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‘Bigger, Stronger, Faster*’ Sheds Light on Steroids

27 Sep, 2008 By: Billy Gil

Steroids equal bad — so spins the common thread, linking anabolic steroids to drug abuse, cheating, “’roid rage” and other ills such as testicular shrinkage. A new documentary aims to reveal that a number of common conceptions about steroids are misinformed.

Magnolia Home Entertainment Sept. 30 releases on DVD Bigger, Stronger, Faster* at $26.98. The DVD includes deleted scenes and behind-the-scenes footage.

Director Chris Bell was the runt of three boys, all obsessed with wrestling, Arnold Schwarzenegger and getting as big as possible. Bell, a bodybuilder and filmmaker as well as the only brother not to consistently engage in anabolic steroid use, decided to make a film about anabolic steroid use and the issues surrounding it.

“I think a lot of people thought athletes were achieving greatness on their own,” Bell said. “And they weren’t.”

The film encompasses controversies such as the 2005 Congressional hearings about steroid use, in which such athletes as Mark McGuire were grilled by Congress, and current VP hopeful Sen. Joe Biden’s work to outlaw certain performance-enhancing anabolic steroids. Bell said it was Biden’s declaration that anabolic steroid use was “un-American” that drove his documentary.

“There’s nothing un-American about it,” Bell said. “In my mind steroids aren’t a problem, they’re a side affect of being American. The problem can be defined more globally as a problem with society, this expectation that we need to be the best.”

The producers of the film — the same who financed Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11 — convinced Bell to include his own family story, which serves as the heart of a film that is really about achieving the American ideal of being the best through whatever means necessary. The film poses such specific questions as why it is deemed acceptable for Tiger Woods to get LASIK surgery, giving him better-than-20/20 vision, or why training at high altitudes is fine, but performance enhancements such as steroids and blood doping are illegal.

It also dispels such myths as “’roid rage,” or heightened aggressiveness due to a higher testosterone level while using steroids — studies have proved inconclusive on the matter. Perhaps no argument the film makes is more compelling than that of deaths associated with anabolic steroids (a handful) versus those associated with alcohol and tobacco (hundreds of thousands).

The DVD’s deleted scenes also shed light on Olympic drug testing.

“We kind of define how the whole system is flawed, and we actually interview people who are involved,” Bell said. “I think people are naïve to think people are 100% drug free.”

Through controversial, Bigger, Stronger, Faster* was released to widespread acclaim, appearing at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival and as a Grand Jury Prize nominee for best documentary at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.

“Some people do say it’s almost like a pro-steroid movie,” Bell said. “If people perceive it that way, that’s fine, but I look at it this way: I told the truth. Maybe steroids aren’t the demon people thought they were.

“Maybe it’s just that [after watching the film], you now have changed your mind. That’s the most powerful thing you can do with a film, is change somebody’s mind.”


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