Speak Up Or Be Silenced! The Need For Responsible & Unbiased Science!

After reading an article titled 'When Steroids & Politics Meet', it became clear to me why it is that our industry and lifestyle have not thus far gained mainstream acceptance and legitimacy: ignorance and bias on behalf of the academics.
As a University educated writer and bodybuilder, I look to science for answers that go beyond anecdote. While anecdotal evidence and even case studies are interesting and sometimes compelling, case studies and anecdote are unable to prove or disprove any hypothesis or theory. Simply put, while they can falsify a theory, they themselves can not be subject to falsification.

The biggest flaw with anecdote and case studies is that they lack external validity and are vulnerable to bias. Nowhere is this more apparent than with the case studies being done by scientists on various performance enhancing drugs. Often, the case studies are done after the conclusions have been reached.

The unfortunate injection of experimenter bias into research occurs because, like any one of us, the scientist is a human being with convictions, prejudices and beliefs. While the scientific method was designed to limit the influence of these contaminating factors, it does not always prove 100% effective. A case in point comes from a recent editorial piece, published by the website of the news media organization NBC.

The editorial piece is titled "When steroids and politics meet", and the author is Dr. Arthur Caplan, a Professor and director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

He is published frequently in the American Journal of Bioethics. Click here to read the story.

Author: Arthur Caplan
E-Mail Him: Click Here.

The story in question can be found here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3131051.

I can not include the full text of Dr. Caplans article without infringing on his copyright entitlements, but, simply, his article is an attack on Arnold Schwarzenegger and bodybuilders everywhere, for various reasons.

When I read the mentioned piece, it became clear to me why it is that our industry and lifestyle have not thus far gained mainstream acceptance and legitimacy: ignorance and bias on behalf of the academics.

Academics in general, and philosophers in particular, function as moral guardians of a culture. They debate ideas, reach conclusions, and these conclusions often filter down to the educational institutions. Typically, these academics hold teaching positions. This "filtering down effect" influences the next generation of thinkers, and the process repeats itself.

Problems arise, however, when academics hold serious biases that influence entire cultures. These biases serve to undermine the scientific method and minimize critical thinking. The article cited, and its author, are an example of this danger.

As a writer and bodybuilder, I realize that my readers and fellow athletes exercise for many reasons. What is indisputable is the end for which they exercise, namely an increase in the quality of their lives.

As an athlete it is my duty to ensure that my training practices adhere to science. As a writer it is my duty, not only to the lifestyle, but also to all of you, to defend the lifestyle when it comes under attack from irresponsible scientists with an ignorant and malicious ax to grind.

My Rebuttal

I, therefore, took it upon myself to respond to the aforementioned editorial (which you can read by following this link), and I include the full text of my rebuttal for your benefit. Read the piece by Dr. Caplan, and then read my response. You will find a number of problems with his reasoning.

My rebuttal is as follows:


I am writing this letter regarding an editorial piece you wrote for msnbc.com on October 6, 2003 titled "When Steroids and Politics mix."

As a writer, I appreciate the passion with which you wrote the piece, and the honesty with which you express your views.

However, I take issue with several points you make in the piece. I will cite them.

    1. "No, it's not the fact that Schwarzenegger made his fortune selling violence on the silver screen that makes him unfit for office."

Do You Think Arnold Is Unfit For Office?
Yes      No

While it can not be denied that Mr. Schwarzenegger is well known for making violent films, your piece failed to mention that he did star in at least one film ("Twins") where there was relatively little violence. I believe "Junior" is another film where there was little violence.

Your blanket statement is a misrepresentation, because even though the mentioned films did poorly in comparison to the "Terminator" trilogy, the level of violence was minimal.

    2. "In my opinion, the baggage weighing down the Hollywood he-man is that for many years he used steroids - drugs that are illegal in the United States today."

Do You Think Steroids Should Be

Yes      No

While your statement is correct (present tense), I believe that you are aware of the fact that steroids were not always illegal. In fact, prior to 1989 steroids had no legal classification. When Mr. Schwarzenegger allegedly used steroids it was prior to the ban on these substances.

Therefore, at that time, he was not committing an illegal act. Your statement can only be seen as irresponsible at best (for failing to check the facts), or malicious at worst (for doing violence to the reader, and to Mr. Schwarzenegger).

    3. "For most of his life, Schwarzenegger has been either a bodybuilder or an actor. In both occupations, his sole talent has arguably been his big muscles. And the only way he came to have the massive form that made him famous was through the use of steroids."

There are two problems with this statement. The first of which being "His sole talent has arguably been his big muscles." The second being "the only way he came to have the massive form… was through the use of steroids."

Mr. Schwarzenegger has a degree in business. He is educated. Without an intellect of sufficient quality, he would have failed to manage his image successfully, regardless of how much, or how little, muscle he possessed. Also of note is his acting ability.

