Shaun Assael, in Steroid Nation, does a great job of weaving the threads of the steroid story from its less than humble beginnings as part of the Venice Beach bodybuilding underground to the Tour de France scandal, use by NFL stars and Major League Baseball players and Olympic champions. Assael tells the story of how the Dan Duchaine, the original steroid guru, opened up Pandora’s Box when he published the Underground Steroid Handbook for Men and Women in 1982, and set in motion events that were responsible for – among other things - the BALCO Labs performance-enhancing drug scandal, the drug-related deaths of professional wrestlers and the creation of the multi-billion dollar dietary supplement industry.
Steroid Nation is a crazy story of mad geniuses, smugglers, drug dealers, underground gurus, self-taught chemists, deviants, narcissists, human guinea pigs, cheaters and liars. For people who have had their head in the sand with regard the steroids in sports scandal, Steroid Nation will grab them by the scruff of their collective necks and shake them into awareness. The uninitiated will be amazed that a sociopath like Dan Duchaine could have had an influence on everything from the explosion of the use of steroids and human growth hormone to the creation of the drugs that were at the heart of the BALCO Labs scandal.
The amazing thing about how performance-enhancing drugs have affected the world of recreational activities and sport, is that there is a coherent string running through the story that connects the pioneers of the movement 30 years ago – Duchaine and his contemporaries; people that nobody has really ever heard of – to some of the biggest names in sports and entertainment of the past 10 years. A business that was as underground and as seedy as any seedy underground business could ever be, affected and then turned into something public, high-tech and lucrative.