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Jonathan Andrew Wolter

Movie Review: Bigger Stronger Faster. I ask how far to go for better performance?

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Reading time: 5 – 8 minutes

Watching a movie that entertains is fun, one that teaches benefits you tomorrow, and ones that make you think in a new way are the best of all. I have a friend who says periodically it’s time to go to a conference, “in order to introduce randomness into the system.” Shake things up. Movies in “Cerebral” category in Netflix are a new way I found to do this. My hope is for comments and further recommendations of thought-worthy movies.

Bigger Stronger Faster is a documentary. bigger stronger fasterTechnically it’s about steroids in American culture, but it also raises the clear lack of consistency we treat other performance enhancers. The director Christopher Bell examines his brothers as they use steroids.

What is an ethical and responsible limit to how far you are willing to go for success? Is it okay to wake up in the morning and say you are destined for greatness – that somehow you were born to give something to the world? (And how far will you then go?) Is it okay to just become a normal, average, person?

  • When Tiger Woods had laser eye correction to 20/15 vision, was that an unethical performance enhancement?
  • How about professional musicians taking beta blockers to eliminate anxiety before performances and auditions?
  • Athletes’ are dependent on cortisone shots (a legal steroid), yet should those be held equal to anabolic steroids?
  • Red blood cell count can be increased by doping, taking EPO (details), high altitude training, or sleeping in an altitude chamber. Two options are illegal, two are legal. Should the end result (higher than natural RBC’s) be the determiner of ethics, rather than the mechanism used to reach it?
  • The US Air Force gives fighter pilots speed (amphetamine) to perform better, is that a rational decision?
  • He interviews a member of the Olympic Doping Committee and is told that routinely US Athletes are flagged for failing drug tests, but still allowed to compete.
  • Attending a Chiropractor Anti-aging specialist Chris is able to say he suspects a hormone deficiency which leads to tests and results where no “healthy” range has been set enables him to get an Human Growth Hormone prescription – legally.
  • Students are interviewed in how easy it is to get Adderoll (just tell your doctor you have trouble focusing, or have it passed around from friends). Are these and other “study drugs” (long but really interesting article) worth it? (Or, should everyone be taking them?)

I’m not ready to jump on the film’s open skepticism of “are steroids actually a health risk?” I don’t think they are naturally necessary and a cautious approach to my health comes intuitively. They cross my line of fair competition. Throughout sports and recreational fitness I was never tempted to try them. But maybe that was just because I wasn’t/didn’t want to become good enough to compete at the highest level?

But how far will we go for performance outside of sports? If you could close 70% more sales by taking “Synthesized Aquatic Maltose” (which I just invented), would you take it? Health Supplements in the US are not regulated to be proven healthy, the FDA has the job of proving them unhealthy.

Under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA), the dietary supplement manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that a dietary supplement is safe before it is marketed. FDA is responsible for taking action against any unsafe dietary supplement product after it reaches the market. Generally, manufacturers do not need to register their products with FDA nor get FDA approval before producing or selling dietary supplements.FDA on DSHEA

Therefore I could start selling this new supplement and require no doctors or nutritionists to even look at what my customers would start to ingest. Chris actually does this. Entertainingly, he picks up a few illegal day laborers, and invents a product and fills pills with his “proprietary blend” of powders. He does “before/after” pictures the same day at a photo shoot and can start selling this $40/bottle tonic. (Of course, manufacturing cost are under $5/bottle for him).

There is more, such as how Utah’s third largest economy ($2.5-$4 billion/year) is the health supplement industry (Nice article here about Utah’s supplement industry). Legislation from Utah’s Senator Orrin Hatch made for the passing of DSHEA, and continues to enable those too squeamish for “real steroids” to get something that promises the same benefits.

He goes on to show a breed of cow: Belgium Blue. Through 100 years of natural selection, these cows are deficient in Myostatin, a growth factor that limits muscle growth. Video below gives a peek. Researchers are looking to mimic that for fighting Muscular Distrophy in humans. See more freakish links about this gene mutation in humans, cows, or other animals. Note: Clip below from National Geographic, not from the movie.

Chris goes to say that Americans are all about Bigger Stronger Faster, and it’s un-American to be #2. We even have romanticized the concept, calling things bigger than expected as “Xyz, on steroids.” We must win, and we must win better than we previously won.

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Written by Jonathan

August 30th, 2009 at 4:25 am

Posted in Movie/Book Reviews

One Response to 'Movie Review: Bigger Stronger Faster. I ask how far to go for better performance?'

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  1. Wow, that is eye opening indeed. Can’t believe there’s such a lack of regulation on the dietary supplement market. You would think that’s what FDA is for. Guess it’s one of those catch me if you can, but before you do, I’m going to make a ton of money type of situation?

    Looks like from the dietary supplement producer point of view, it’s a win-win situation. It is always easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, especially after you have earned enough money from the product to hire a good lawyer to ask for forgiveness…

    30 Aug 09 at 9:47 am

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