John Cena & Christopher Bell, part two: Superstar to Superstar
In part two of John Cena's Superstar to Superstar interview with Christopher Bell, the Superstar and the writer and director of Bigger, Stronger, Faster*, delve deeper into the controversial topic of performance-enhancing drugs and anabolic steroids in sports. The film was recently released on DVD and is available at Amazon.com and Netflix.com. (Read part one)
Cena: Now, pretty much all of professional sports, WWE included, they're all trying to clean up their act -- and I appreciate the kudos to WWE for its Wellness Policy, rather than its punishment policy -- but on all fronts, I think everyone is trying to crack down on performance-enhancing drug use. You know, as well as I do, that although this stuff is illegal, people certainly have to pay for it. They're not handing it out for free. And it is a very thriving piece of business in America. Certainly, I would even go so far as to say it's a billion dollar industry. As the testers work to perfect ways to find drugs, obviously the laboratories and the scientists are coming up with new drugs. Now it's gone a step beyond anabolic steroids and performance-enhancing drugs where gene therapy has now been introduced, which is virtually untraceable. You kind of alter your DNA, and it's in the very early stages, but it's certainly possible.
Cena: I think everyone can try as hard as they can to protect the integrity and the honesty of pure sport, but as this technology comes around, and stuff like altering your DNA and gene therapy become popular, where do you think the future of performance-enhancing drugs is going? Is it going to be looked at as negatively as time goes on?
Bell: We're starting to see older men use testosterone patches and creams. It's been around forever for females. As soon as they go through menopause, they start using all of these hormones in order to replace what God gave them. In my mind, this anti-aging industry is somehow going to kind of turn into something where it becomes something that's more acceptable in a way, but in a different way. I never think you're going to see jamming needles into yourself as good, no matter what. It's just the form that steroids are delivered through a needle. And that's starting to go away. They now make growth hormones that you inject basically with air. There's actually no needle. There are these things that are coming out, such as the gels and the patches.
I think it'll continue to go on. I think people are always going to outsmart the testers.
But the problem is this: You guys are in a sport where you get bumped around every day. One of things that's really interesting about anabolic steroids that no one really takes a look at is sympathizing with the athletes. For example, you're out of commission right now with a hurt neck. If you went to an anti-aging doctor and he said, "You know what? The quickest way to heal this neck is growth hormone and testosterone." Now, you can't do that, as an athlete. The first thing a doctor said to me after I had hip replacement surgery was that I needed to get on a little bit of testosterone to help heal my bones. My bones healed quicker than I've ever seen on anybody because I went to the right doctor and I did that, but I wasn't competing in a sport. You have athletes with on-the-job injuries that you're not allowed to treat with certain drugs that other people are allowed to get that treatment. I think in the future you're going to see baseball players, football players, whoever, get therapeutic exemptions for use in certain instances.
As far as people outsmarting the testers and genetic therapy, that's really a fine line because there's really no way to test for that. What they do is they take a virus -- and a virus is not always a bad thing -- and they take that virus and inject you with it. That virus is going to tell your body to produce more growth hormone every single day, which are hormones that increase muscle size, strength, definition, whatever. You're basically going to be on human growth hormone every day without ever taking it or using it. It's a one-time deal.
Cena: I know WWE openly admitted that our product is entertainment, not pure sport. A film like Beyond the Mat really had a lot of success and kind of hammered that point home, not only that what we do is for the entertainment of our fans, but it gave a lot of the ins and outs of the industry.
I know for a fact, in my experiences as a person, that America as a whole is extremely ignorant on the topic of performance-enhancing drugs, almost to a parallel with WWE, where I can go into an interview and all they want me to do is bodyslam them because they know nothing about what our business is. Do you think your documentary will help to at least educate the common person on performance-enhancing drugs?
Bell: Yeah, I think that Bigger, Stronger, Faster* basically breaks it down and it looks at it. We have a scene in the movie called "Steroids 101." I was going to put it right in the beginning of the movie and I thought, well let's start the debate first, let's start talking about it. Then right at the point where people are confused, let's nail them with an educational song where I'm actually going to break it down and teach you what these drugs actually do.
I've shown this film to a lot of people in the film industry. We went to the Sundance Film Festival, we were at the Tribeca Film Festival. I have women and men in their 50s coming up to me and going, "Oh my gosh, that was so educational, I learned so much." And that really feels good as a filmmaker because we put three years of research behind this and I think it has opened eyes and educated people with the facts on it.
We also showed it to a group of 500 high school kids in Toronto. A lot of those kids came up to me afterward and said, "Thank you so much for telling the truth. Every time we see a movie about drugs, they just hammer home the point ‘Don't do this, it's bad for you, it's going to kill you.' They never really give us the facts. Thank you so much for presenting a fair argument." All these kids were saying the same thing, over and over. I think that's interesting.
I actually was contacted to do a steroid-awareness series of television commercials. Actually, when I went in and showed the film, the whole project got put on hold. This was a huge deal, and it got put on hold because after they saw the film, they said, "Well we can't just tell kids steroids are going to kill them and they're bad for them because we don't really have any facts on that." I said, "You have to figure out another way to say it because you can't just lie. You can't just make things up when they don't exist." I don't think kids should use any drugs. I think kids should always be cautious.
We need more research, we need more studies, we need more proof and that's what I really want this film to do, is get people to see it in a different light so we can get the research so we know what it does to all these different demographics. We just don't have that evidence right now.
Cena: What I find awesome about this film is that you can walk in not knowing anything about sports, not knowing anything about performance-enhancing drugs, and after you've seen the last frame, after the credits start to roll, you can have a very intelligent debate on performance-enhancing drugs as a whole. It covers so much. It really is an eye-opening film.
Is there any final piece of information you want the consumer or the WWE Universe to know?
Bell: We went to Sundance and then we sold the film, it came out theatrically, and now it's available on DVD. The one thing that was most important for me was first of all, you came to the first night's showing, which was really important to me. You've been a friend of mine for a long time and it really meant a lot for you to walk out and just say, "Bro, that was awesome," and shake my hand. That really means a lot.
It took me a long time to get the courage to do this, but I sent the film to Vince McMahon. I said he was either going to love it or hate it. I got a phone call from him. It was the greatest thing that could happen to me. He was one of my heroes. He was one of the guys who wasn't in my normal realm of heroes, like Arnold and the Hulkster and Sylvester Stallone. Vince was a guy I respected because he was the brains behind the whole operation. To me, he's just a genius. For him to pick up the phone and say, "Chris, you did an amazing job," was mind-blowing to me.
You can't really get any better endorsements than that. That's what I think the WWE Universe should know about the movie. If you guys all like it, they'll definitely love it.
Cena: If I could add one last thing to the WWE Universe: This is a piece of work where if you know nothing about anything Chris Bell is trying to convey, the movie is done so well, you really have intelligent arguments on both sides of the coin. It's a debate. Obviously we've been talking about that this is not going to be over anytime soon. So it really gets you up to date on what's going on with that industry and just gives a whole lot of information on a topic that has been red-hot, and from my point of view, has only been presented in one way.
Chris, this has been awesome. Honestly, I don't have enough time to ask all the questions I want, but I think we got at least the basics.
Bell: Thank you so much. And good luck with your next movie!
Cena: Thanks, man. I think the next thing to do is for the WWE Universe to go out and buy Bigger, Stronger, Faster* and watch it to form their own honest opinions.
Bell: Great. Thanks, John.
Cena: Take it easy, man.