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Monday, April 6, 2009

Movie Review: Bigger, Stronger, Faster

Steroids, as we use the term, are a class of synthetic drugs designed to mimic various hormones found floating around our bodies naturally. Anabolic steroids (the type of steroid we're most interested in here) mimic testosterone and help increase muscle mass and shorten recovery time. For a bodybuilder, strength enthusiast or performance junkie, the effects of taking steroids makes their use highly desirable.

Steroids are also illegal and perhaps immoral.

Christopher Bell's documentary, Bigger, Stronger, Faster, opens with him speaking of his childhood heroes—Hulk Kogan, Rambo, Conan the Barbarian—and then tells of his shock and disappointment to discover that they all achieved their physiques through the use of steroids.

Heroes, Chris says, would never use drugs; only evil villains would cheat like that.

But if everyone is using steroids to gain a competitive edge, is it really cheating? And, more importantly, why are steroids considered cheating when hypobaric chambers, creatine and other supplements considered okay to use?

The film takes a very balanced approach at tackling those questions and I commend Chris Bell for not allowing his personal beliefs to get in the way of the investigation, letting the film glide seamlessly from each pro and con to the next.

The film makes it clear that "performance enhancement" is sought by everyone in every profession. Did you know (for example) that some musicians take β-blockers to stay calm during a performance? Or that many students self-medicate with Adderall to keep up with their school work?

Why are steroids different than Adderall or β-blockers? All three offer the user the upper hand, so why is one more immoral than another? The viewer is left at the end of the film just as ambiguous about steroid use as Chris is, with the only real conclusion being that American culture has created a society where being the best—being #1—is what's most important. And to be the best, we must sacrifice the moral high road.

My knowledge and experience leads me to believe that anabolic steroids are a reliable method of increasing muscle mass and over-all athletic performance. That said, I am also not ready to risk the social and physical side effects of taking those powerful drugs. Like any other sensitive topic, I invite you to draw your own opinion.

Thank you, Chris Bell, for this concise look into the physical, moral and cultural impact steroid use has had on our country. If you are looking for a better understanding of the true effects steroid use has on friends, family and success, I highly recommend you watch this movie.

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