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Monday, July 26, 2010

Before and after

(above left and right, before and after pictures of Sammy Sosa; immediately above, Bruce Jenner triumphing in Olympic decathlon, 1976; right, a more recent picture of Jenner)

Steve Sailer's blog ( recently featured before and after pictures of Sammy Sosa in a post about skin color and status in foreign countries. And whatever dermal treatment Sosa has used has bleached his skin quite a bit. Sailer attributes Sosa's "creepy" appearance to the newly heightened contrast between his skin color and lip color.

But Sosa's features also seem to have become feminized. He now has a vaguely drag queenish look: his cheeks are fuller and softer. This is what happens when you stop taking steroids. If your body receives an exogenous supply of testosterone for a while, it stops generating the hormone on its own. (This is why the testicles shrink.) Eventually, when you go off them, your body will be receiving no testosterone from either source, and as a result you'll develop feminine secondary sexual characteristics. (This is why ex-steroid users sometimes start to grow breasts.)

There is a difference between the two sets of before and after photos with Sosa. In the set at top left, the before shot shows Sosa at the peak of his home run swatting powers; he has a hard, gristly look. In the set on the right, the lefthand shot shows him after he's off the steroids, but before the bleaching treatment: although his skin is still dark, he has already acquired a softer look.

(It makes one wonder if having a lower level of testosterone predisposes one to having one's skin lightened; the only other guy I know of who had a similar treatment was Michael Jackson.)

Bruce Jenner went through a similar metamorphosis. Jenner was the Olympic decathlon champion who later went on to become a sort of show biz hanger on; he is probably now most famous as the stepfather to the Kardashian clan. His striking change in appearance since 1976 is generally attributed to plastic surgery. But he was widely rumored to have been one of the first Americans to use steroids, and as such, was not familiar with the fact that you're supposed to cycle them, i.e., use them for brief periods and take breaks in between doses, otherwise you permanently kill your own body's ability to produce testosterone.

As a result Jenner's cheeks have had very feminine contours since the 1980's, and now he actually looks more like the Kardashians' stepmother. (Note to Bruce: that pouffy hairdo, which must be intended to evoke 1976, does nothing but emphasize your feminine appearance.)

There's a neat yin and yang symmetry to what has happened to these men. Try to make yourself super-masculine at some point and eventually you'll pay the price by becoming more feminine.

It's sort of like that story "Flowers for Algernon," but about masculinity rather than intelligence.

In any case, both men are now cautionary tales.


Paul said...

Presumably Arnold Schwarznegger has stopped taking steroids but he doesn't look soft or feminine. Why is that? Plastic surgery or is there another explanation?

John Craig said...

Paul -- That's a good question. Presumably he knew enough to cycle, i.e, not take them without a break. Then again, he did take them back in the 1970's, around the same time Jenner was. But Schwarzenegger was surrounded by body builders who presumaby passed on whatever lore had built up by that point about steroid usage, whereas Jenner was pretty much on his own. Sosa, even though he took them in the modern era, probably made the same mistake and didn't cycle.

ben tillman said...

Very interesting.

Steve Sailer said...

Thanks. Good points.

I imagine that Arnold found himself the right steroids doctor, just like he found himself the right director in James Cameron, or how he dumped Brigitte Nielsen on Stallone and married a Kennedy instead.

Anonymous said...

Jenner doesn't come across as a very strong male in the Kardashian household, either! Watching him take a beating from those women always makes me wonder how he ever had enough testosterone to compete. You would think his emasculation at the hands of his family would be humiliating. But he just seems to go with the flow. Julie

John Craig said...

Ben Tillman -- Thank you.

Steve Sailer - What an honor to have you visit, hope you'll visit again.

And yes, Arnold as been a very shrewd manipulator of his own career and love life. His inner con man has been at least partially visible ever since "Pumping Iron," when he conned Lou Ferrigno into doing more reps than was good for him.

Julie -- Jenner is one of those pathetic star athletes who spends the rest of his life making a half-assed career out of his past glory. Having said that, I'm not sure even he deserves to have landed in that pushy, pretentious, rasping family.

Steve Sailer said...

Thanks. Good points.

I would presume that Arnold made sure he got the right dope doctor, like he made sure he got the right writer-director in Hollywood: James Cameron.

John Craig said...

Grasping, not rasping.

bucky said...

Crazy about Jenner. In triathlon people have talked about Jenner doping back in the day. How it was impossible to be ranked 40th in the world and then win gold a year later. Now he want to be a woman. Funny how that works.

John Craig said...

Bucky --
Jenner was ranked 40th in the world in 1975?! Wow, I hadn't known that. But that meteoric improvement makes sense given what he did to win.

This is poetic justice of a sort.

Bone Daddy Dawg said...

Bruce Jenner was ranked #1 in the world by Track & Field News in his event in 1974, 1975, and 1976.

John Craig said...

Bone Daddy Dawg --
Did you look that up or are you a long time track and field fan?

Doctor Phillip Shinnick said...

People who take a lot of steriods have to continue as they get older or things get out of balance

John Craig said...

Doctor Shinnick --
Things sure seemed to get out of whack with Jenner. Although I also read an account recently that said he identified with females from a very early age, 5 or so. So now I'm not sure what to think.

Jay Raskin said...

I think you have hit it. His performance in those years was way above the competition. Steroid use is the best explanation.