Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Bigger, Stronger, Faster*



Bigger, Strong, Faster* - * The Side Effects of Being American - is a documentary by Chris Bell. It is about anabolic steroids by someone who tried them briefly, and whose childhood heroes (Arnold, Stallone, Hulk Hogan) and older and younger brothers all took steroids.

The film takes a simple path - Chris Bell starts to ask questions about steroids and sees where it leads. He talks to male and female bodybuilders, powerlifters (he and his brother both compete) like Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell, wrestlers, his Congressman, coaches, doctors, and athletes. He finds Floyd Landis, stripped of his Tour de France title and talks to him, talks to both Carl Lewis (eventual Seoul Olympics gold medal sprinter) and Ben Johnson (stripped of that same medal), and more. He tries to talk to Arnold and ends up in a campaign photo op. He really runs down the subject of using drugs to improve performance.

It includes an informative cartoon - Steroids 101 - that explains the effects and side effects of taking anabolic steroids. It's pretty much 101 - it doesn't get into dosages, stacking, oral vs. injected (except to mention oral can give you liver problems), and so on. But that's okay. If you've got little or no idea what steroids do, this is a good start. It also helps establish a basis for discussion - he doesn't go off on steroids without telling you what they are.

The documentary takes a few short side-trips, such as making his own sports supplements or getting anti-aging doctors to proscribe him steroids. Bu those never go afield of the main issue - steroids and competition. And asks an interesting questions:

If everyone in all sorts of fields are using drugs to enhance performance, why is it so bad in sports?

It's a good question. The default answer - it's cheating, it breaks the level playing field - is a start, but not the whole answer. If everyone is taking the drugs, and the fans are enjoying the spectacle...is it still cheating? Or has it become the default rules of the playing field?

Rating:
Substance: 5 of 5. This film leaves few stones unturned, and does a good job of turning them over. It's level, steady, and even-keeled on the subject.
Presentation: 5 of 5. It's funny, well-shot, carefully edited, easy to watch, and clear. It's as well put-together as Super Size Me, only the people are super-sized.

Overall: The documentary is funny, fun, and informative. It's a good look at America's attitude towards competition and drug enhancement, and a better look at three brothers and their families, and how drugs affect them. Watch this film.

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