PUBLISHED: 4:52 PM on Wednesday, July 30, 2008
A documentary on steroids (literally)
Editor's note: "Bigger, Stronger, Faster" is no longer slated to play at Goldtown Nickelodeon Theatres. It will be released to DVD on Sept. 30.

If someone called "Bigger, Stronger, Faster" a "documentary on steroids," that would be a complement, right? But wait - aren't steroids supposed to be bad?

Welcome to Christopher Bell's world. Bell's new documentary, "Bigger, Stronger, Faster (the Side Effects of Being American)," investigates the controversy surrounding the use of anabolic steroids.

Christopher Bell and his three brothers all tried steroids, but only Christopher stopped. The driving force behind his film is his attempt to understand why his two brothers had no qualms about taking steroids while he did.

Bell shows the end of his power-lifting career, when his younger brother, on steroids, out-benches him by over a hundred pounds.

Bell interviews professional and amateur athletes; he talks to Olympic trainers, scientists and congressmen; he looks at the history of steroid use in America; and he always returns to his brothers, their wives and his parents.

In footage from the 2005 congressional hearings on steroid use among athletes, Sen. Joseph Biden of California is shown saying, "This is about values, it's about our culture, it's about who we define ourselves to be."

Biden was speaking against steroid use by athletes, but his statement could just as easily be an explanation of why so many Americans use steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. Thus the film's subtitle: "The Side Effects of Being American."

Bell includes a segment on other performance-enhancing drugs, including the "study aids" used by students and anti-anxiety pills used by musicians. Are these people cheaters, too? he asks.

It doesn't look like the issues Bell explores are going to be resolved any time soon. The basic questions are still being debated: Are steroids dangerous? Are steroids fair?

"Bigger, Stronger, Faster" doesn't definitively answer these questions, but it does help make sense of the controversy.