Bigger, Stronger, Faster. The American Pipe Dream

I had the luxury of watching a documentary by Mike Bell (brother of powerlifter Mark Bell) last night, titled “Bigger, Stronger, Faster*” which documents the use, hypocrisy, and exaggeration of the American media on the use and harmful effects of steroids.

Definitely check out the movie, you can stream it on Netflix.

I am in no way an advocate for steroids and I would rather they not be around in professional sport or weightlifting events, but this documentary really tells the other side of they story. Examples are given that show that many athletes gain a very clear edge in their sport by doing things deemed “acceptable” by government and the public, and the the results of these methods can sometimes seem a little fishy when scrutinized. For example, tennis players can get cortisol shots during their competitions, which of course is a form of steroid; Tiger Woods can get 15/20 vision with lasik eye surgery, in a game where vision and depth perception means everything, and professional cyclists can sleep in altitude chambers and work out in Boulder, Colorado, both of which raise red blood cells. If you were to raise your red blood cells by blood doping (withdrawing your own blood, then injecting yourself with it a month later), this is deemed illegal–yet it accomplishes the same thing.

Another interesting thing to think about is how sports fan always complain about the use of steroids in sports, how the sport is “sacred” and all of that hoo-ey, yet they go to sporting events expecting giant hulking lineman to explosively crash into each other, runningbacks to run farther and faster than ever before, and baseball players, who used to be skinny little guys now look like bodybuilders, to launch baseballs into orbit and smash the home run record every year. Here is an interesting article that shows baseball players before and after steroid use, you can see the difference. In the before pictures you can clearly see that they are already adults and done with their developmental phase, yet after taking steroids they got jacked, smashed records, and people loved them for it.

When Americans want more of everything that is bigger, stronger and faster, you can’t really blame them for doing it. Being strong on football can mean the difference between a big contract and not getting picked. Don’t talk to me about the purity of the game, people will do whatever it takes to get an edge over an opponent. American athletes regularly test positive for sports enhancing drugs at the Olympics, but it is either covered up because America is the biggest contributor, or the substance is portrayed as some kind of helpful herbal supplements the athlete was taking and did not know it would cause them to fail the test. Look at Carl Lewis, he is American runner who got second place in the Olympics, yet was awarded first place a day later after the first place runner tested positive for steroids. The first place runner was from Canada, Lewis was American. Lewis also tested positive for anabolic steroids 3 times that year and failed multiple drugs tests, yet it was covered up at the time.

The documentary pointed out that the media constantly portrays steroids as a massive killer of athletes, bodybuilders and powerlifters, however there is little to no evidence to support these claims. In fact, steroids are not even on the top 25 list for hospital and emergency room visits. It ranks lower than cocaine, and even marijuana, yet is presented as an epidemic.

Of course it is ranked lower than tobacco and alcohol related deaths, but the government makes so much money off of these two items that they will never be banned. I think this comes from America’s early days, where most of the citizens of early America either smoked tobacco or drank alcohol, drugs did not come around on a massive scale until decades later, so we still hold this puritanical viewpoint towards all drugs. So how it is that selling tobacco and alcohol deemed acceptable, even though they are some of the leading causes of death in America? Not to mention prescription medications that are handed out like candy? Things like anti-depressants which can cause suicidal thoughts, and other pills that have not been thoroughly tested, but people trust them anyway. This is just the beginning of the bias that comes from banning substances.

I do have to say that I was a little disappointed to see both Louie Simmons and Mark Bell in the film saying they both take testosterone, but Louie made a good point that “your morals are yours, not mine. Who am I to judge you? And who are you to judge me?”

Again, I am not an advocate for steroids, but I highly recommend this film for anyone that is interested in seeing the other side of the steroid argument–an argument that is clearly one sided. Everyone just wants to achieve that myth of the American dream. Think about the hypocrisy of the argument before you judge–Aren’t you doing whatever it takes?

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