In 1988, sprinter Ben Johnson exploded out of the blocks and powered his way to the finish line in the 100-meter dash at the Seoul Olympic Games, easily defeating a somewhat embarrassed Carl Lewis, who was heavily favored to win the race. It was a stunning television moment, a study in contrast between the well-muscled, modestly-spoken Canadian and the brash and lean American. Within 24 hours, it was all over. Johnson tested positive for steroid use and Lewis was awarded the gold medal.
At the time, it seemed outrageous that someone would cheat at such a high level of competitive sports. Of course, that was very naive thinking, but it was my personal "aha!" moment, the first time that steroids entered my vocabulary. As Christopher Bell explains in his entertaining, surprising documentary Bigger, Stronger, Faster*, his "aha!" moment arrived when he learned that wrestling icons Hulk Hogan and Iron Sheik used steroids. Growing up in the 1980s, Bell idolized Hogan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Sylvester Stallone, manly men who were well-oiled muscle machines, their physiques achieved through entirely natural means, hard work and exercise rather than drugs.