Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jay Cutler, Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior, Barry Bonds and Marion Jones. What do these superstar athletes all have in common? The use of steroids to reach the top. To most this will not come as any surprise and with endless doping scandals having rocked most sports at one time or another, the 2008 documentary feature Bigger Stronger Faster explores the world of steroids from both sides of the fence.
Starting in the 1980s with big screen and TV icons such as Arnie and Hulk Hogan being the pinnacle of human achievement in the American psyche, the unachievable is shown to be achievable if you are just prepared to bend the rules a little bit. With top athletes achieving ever better results, competition to be the next big thing had never been fiercer and to succeed steroids were pretty much the only option. In a world where morals and desires collided, morals often came up short in the pursuit of greatness and the drive to be the best.
The director and on screen presenter / narrator is Chris Bell, one of three brothers all of whom take body building very seriously. Their successes are as varied as their attitudes to life and as an in-built micro study of the effect of steroids on individuals and familiesBellneeds to look no further than his own back yard. As the cleanest of the three brothers, he does not have the competitive successes to speak of that his brothers have enjoyed but his outlook is quite different to theirs. Whilst they will do literally anything to succeed regardless of the physical toll, he draws the line much earlier.
Outside of the family situation, Bell speaks to politicians, parents of children who have killed themselves after steroid use and some extreme individuals such as Greg Valentino who famously had the largest biceps in the world having abused steroids for many years. He also seeks out Carl Lewis and the former head of the USA drug testing program around the time of the 1988 Seoul Olympics where Ben Johnson famously won the 100m final before being stripped of the title due to steroid usage. Suffice to say that the story we all remember and was reported is nothing close to the whole truth.
Without glamourising steroid use, Bell presents both sides of the coin quite well managing to stay roughly in the middle of the argument. If anything he leans slightly towards advocating their use but with his brothers using, and his interest in sports which you almost cannot seemingly succeed in without them, you can forgive him this.
Overall there is ultimately very little new in Bigger Stronger Faster. It rather feels like a retread of old ground most of the time although the Carl Lewis interview and exposÃ© is certainly an eye brow raiser if nothing else. Overall this is a solid documentary which delivers what it sets out to achieve and is worth a viewing, especially if you are interested in sports such as body-building, wrestling or athletics.