Mormons appear in the most interesting places…. #2: Steroid Nation

Though my reading matter currently focuses on my dissertation, occasionally I read something not at all related, just to keep myself sane and my mind from becoming too specialized (although it’s interesting how often this “extracurricular” reading works its way into my dissertation).

Though I am not much of a sports guy, I do exercise regularly (specifically, I do CrossFit) – so, when I saw this book, I thought it looked interesting enough to read. Steroid Nation: Juiced Home Run Totals, Anti-aging Miracles, and a Hercules in Every High School: The Secret History of America’s True Drug Addiction by Shaun Assael is an interesting, well written book that deals with the use and abuse of steroids and other drugs in America. Full of lots of interesting anecdotes, salacious scandals, and depressing stories, overall I enjoyed it.

Except for the part about Mormons. Because, according to this author, Mormonism is partly to blame for steroid abuse in America.

The weakest parts of the book are when he strays from steroids, HGH, and other illegal compounds to talk about dietary supplements, making it seems as though he conflates creatine and ginseng (dietary supplements) with dinabol and anadrol (types of anabolic steroids). He assumes, rather than argues, that the use of dietary supplements is really only a difference of degree, not kind, with the abuse of steroids – and thus Mormons are partly to blame.

Why? Chapter Eight is titled “Mormon Money,” and it mostly deals with the DSHEA (Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act) and Senator Hatch’s role in it. I sorta kinda half-agree with the author’s take that this was a rather bad piece of legislation that causes more problems than it solves, and that Senator Hatch has close & troubling ties to the supplement industry. If the book had only gone that far, I would have been fine. But instead, he blames it on Mormonism.

Here’s an excerpt from the “Mormon Money” chapter (key parts highlighted):

As to the question of who to approach on Capitol Hill, it really wasn’t a question at all. Orrin Hatch, the 58-year-old senator from Utah, was a loyal friend to the industry. He also worked out regularly and belonged to the Church of Latter-day Saints, many of whom believed that Mormon Scriptures encouraged the use of herbs as “God’s Medicine.”

Now, it’s very brief (oddly, despite the use of “Mormon” in several places in the book, including a chapter title, the term is not in the index) and really not all that damning, but it reveals a lot about the author’s mindset towards Mormonism. Despite the use of quote marks, he has no citation for the phrase “God’s Medicine” – and while I know plenty of Mormons who do think “natural” herbs are “God’s medicine,” I know plenty of Christians, New Agers, Wiccans, and others who also believe that herbs are special and blessed. There’s no real reason to somehow claim that Hatch’s Mormonism somehow uniquely makes it his fault the DSHEA passed and thus allowed for loopholes that steroid users and abusers exploit.

This is a rather minor point in the overall book, though. After today, I doubt I’ll give it much thought, except in posing comments to this post. I did find it interesting enough that I thought at least some of y’all out there might be interested as well.

This entry was posted in Any, General, In real life, Sports by Ivan W.. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ivan W.

Ivan Wolfe teaches rhetoric at Arizona State University. He has a PhD in English from the University of Texas - Austin, and a BA and MA in English (with minors in Classical Greek, Music, and Philosophy) from BYU. He has several credits on various Christmas albums aimed at the LDS market, several essays in Open Court's Popular Culture and Philosophy series, and various book reviews in academic and popular venues. He also competes in Scottish Highland Games and mud run/obstacle course races, and he can deadlit over double his bodyweight (his last PR was just shy of 500 pounds). He is currently married to Lisa Renee Wolfe. He has five kids and four stepkids.

13 thoughts on “Mormons appear in the most interesting places…. #2: Steroid Nation

  1. I’m against the war on drugs. We should have declared defeat and moved on from that nonsense a long time ago. One either believes in liberty or not. I’m even against having to go to physicians for certain drugs. I’m sick of people not getting adequate pain meds and having to buy street drugs because physicians won’t prescribe for fear of investigation, etc, etc. And blaming the DSHEA when FDA chooses not to test and regulate supplements as they are authorized to do in the act is just ignorant. We have all kinds of laws that bureaucracies/law enforcement refuse to enforce. Why pick on the DSHEA?

    When will we learn that if people want something, they’ll get it regardless of the law? All the law does is drive the price up and keep the mob in business. The USA just gets more and more communist long after past communists abandoned that crap.

  2. Ivan, the author does have a point though. Utah is a hotbed of herbal MLM’s. Isn’t the founder of Herbalife LDS?

    And though members of other religions are into herbs-n-stuff too, I’d say there is a higher concentration of it in the LDS church.

    The NuSkin MLM is also based in Utah.

