Interestingly, since writing an entry on performance-enhancing drugs a few days ago, I’ve come across several articles on steroid use in several magazines that I subscribe to. (Must be a sign. Don’t worry, though: Starbucks remains my only performance-enhancer. It’s expensive enough as it is.)
The current issue of Sports Illustrated features a special report on steroid use in the U.S., and not necessarily just in the athletic arena. In “The Real Dope: It’s Not Just Sports,” Jack McCallum notes (as Lisa Takeuchi Cullen does in her Time article) that “the culture of personal physical enhancement has pushed the use of steroids and HGH everywhere” (p. 28). One quote was particularly disturbing to me–largely because I think there’s some truth to it:
[Performance-enhancing drug] use is entirely American, that search for an edge, that effort to be all you can be, that willingness to push the envelope (p. 36)
In the latest issue of Esquire, Craig Davidson chronicles his firsthand experiences taking steroids–just to see what it’s like. Call it investigative journalism or just plain desperation for a good story, but his account is equal parts disturbing and engrossing. (Kinda like watching Morgan Spurlock gorge himself on McDonald’s fare in Supersize Me.) In any case, it provides an entry into a world that even I admit I’ve been curious about ever since seeing those ads for building muscle in the back of my dad’s old comic books.
So all of this has got me thinking some more about the whole notion of performance enhancement and the cultural pressure in American society for perfection as the minimum standard of performance. After all, I believe, as I think many people do, that being the best is and should be the only standard of performance. I think my fellow overachievers will relate.
But as a nation, I can’t help but wonder if we’ve pushed ourselves too far. It might be the ultraliberal hippie in me, but I also wonder at what expense we’re striving to be the biggest and best. We’re obsessed with everything big and bulky: We like our vehicles gargantuan, we like our fast food supersized, and we want our homes by the thousands of square feet. Especially as performance-enhancing drugs become more and more mainstream in the news (and regardless of where you stand on it legally or morally), I can’t help but think that we’re teaching our kids that it’s okay to do whatever it takes to get the edge, as long as winning is the end product.