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.