    Most all products sold through MLMs are overpriced. If you want to see more realistic prices, look up the products on ebay, and see what the sames products are selling for there.

  3. Bookslinger –

    1. I agree there are a lot of supplement companies in Utah, beyond even the MLM junk. I don’t agree, however, that there are a higher concentration of herb worshippers among Mormons.

    But I don’t know of any real statistical surveys along those lines, so you may be right. Anyone else have real data, beyond just the gut feelings and anecdotal evidence Bookslinger and I have?

    2. Hatch is now 74, but the whole thing that eventually created the DSHEA started nearly 20 years ago – the DSHEA was signed by Clinton in 1994. So, I’m not sure what your point there is.

  4. I think Hatch is a scumbag and the MLM and herb companies (two of which I have family working for) are trashy, but I fail to see a Mormon connection. A money connection maybe, and Mormons seem to get involved in MLM in a big way, but it’s a stretch to say it has anything to do with Mormons.

  5. One might fairly attribute an increased interest in health food and dietary supplements among Mormons to the Word of Wisdom. But I don’t see how this is a scandal to anyone short of an anti-vitamin lunatic.

    Utah is conveniently located for certain types of light manufacturing and distribution operations. Health food and dietary supplements are popular all over the western states, and Utah happens to be in the middle. The presence of several supplement manufacturer/distributors here may be mostly a coincidence of economics.

    I have lived in Utah most of my life, and I have never seen any indication that dietary supplements are any more popular here than – say – in California. They are expensive, few people need them, and rarely do much of good. However, they are also largely harmless.

    Equating creatine with anabolic steroids is ridiculous. If you are a vegetarian, you probably need more of it. Look it up.

    MLMs do seem to have increased presence in Utah and Idaho. On the other hand, they are also the perpetual habitation of the underemployed, and both states have their fair share of those, especially in rural areas. Hard to say it has anything to do with Mormonism.

    The DSHEA was a direct result of the Clinton Administration FDA making heavy handed moves (e.g. no-knock raids on vitamin stores) to regulate all dietary supplements like prescription drugs. Should Senator Hatch rather ignore the vital concerns of manufacturers in his own state?

  6. Bookslinger

    You say the author has a point. I call BS on this too. He has no point.

    The author of this article has made a pathetic smear. He should be scorned and reviled.

  7. aloysiusmiller –

    That seems quite harsh on your part. I don’t see any BS. This is hardly a pathetic smear – to me, the quote just indicates the author buys into certain stereotypes about Mormons and hasn’t bothered to do any real research.

    I would hardly call for him to be scorned and reviled, especially as it’s hardly a significant part of the overall book.

    I don’t think this is something to get too worked up over. I found it interesting, if a little sad. That’s about all.

  8. Most of the Utah supplement companies just repackage wholesale supplement supplies as well. It’s been a while but I seem to recall that the main wholesaler is located in the Bay area where they have convenient access to the ports.

    The other danger with man supplements is quality control aka are you really getting the dose listed on the label.

  9. I’ve learned to be very wary of consumable products of Chinese origin. Remember the contaminated dog food.

    And I recently had to throw out a container of peanut oil that came from mainland China, even though the package said it was well within the expiration date. It was rancid or contaminated, and had both a funky smell and taste.

    Aloysius: I didn’t mean to imply that the author was 100% correct, but that he had (at least) “a” (one) point.

    Also, let’s remember to not revile against the revilers.

    I’m not familiar with DSHEA, just remember hearing about it years ago, now that I’ve been reminded.

    On the one hand, I tend to be a libertarian, but on the other, I do want a degree of protection against those who would harm me with their products.

    If importers are bringing in untested and unverified (as to ingredients/contaminants) consumable products into this country, then there does need to be some kind of accountability. We could then legitimately debate, which is better, before-the-fact testing and approval, or after-the-fact punishment of those who sell/promote harmful products?

  10. If importers are bringing in untested and unverified (as to ingredients/contaminants) consumable products into this country, then there does need to be some kind of accountability. We could then legitimately debate, which is better, before-the-fact testing and approval, or after-the-fact punishment of those who sell/promote harmful products?

    This is a big deal. The problem here is a lack of before hand accountability, and stupid, over-the-top responses by the FDA.

    For example, in 1989, a contaminated batch of L-Tryptophan (which is an amino acid used as a sleep aid) made it into the USA (from a Japanese manufacturer, not Chinese). Instead of censoring that particular manufacturer, the FDA banned all L-Tryptophan supplements, period. The ban was only lifted a few years ago. The FDA overreacted then – but they still refuse to admit they made a mistake.

    At the same time, I think the FDA was too slow in dealing with Ephedra and GHB, so who knows?

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