Steroids are bad. Or are they?
It’s the question at the heart of “Bigger, Stronger, Faster,” a fantastic new documentary which explores steroid use in American sports and steroids as a part of American culture.
Is it cheating if everyone else is doing it? It’s complicated moral, ethical, and cultural questions like this that director Christopher Bell grapples with.
The documentary follows Bell and his two brothers, who wrestled each other growing up, lifted weights, and idolized supposed all-natural heroes such as Hulk Hogan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Sylvester Stallone.
“Dream, say your prayers, eat your vitamins, be true to yourself, true to your country, be a real American,” Hogan implores his Hulkamaniacs in archival footage. While kids around the world such as Bell and his brothers lived by those words, Hogan wasn’t just supplementing his diet with vitamins, Hogan was on the juice.
This revelation was heartbreaking for the Bell boys. Steroids were for losers they thought. “If my heroes didn’t need steroids, then neither did I,” says Bell in the film. But by the end of the film, he isn’t so sure.
Bell argues that Americans define heroes as the ones that win at all costs, regardless of if their performance was achieved because of steroids, although he personally doesn’t support that attitude.
And no documentary about steroids would be complete without talking about disgraced Canadian sprinter, Ben Johnson. After Johnson was stripped of his gold medal in the 100m sprint at the 1988 Olympic Games, the gold was given to American Carl Lewis. What you might not know is that Lewis tested positive for three banned stimulants and shouldn’t have run in Seoul, but it was covered up by American authorities.
The film is loaded with other shockers. According to mortality statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, tobacco use accounts for about 435,000 deaths in America every year, alcohol – 75,000, and anabolic steroids account for three, hardly the number one would imagine.
But are steroids really bad for your health? Bell speaks with many experts both for and against the use of steroids to find out the truth and clear up misconceptions. What he finds out will probably surprise you and go against what you hear in traditional media.
Dr. Barry Gamberg practiced sports medicine for 23 years and is now retired and living in Halifax. He viewed the documentary on behalf of optimyz. He says “It describes most of the medical issues related to the use of anabolic steroids and attempts to do so in a balanced and objective way.”
Gamberg adds, “Steroid use is driven by the overwhelming imperative to win at all costs and this documentary does a wonderful job in dealing with the ethical and moral issues that arise from this attitude which has prevailed in the U.S and other countries for some time.”
Geared towards the sports fanatic, the gym nut, and the average Jane, the film is easy to understand and follow and is well worth watching. Much like Bell’s beliefs about steroids, yours may change after watching this film.