In the highly entertaining and thought-provoking film "Bigger, Stronger, Faster," director and narrator Christopher Bell examines the culture of steroids and performance enhancing drugs in sports and entertainment in contemporary America.
It's an in-your-face documentary by the same producers of "Bowling for Columbine" and "Fahrenheit 9/11." The film had been scheduled to open Thursday, July 17, at the Gold Town Nickelodeon theater but was cancelled. Hooligan caught up with Bell to talk about the future of steroids in sports, his steroid-using brothers and the reactions generated by the film.
Hooligan: In the movie you talk about being disappointed with your childhood heroes like Hulk Hogan when you discovered they took steroids. I was wondering how the movie has been received and if you've heard any feedback from people you were critical of, like Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Bell: I haven't heard any feedback from them yet, but I'm sure they're not too happy with it. I think we already got the feedback before we made the film when we asked them, 'Hey, would you like to talk about this?' Nobody wanted to participate. We did ask Hulk Hogan. We did ask Arnold Schwarzenegger. We asked Jose Canseco. We asked Victor Conte from BALCO. We asked a lot of people that turned us down for interviews and just said, 'Hey, I'm done talking about this.'
The one thing that did happen, there's a fitness model in the movie named Christian Boeving and he talks about his use of steroids and his company MuscleTech. Well, they fired him for talking about the truth in the movie. That was interesting, that you aren't even allowed to speak the truth if you did steroids.
Hooligan: Your family plays a central role in the film. How did your parents and your brothers respond to the movie after watching it?
Bell: My brothers wanted to participate in the movie because they were sick and tired of watching TV and hearing all these people complain about, is this guy doing steroids or is that guy doing steroids. Nobody really wanted to tell the truth so they said, 'Hey look, since nobody is going to tell you the truth we're going to be the ones to break the news to you.' ... My parents were a little different because they didn't really know what was going on and then for them to find out about my brothers using steroids, it was quite a bit of a disappointment for my mom, but you know, then again she's like 'What am I gonna do, as long as you guys are still alive.' She said her piece in the movie so I think she still kind of feels the same way. Her basic quote is, 'Hey look, my boys have done something wrong and they can turn it around and make it something positive.' I just think the film will open up so many gateways for kids to communicate with their parents that they don't do a lot.
Hooligan: Another thing I was curious about is the high school football players your brother "Smelly" coaches. Have you heard anything about them?
Bell: I know that some of the kids have seen it and their comments were like, 'Well who cares, he was a great trainer.' I think the kids are smarter than you think. They look at the movie and they say, 'Hey look, I'm not mature enough to really handle that.' A lot of the kids he coached weren't trying to play professional football or anything, so I don't know if it was really a problem in his school. I think a lot of the kids were like, 'Hey, he taught me a lot so I'm not going to fault him for it.' I think that the parents may be the ones that would be fuming mad, I could see, but not the kids. The kids are more accepting.
Hooligan: What do you think the future of performance enhancing drugs will be in sports?
Bell: I think it's only going to get worse. There's going to be more tests and with more tests come new drugs and with new drugs come more undetectable drugs. It's just going to be a cycle. The one thing we explore in the movie is gene therapy, which could be termed 'gene doping.' If you look at gene doping, it's like where is it going to end because you can change someone's genetics and basically tell their body to make more human growth hormone every single day by injecting them with a single virus that you only have to do once. You can't reverse it and you can't detect it, so how are you gonna stop that? So when I say it's only going to get worse, it might not even be performance enhancing drugs, it might be performance enhancing gene altering, you know? That's kind of gonna be the future.
Hooligan: What do you most hope people will take away from watching this movie?
Bell: I hope that people will reexamine the issue in a more logical sense and just stop saying, 'Hey, steroids are bad.' OK great, steroids are bad in what context? Are steroids bad when a teenage kid is buying them from Mexico and using them illegally? Yes, they are very bad. Are steroids bad when someone has multiple sclerosis or AIDS and they are gonna use human growth hormones or steroids to help them fight a muscle wasting disease that doctors might have never prescribed stuff for, because we haven't done the research because we banned these drugs from sports so all of a sudden they're evil everywhere? So I want people to reexamine it. ... These aren't illegal, illicit drugs like cocaine or heroin that have really no health benefits. These are drugs that can actually improve the way someone performs but also improve the way they heal their bodies. So I think we just need to reexamine the issue and open our minds a little bit more.