Steroid Nation – Shaun Assael (2007)

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Subtitle: Juiced Home Run Totals, Anti-Aging Miracles, and Hercules in Every High School: The Secret History of America’s True Addiction.

After finishing up my last book title, I wanted to read a non-fiction book that was way outside my comfort zone, topic-wise. I tend to play it safe and read deeply into a topic in which I am interested, but this time, I just wanted to touch on something about which I knew little and which would be utterly different from the usual suspects. Thus, Steroid Nation was pulled off the TBR shelves and into my mitts.

I’m a former serious athlete (collegiate swimmer, marathon runner, triathlete etc.) and so although I have always abstained from taking performance-enhancing drugs, I know that others out in the field have done so. However, the pressures that lead otherwise healthy and hard-working athletes to ingest these pills (or have injections) are understandable at times: the amount of money and cultural importance handed to (usually) young driven people can make steroids a hard option to refuse. And once it’s been done once, I imagine that the barriers to doing it again are way lower and continue in that mode.

And so this book, written by an ESPN sportswriter, covers the history of steroid abuse in (mostly) American sport, especially pro basketball, pro football, tennis and cycling. (Oh, and the Olympic track and field as well.) I rarely watch football or any of these sports really, don’t really know a lot of the athletes who are covered here, but you know what? This book was written in such an interesting way that it didn’t matter if you didn’t know who was who because the author did a really good job of selling the topic to me and of making me care about these things. That’s impressive writing.

I’m not sure what made me pick up this title in the first place when I saw it at a FoL book sale – perhaps it was the cover – but whatever it was, the inside was just as good as the outside and I totally enjoyed this read.

I really recommend you taking a few steps outside your comfort reading zone to see what else is out there. I understand the draw of familiarity, but this was such a breath of fresh air for me and I really enjoyed the experience. (No one will believe when I say that I was pretty interested in the Barry Bonds scandal…)

Just a good solid read. Enjoyed it.

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