We take a look at the documentary Bigger, Faster, Stronger - a film that will have you thinking deeply about steroids and their place in sports.

It seems that everyone has an opinion about the use of performance enhancing drugs in sports. But how well thought out are those opinions? Are steroids just a fact of life? Should they be banned at all? Are they really as harmful as people believe? Is it morally wrong to use them? How many of today’s top athletes use them?

Chris Bell shares an intimate portrait of his family as he struggles to answer these questions for himself. He and his brothers have all used steroids.  Feelings of guilt forced Chris to stop, but both of his brothers continue to use the drugs in the movie. Chris wonders why they all have such different feelings towards the morality of using performance enhancing drugs having shared the same upbringing.

Growing up in a typical television watching American family, Chris and his brothers idolized larger than life characters like Hulk Hogan, Rocky, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. They bought into the public persona  of these celebrities and took to heart Hogan’s famous line, “Train, say your prayers, eat your vitamins, be true to yourself, true to your country, be a real American!” But one by one they discovered their heroes turned out to be living by a double standard and it shook their belief in what was right and what was true.

Reality also intruded. The oldest brother won a scholarship to a Division I football program, only to find out that without steroids there was no way he could compete with the other players, many of who were also using. The youngest brother was competitive in power lifting but found that without the performance enhancing drugs there was no way to win at the highest levels.

Chris moved to Venice Beach to be near the epicenter of wrestling and body building in his quest for fame. A telling moment in the film is when he interviews an old timer at the gym who was around when Arnold trained there. The old timer even had a role in the movie “Over the Top”. But now he lives in a van in the gym parking lot, even while he still chases the dream of stardom. You can see in Chris’s face that he wonders if this is how he is going to end up.

The film does an amazing job of separating the hype and the myth of steroids from the reality. There is no agenda here, the movie is not pro or against but presents a lot of information that forces the viewer to confront his own ideas on the subject. It also tackles the idea of celebrity, heroes, marketing, the supplement industry, and the government’s role in regulating.

The movie itself is expertly produced with great interviews, good pacing, and a really sincere approach that makes you genuinely care about people involved. There are interviews with dozens of experts, celebrities, doctors, and congressmen, and the film does a good job of covering just about every possible viewpoint on the subject. Chris is a respectful and thoughtful young man, giving each of his interview subjects a chance to speak and share their opinions. He doesn’t shy away from tough questions though, and there are some uncomfortable moments in some of the interviews as a result of very direct and difficult questions he asks.

If you are involved with competitive athletics in any way, you are involved with this subject whether you know it or not. I think this movie is an absolute must see, and it will have you questioning your current views on the topic no matter where you come down in the debate.