It's no surprise that anabolic steroids have been at the forefront of controversy over the past few years. After all, some say the drugs have ruined professional sports and continue to pose a threat to America's youth. But is it possible that there could be a flip side to the argument? Director Chris Bell dares to ask that very question in his new documentary Bigger, Stronger, Faster.
MF: Bigger, Stronger, Faster doesn't conclude that steroids are evil or dangerous, which is how the media generally portrays the performance-enhancing drugs. What is your personal opinion about them?
Chris Bell: I don't think it's good to rely on drugs for anything, whether it's for performance or the way you look or anything else for that matter. But we do find that testosterone and human growth hormones have health benefits as far as possibly prolonging our lives or giving us a better quality of life in general. But I don't think they should be allowed in sports because we have to adhere to the fact of fair play. But the problem with fair play is that they don't have a test for human-growth hormone—that's what makes the issue so complex. You want to say don't do it. But when there's no test for it, why would anyone not do it?
Pro bodybuilder Gregg Valentino. Photo courtesy Magnolia Pictures.
You interviewed everyone from Gregg Valentino (the guy with the world's largest arms) to top Washington legislators for this film. Who surprised you most?
I was most surprised by Henry Waxman [chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee]. I went to his office to ask him about the congressional hearings that he held on steroid use. He couldn't answer a single question on the topic without asking his assistant. That fascinates me how the people making the laws sometimes don't know what they're talking about—that's tough to swallow.
Do you think guys who use steroids have a skewed self-image?
There's a real body dysmorphic problem in America. Guys want to get ripped and have six-pack abs. I was always a power-lifter but I live in L.A. where everybody is shredded, so it's somewhat of a body image thing for me. I asked myself, 'Should I use steroids to get there?' But it was always a moral issue for me since steroids are illegal.
You've admitted to using steroids but decided it wasn't something you wanted to continue taking. Do you think there's a chance you'll use them again as you get older?
One of the reasons I did this film was to make people aware that we need more research into these drugs. As far as for myself, I would use them if they were medically-prescribed to me by a doctor. If I start sagging and feeling sluggish then absolutely—it would be just like taking Viagra or any other quality-of-life drug. I don't see any problem with that.