Why Would Musicians Use Steroids?

Why Would Musicians Use Steroids?

And here's another hit: Barry Bonds

Over the weekend, Albany's Times-Union newspaper reported on a steroid-trafficking investigation that implicated a few famous musicians. Mary J. Blige, 50 Cent, Timbaland, and Wyclef Jean, along with the unbelievably obnoxious slapstick institution Tyler Perry, have all supposedly received shipments of illegal steroids. Thus far, this is basically nothing more than a PR nightmare for everyone involved. The Times-Union article noted that nobody has any evidence that any of the celebrities involved broke any actual laws (it's not illegal just to own these drugs, somehow), so nobody's facing any prison time. And anyway, these reports are apparently based on unnamed witnesses, so this stuff might not hold up in court even it was illegal to receive these drugs, and Blige's reps have already kicked out a denial. Still, the report begs the question: Why would any famous musician take steroids?

Steroids are probably the one form of illegal drug that's had basically no apparent effect on popular music in the past fifty years or so. They're not known to reduce stress or stimulate creativity. Professional athletes take steroids so they can stay competitive at ridiculously difficult and demanding physical tasks. Pro wrestlers might not be competing in the most obvious sense, but they're still expected to look ridiculously jacked and to smash their bodies to pieces regularly; the drug seems to be the main reason that wrestlers rarely live to retirement age. As nasty and morally suspect as the drug might be, it at least makes sense on some level that real or fake athletes would do whatever they could to keep themselves diesel. But musicians? People like Blige and 50 might be under the same sort of all-consuming pressure and scrutiny as pro athletes, but the physical demands of their profession are totally, totally different. The whole thing is mystifying, but I can't say it's surprising.

Or at least it's not surprising in the case of 50 Cent, whose marketability over the past five years has had a whole lot to do with his constant shirtlessness. More than the other three musicians named, 50 would probably have the easiest time justifying whatever steroids he might've taken; nine bullets or no, he would've had a hell of a time coming off like an indestructible rap superhero if he was built like Joell Ortiz. Timbaland's unbelievably quick metamorphosis from his Fade to Black weight to his current somewhat disturbing mass makes a whole lot more sense now, as well. When Tim got into professional bodybuilding a few years back, most writers took it as further proof that he was a really, really weird guy, but maybe he's taking that hobby way too seriously. Wyclef, meanwhile, does a whole lot of backflips and cartwheels and stuff onstage. I guess steroids might help with that. Or maybe he just wanted really badly to impress Shakira.

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One of the main surprises on the list is someone who isn't on it: Busta Rhymes, who's bulked himself up alarmingly over the past few years and whose rash of arrests last year screamed roid rage; from the looks of things, he should be careful about picking his mail up for the foreseeable future. But the most confusing thing name on the list is definitely Mary J. Blige. When I think about it, she has been looking pretty ripped lately, but there's no reason for her to be using this stuff. The only thing I can figure is that maybe she's taking that stuff to keep her voice in shape. That seems far-fetched, but every singer I've ever met has been super-paranoid about blowing her voice out, and anyway I'd rather believe that she's stressing about her craft than that she really wants giant triceps or whatever.

Anyway, as Idolator pointed out, the funniest thing about the story is the use of fake names. 50's shipment was supposedly mailed under the name Michael Jordan, which, I mean, come on. Blige, meanwhile, allegedly received at least one shipment under the name Marlo Stanfield, the cold-blooded drug kingpin from The Wire. In a vaguely related story that's probably not interesting at all to anyone who doesn't work in the Village Voice offices, Jamie Hector, the actor who plays Marlo, was spotted walking past the Voice offices this afternoon. Voice senior editor and rabid Wire fan Ward Harkavy is right now walking around this office showing off a cell-phone picture of himself and Marlo, making it completely impossible for me to think of a decent ending to this post.

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