not going to agree to star in. How is any of that not a distraction from his goal of finishing his career with more major championships in tennis than Tiger will ever win in golf?
Would lifting huge amounts of weights to add mass and definition help Federer win even more? All else being equal, perhaps. But what would he have to give up to to do that? Giant muscles come with an opportunity cost? It's not just the time it takes to lift a lot of weights, it's the recovery times when your muscles are rebuilding and aren't at their best. For example, Barry Bonds won three MVP awards in baseball in 1990-1993 and continue to be one of the very best players in baseball through the McGwire-Sosa season of 1998. But, he wasn't juicing yet, so he couldn't lift weights more than 15 minutes per day during the season without it degrading his day to day game performance. And, despite hitting 46 homers in 1993, he wasn't ripped-looking.
Starting slowly on the juice in 1999, and accelerating in 2000 through 2001 when he broke McGwire's record with 73 homers, Bonds found that drugs helped him recover faster so he could lift more. He set records that are just silly, but clearly re-established that he had been the best player in baseball all through the mid-1990s.
Anyway, the point is that great athletes like Federer and the 1990s Bonds, playing all-around, complicated games like tennis and baseball and playing frequently over long seasons, don't find it in their interests to do the weight room work it takes to look all massive and ripped. (Okay, there may well be other sports where the demands are less broad and less time consuming, such as sprinting, so that it makes sense to peak for the Olympics with a ferocious weight room regimen).
But, lots of other athletes in sports like tennis and baseball do seem to find it in their interest to spend a huge amount of time in the weight room. Is it really because they want to win more than Roger Federer wants to win? Or is it because, for some reason that we aren't privy to, they can lift more weights more often because their muscles recover faster that those of the greatest tennis player of all time?