The self-proclaimed social media ‘Liver King’, who rose to prominence claiming a diet of raw animal organs helped him achieve his muscular physique naturally, has been denounced as a heavy steroid user.
Brian Johnson, 45, has gained millions of followers who have watched him eat raw animal liver, bull testicles, cow lungs and other organs.
Johnson promised to help fans unlock their “highest, most dominant form” by sticking to an “ancient primitive” carnivorous diet.
Appearing on numerous podcasts, videos and interviews, he has always strongly maintained that he got his herculean physique naturally, without using any type of steroids.
“The question has always been, ‘Do you take steroids? [performance enhancing drugs]?’ The answer is no. I’ve always told the truth, I always tell the truth,” he said on a podcast in October.
About two months later, the Liver King sits shirtless on a throne-like chair in a dimly lit space, apologizing to his followers.
In the YouTube video which has been viewed over 2.8 million times, he is candid and confesses his lies.
“Before social media I was rich and anonymous and after social media I’m still rich but more anonymous. I didn’t expect this kind of exposure,” he says.
“Yes, I have been on steroids. And yes, I am on steroids, monitored and managed by a qualified hormone clinician.”
The confession came just days after Johnson was exposed by fellow YouTube fitness star Derek, aka More Plates More Dates.
Derek showed his followers what he said were leaked emails from the Liver King asking for advice on his steroid use.
In the emails, Johnson allegedly said he was spending around US$11,000 ($16,400) a month on steroids.
Young men adopting unrealistic standards
Dr Mair Underwood, an anthropologist specializing in the study of bodybuilding culture at the University of Queensland, said the revelation came as no surprise.
“Anyone seriously interested in fitness would look at the Liver King’s body and say it’s an improved body,” she said.
And she said she was skeptical of Johnson’s claim that his quest for fame was driven by a desire to help young men with mental health issues.
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“It is wrong to say that you are [a natural bodybuilder] when you’re not, because you create unrealistic expectations in fans who think they can look like you, and when they can’t, they’re disappointed,” Dr. Underwood said.
“If you’re thinking, ‘All I have to do is eat a bull’s testicles and take these supplements and then I can look like the liver king,’ and then you can’t, that’s fine. really confuse your head and you might start wondering what’s wrong with you.
“There’s nothing wrong with you, you’re being lied to. I think it’s dangerous for mental health.”
Stigma of steroids in the bodybuilding community
“Fake natties” – bodybuilders who claim to have grown to the size they are by purely natural means – are very common, according to Dr Underwood.
“It’s especially common in the public eye because there’s a lot of stigma attached to steroid use,” she said.
“I think people don’t talk about their enhancement drug use because they don’t want people to think it was just the steroids that built that body.
“People are hesitant to use enhancement drugs because they want recognition for the work it took to build their bodies, rather than the general public thinking it’s just the steroids.”
“Honestly, it makes me and probably a lot of other people lose hope”
The online reaction to Johnson’s steroid confession varied, with some fans still supporting him and praising him for his honesty, others expressing disappointment and others saying it was no surprise.
“See what upsets me is I also have self esteem issues with my body and I want to get fat and I honestly feel like now I can’t get fat for very long because that all these creators do [steroids]or unnatural substances,” one YouTube commenter said.
“So, honestly, it makes me and probably a lot of others lose hope once we find out what you’re doing behind the scenes at YouTube.”
“Rest in peace to all the raw eyeballs and testicles that were eaten unnecessarily to achieve this unattainable physique,” another said.
Dr. Underwood, who works with many bodybuilders, spoke with some of them about Johnson.
“There seem to be two camps. One says it’s wrong to be a fake natty because it creates unrealistic expectations, and the other says it motivates people to follow a healthy lifestyle, which which already allows them to gain muscle before they even consider using steroids.”
Still, Dr. Underwood said she doesn’t believe Johnson’s intentions were all bad.
“I have no doubt that Liver King has good things to say. And I have no doubt that on some level he really cares about what young men are going through. I can sympathize and I can understand why he lied,” she said. .
“I really hope we can change as a society so people like him don’t feel the need to lie about these things. And young men can make informed decisions about their health.”
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