Lou Ferrigno of the "Incredible Hulk" fame, was physically larger than Arnold during the days when the two men were competing against one another. Mr. Ferrigno has obtained roles in several TV series recently, but if muscles alone were the determinative factor for affluence, it stands to reason Mr. Ferrigno would be more affluent than Mr. Schwarzenegger. Given that this is not the case, the logic of your first claim is faulty.

Saturday, October 12, 1974 at the Mr. Olympia when
Arnold beat newcomer Lou Ferrigno.

The second statement also suffers from a similar type of faulty logic. Muscular hypertrophy is an adaptive response that is accomplished through an increase in protein synthesis and hyperplasia. If the body adapts, it must be adapting to stimulus.

Resistance training is the stimulus that leads to this kind of adaptation. If one were to only use steroids, and not exercise, one would fail to obtain the kind of results that Mr. Schwarzenegger obtained. Thus your statement that he only obtained the results through steroids is false. He had to work hard, as well.

    4. "A lot of the folks supporting Schwarzenegger for governor had no doubt that the White House was no place for a philanderer who lied about his sexual behavior. I agree. But these same people ought to check their moral compasses and conclude that the governor's office in Sacramento is no place for a drug user."

This is a strong statement. While it can not be denied that Mr. Schwarzenegger used steroids previously, it is not known if he is still using them. Your statement uses the term "drug user", indicating present tense. As a writer it would be in your interests to be more critical with language as a convention for expressing your thoughts. You can not say for certain whether he is currently using performance enhancing drugs. You only have knowledge on his past activities.

Should You Be Considered A Drug User If You Used The Drug Before It Was Illegal?
Yes      No

I am a professional writer in the health and fitness industry, I do not use steroids, and I have a readership in excess of four million monthly. Given that I am University educated, I respect your right to convey your position on whatever issue you desire, but this story paints an unfair account of this man and the issues it aims to discuss.

As a writer and professional, it is your responsibility to do whatever issue you write about justice. This can be accomplished only when you research the issue, evaluate the facts critically, and give a balanced and accurate account of those facts.

This sensational and inaccurate piece is typical tabloid content, filled with faulty logic, generalizations, and distortions of fact. I also find that your knowledge on these issues lacks the depth necessary to give the issues fair presentation. This piece is unworthy of a person with a PhD. Persons in your position are expected to unbiased, fair and critical. I don't find that scientific objectivity present in this piece.

Please do yourself, your reputation, your institution and your readers a service by putting your biases aside and reporting fairly in the future.

Sincerely yours,
Clayton South

Dr. Caplan's Response,

Dr. Caplan was gracious enough to reply, stating simply that he and I "disagree." This is a fair response, but it does not address the serious concerns raised about his biased editorial piece, nor does it excuse the blatant attack on Mr. Schwarzenegger and bodybuilders everywhere.

Far be it for me to suggest that Dr. Caplan is an oddity in his field, a single individual, bent on grinding a public ax against those who engage in the pursuit of health and wellness. In fact, many ethically bankrupt scientists would echo similar uninformed comments, if given the opportunity and a paycheck.

The simple truth is that established academia views bodybuilders as drug abusers, and the bodybuilding lifestyle as one of drug use and drug abuse. These views trickle down and become part of a widely held public perception. This unfortunate, but widely accepted, view is often reinforced by irresponsible and disproportionate media reporting of bodybuilders on "roid rage."

The key to improving the publics perception of bodybuilding and the lifestyle is to challenge this kind of ignorance and bias wherever it rears its distasteful head. Each one of us, as athletes and proponents of the lifestyle must be proactive in defending the lifestyle we cherish.

What You Can Do - A Call To Action!

Unless we, as a sub-culture of society, respond to the uninformed generalizations thrown out by biased individuals (many of whom are paid by the pharmaceutical companies to use their positions to denounce efficacious supplements), we risk losing the lifestyle we cherish, by default.

Unless we respond, and do so with forceful intelligence and conviction, we risk further marginalization, and we risk losing the rights we have fought so hard to win.

At times, when attacked, exercising restraint and taking no action is called for. This is not one of those times. Stand up for your sport and lifestyle, and let the academics know what YOU think of their assault on the lifestyle and values we all cherish.

Are You Going To Stop Reading MSNBC Because They Put Out False Information?
Yes      No

If you fail raise your voice when it needs to be heard the most, they will raise theirs on your behalf, and like the content of Dr. Caplans piece, you can bet that they won't be saying anything in YOUR interests! Lets put an end to irresponsible and biased junk "science."

I call upon all of you to take action, rally the troops, and give back to the sport. After all, a bodybuilder is only as solid as his or her convictions, and bodybuilding is what you make it. So lets make it good together!

[ E-Mail Dr. Caplan & Tell Him What You Think NOW!
E-Mail Him At: caplan@mail.med.upenn.edu ]


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Copyright © Clayton South, 2004 All rights reserved.

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