Muscle, Smoke & Mirrors – Review By Brian D. Johnston
Muscle, Smoke & Mirrors II
Review by Brian D. Johnston
Purely addictive! One does not have to be a physical culture aficionado to both appreciate and be swept away in the torrent of tales and history within the covers of this book; but for those who are, Randy Roach takes no prisoners and you will be glad you picked up this 600+ page tome. Usually it is difficult to write on any subject without being biased to some degree, but Randy has spelled out the good and the bad on every aspect and with every key player, and at the very least has brought to light questionable claims of even the most (seemingly) respected participants in the Iron Game during the 1960s and 1970s.
Within this book certain facets become evident, and for those critical thinkers, certain situations have been confirmed. Most prominent is how diminutive, narrow minded and niche-based competitive bodybuilding truly was and is. The addiction that millions of people around the world have with exercise is one thing, and in part due to competitive bodybuilding having been exposed to the masses (predominantly because of Arnold and the Pumping Iron creators), but the politics, scandals and dirty play of the IFBB is so ripe and a bit rotten to the core… so extensive and expansive… that stuff like this could not be made up and it is surprising that both competitive bodybuilding and the IFBB achieved what they did. In fact, night time soaps, like Dallas, are child’s play compared to the history and politics of competitive bodybuilding – so much so that it would be fascinating to have soap writers use Mr. Roach’s book to develop the most incredible series script in TV history. And because of how things were operated it can be seen how mainstream bodybuilding reached its peak and slowly is diminishing into potential oblivion… unless, of course, new key players emerge and rectify current public perception of these roided up athletes.
And just when you think all is said and done, Mr. Roach delves into one of fitness history’s most prolific writers and contributors, Arthur Jones. It’s not just what Arthur has contributed, which is immense to say the least, but Randy’s attention to detail, even with court manuscripts, make it obvious just how corrupt and contaminated big business is, even with fitness and those attempting to make change for the better. It also discloses Mr. Roach’s tenacity for research and fitting so many of the scattered pieces into a mesmerizing story.
As eye-opening is Randy’s approach to bodybuilding’s use and abuse of anabolic steroids and its influence on nutrition supplements. As drugs are downplayed, and often ignored up to a point, the situation provided ample leverage for the supplement industry to make outlandish claims as to why champions are who they are and why so many young men consumed enough nutrition daily to feed a small family. This may seem old-school to serious bodybuilding enthusiasts in today’s day and age, and what we have come to know about steroid abuse and sport supplement hyperbole, but Mr. Roach leads us by the hand and through the 1970s to disclose just how all this came about.
This book, as well as its Volume I predecessor, surely will have people thinking differently about what has happened and will continue to happen behind the scenes, which concurrently can be viewed as enlightening and somewhat disheartening. Moreover, and I do not doubt this, once Mr. Roach finalizes his book set it will remain on shelves as one of the most important contributions and references in fitness… and one day may be seen as an equal to Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in telling human-kind just what went wrong and why.