Steroids in Sports: An MTV Case Study

So with the Final Four, one of my favorite title events in sports, on the horizon, and with my alma mater in the running for the title, now seemed like a perfect time to ignore my favorite real sport and talk about my favorite fake one: MTV’s The Challenge.

MTV The Challenge Season 25


One of my biggest pet peeves in the world of sports is guys getting on their high horse about steroids in sports. Professional sports are entertainment. They’re created as a way to shovel commercials down our throats. As such I really hate when geriatric sports reporters hike Mount Pious and chastise steroid users as blasphemers. Slow down boys. You’re not Moses. You don’t even have the requisite facial hair. This problem becomes increasingly vexatious for me when you take into account the fact that far more athletes than the common narrative attests are actually using steroids. Setting aside baseball for a second steroid use is rampant in the NFL and the NBA’s testing policies are a joke. In the NFL particularly however we have athletes playing this brutal, barbaric sport and we want them to be as physical and imposing as possible. It seems only fitting to me then that they should turn to performance enhancing drugs and elevate the product to the highest available form. I say this without regard to the players health, which would definitely NOT be helped by steroid use. I just wish we could be more open about the entire discussion. I wish we could have 2 camps of athletes, open steroid users and clean players. Then fans and teams could vote with their dollars. If we all really hate steroid using athletes so much and appreciate a purer athlete, then perhaps GMs will pay steroid users less, thus limiting the financial incentive to do so. What we need to stop doing however, is criminalizing steroid use because it is going to happen, and honestly its only because thats what sports demand… superhuman athletes, and by definition it takes a little extra push to exceed human boundaries this way.


Me – “He Shawne, you ever use any PEDs?” Shawne – “No WAY man!!! NEVER! What about you Superbowl champions Richard Sherman, and Kam Chancellor? Ever been caught with PEDs?” (Dirk Hansen )


Sherman – “No way! I’m 100% clean!” (Robert Beck – Sports Illustrated)

"No sir. How about you 2 time NBA All Star and 2013 NBA Champion Rashard Lewis? Any Steroid Use in the NBA? (Seth Wenig, AP)

Kam – “No sir. How about you 2 time NBA All Star and 2013 NBA Champion Rashard Lewis? Any Steroid Use in the NBA?
(Seth Wenig, AP)


Rashard – “Noooooooo sir none of that over here.” (Photo Issac Balzidon)

HOWEVER there IS one sports venue (pro wrestling aside) where steroid use is not only allowed but encouraged!! and that is MTV’s The Challenge. The new season, Free Agents, is premiering one week from today so I thought I’d throw out a few juicy story lines to what should be an amazing season.

The player I’m probably the most excited to see is Zach Nichols. This Thor lookalike behemoth is going to wreck some kids this season. He has a score to settle from last season, and was honestly the favorite to win it all before the producers made a bogus DQ story to get him and his roid fueled insanity off the show before he killed someone. Fast forward to 37:32 and watch to the end if you can stomach the commercials, but let me just assure you… Zach is insane, full of steroids, and wants to kill AT LEAST half the cast on this season. This will be a beautiful bloodbath. This is his most recent, but by no means only roid fueled freakout. He also had an interesting incident where his sister had a baby, he was upset he couldn’t be there, so he starts running around the house angrily yelling “YOU WANT A SHOW?!!? I’LL GIVE YOU A SHOW!!!” putting every cast and crew member’s life in danger in one of the most comical roid rages I’ve ever seen.


The real king of steroid fits, however, is obviously Chris “CT” Tamburello. CT really did try to commit homicide on national TV. He’s the MVP of every. single. season. And last season on Rivals II he finally broke through and won his first ever title in his 9 appearances. He’s playing with house money at this point, and I just hope he and his new lumberjack beard break someone’s bones. Also, I’m just gonna leave this here as a testament to his dominance.


Other than those two heavyweights the guys cast if fairly stacked this year. Even the little guy Cohutta knocked off Wes in one of the biggest elimination upsets ever back in The Ruins. Isaac is making a long awaited return after getting knocked off in his premier season and essentially admitting that he wouldn’t return until he’d starting hitting the steroids. Leroy, Jordan, and Brandon Nelson are always solid competitors, and this is all without mentioning one of the founding core of The Challenge – Johnny Bananas. This has the potential to be a great season.

As far as the women we have an incredibly solid cast with Brazilian sensation Camila Nakagawa (always good for a meltdown or two and a solid competitor as well) perennial disappointment Cara Maria (almost always the strongest girl in the competition but less reliable in the clutch than Rick Pitino on a late night Porcini’s run) and the much awaited return of Laurel, a 6 foot amazon who is quite possibly the meanest person to ever star on this show. She is a physical and psychological powerhouse, and at least one person (cough cough Jemmye) will be leaving this Challenge in tears and permanently scarred.

Either way the Challenge is always good for a wild ride. I know its not REAALLY a sport no matter how much people like me and ESPN writer Bill Simmons want it to be, but hey… there are still athletic events and at least half of these people can be considered athletes in some sense of the word. Moreover, its nice to see a sport without any of the BS family friendly schtick and lies for a second and see it embrace itself for what it really is – debauchery, poorly planned, and fun as hell. All sports, as much as I love them, are kindof a farce anyway. We attach meaning to these things which have no intrinsic value. The only real value they have is the stock we put into them. And for me, having a ridiculous reality show which is ostensibly a sport but is filled with more sex and violence (TV’s two biggest sellers), product placement (at Baseketball or American Idol levels) and in-scene merchandise hawking, and unfiltered uninhibited physicality and action, sometimes feels a lot more sincere than the mainstream, ‘real’ sports.


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