Bioethics Blogs

Doping in Hollywood

For his role in the new movie Southpaw, Jake Gyllenhaal gained 45 lbs (20 kgs) of muscle in six months. Many praised Gyllenhall for his dedication in undergoing this remarkable physical transformation. Few have questioned whether this achievement was aided by the use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). Some in the bodybuilding community claim that such massive weight gain would be nearly impossible without the use of steroids. For experienced bodybuilders, it is considered an accomplishment to gain 7-10 pounds of muscle in a year “naturally”. Training in combination with taking human growth hormone (HGH) can add 4.6 pounds of lean muscle mass, in three weeks.

Hollywood provides the perfect catalyst for PEDs. Actors sometimes have to gain huge amounts of muscle in short periods of time. Many male leads have abnormally large muscles, giving increased opportunities for actors with such physiques.  Although many PEDs are illegal, there is no drug testing for actors. With large financial resources, many actors are able to acquire a broad range of drugs to help them bulk up. According to one estimate, up to 20% of elite male actors use PEDs, such as growth hormone and testosterone. In 2007 Sylvester Stallone was caught entering Australia with vials of HGH and testosterone.

Yet – the use of PEDs by actors is largely ignored. This is in stark contrast to their use by athletes, which has become a public fascination.  Millions are spent each year trying to catch athletes who use PEDs. Chris Froome’s recent win at the Tour de France was plagued by doping allegations, despite Froome continually passing tests for banned PEDs.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.