“Whatever It Takes”: Steroids Cause Penis to Fall Off

Whatever It Takes (1999) – Several years before Congress found it politically expedient to explore steroids in wrestling and bodybuilding, Hollywood decided to treat us to its own perspective on the issue. The result was the 1999 movie called “Whatever It Takes”, starring Don “The Dragon” Wilson and Andrew Dice Clay who played two undercover cops investigating the illegal distribution of anabolic steroids to bodybuilders and wrestlers.

The movie is most commonly recognized in the fitness community as the big screen acting debut of MuscleMag cover girl Vicki Pratt (whose uncredited appearance became noteworthy because of her topless scenes). Also, appearing were several pro bodybuilders including Aaron Baker, Claude Groulx, Curtis Loeffler, Christine Lydon, Ericca Kern and Deidre Pagnanelli as well as pro football player Eric Hill.

Very early in “Whatever It Takes“, we are treated to the producers’ ignorance regarding the pharmacological effects of anabolic steroids, with the portrayal of a steroid overdose. Athletes overdosing on steroids is apparently a common occurence in the cinema, but does not occur in reality. Even anti-steroid experts such as Charles Yesalis are repeatedly on record as stating that no acute dose of steroids can cause a fatal overdose.

Yet such an overdose appears to be the outcome of steroid use in an early sequence of events in this movie. A wrestler injects himself with either growth hormone or steroid (they are discussed interchangeably in the movie); he displays aggressive (steroid-induced) behavior in the ring; shortly thereafter he is seen in bed with two women (steroid-induced hypersexuality); only to be found dead (steroid-induced death). Certainly, the menage a trois could have been the culprit, but when his dealer discovers his body, he wastes no time in clearing the wrestler’s medicine cabinet from all the steroids he consumed, suggesting a connection to the death.

Due to numerous high-profiles deaths due to a “highly addictive growth hormone” that is three times more power than any other steroid, the DEA has made the crackdown of a steroid distribution network for wrestlers and bodybuilders a high priority undercover mission. The new growth hormone and/or steroid drug (the terminology is used interchangeably) is incredibly dangerous – it “jacks up the heart rate like a freight train rolling by until the heart literally shakes itself apart.” We learn from the movie that steroids are clearly nasty drugs that can have deadly consequences.

We are treated to a few more side effects as the movies continues. Bodybuilder Curtis Loeffler makes a brief appearance as the stereotypical bodybuilder whose uncontained aggression is presumably caused by steroids.

And if the side effects of steroids discussed in the movie up to this point do not adequately deliver the anti-steroid message, this movie goes one step beyond suggesting testicular atrophy or even penis shrinkage. The possibility that a steroid user’s penis may actually “fall off” is introduced to the audience.

Contrary to the overall demonization of steroids in the movie, towards the end, Don Wilson’s character admits that steroids aren’t “poison” but still illegal and dangerous nonetheless. Sadly, the movie perpetuates the myth that acute (or short-term) steroid use can cause immediate death. In fact, a causal relationship between even long-term steroid use and death has yet to be firmly established.

Whatever It Takes

About Millard Baker

Millard Baker writes about anabolic steroids and performance enhancing drugs and their use and impact in sport and society. He discusses the medical and non-medical uses of anabolic-androgenic steroids while advocating a harm reduction approach to steroid education.