Should there be accountability for sponsored athletes that dangerously glorify steroids on social media?

In the latest episode of the Generation Iron Podcast, hosts Victor Martinez, Ehsan Farahi, Edwin Mejia Jr., and Vlad Yudin discuss the recent YoungLA sponsored athlete scandal – and expose other athletes in the brand’s stable who have dangerously glorified steroid use on social media. Should there be further accountability? At what point is the brand responsible for sponsored athlete actions?

In the ever-evolving age of social media, brands are constantly trying to find the best ways to tap into youth culture. With Gen Z and younger being born into a world of internet and social media – brands have taken to sponsoring younger athletes who have already built a sizable online following.

This a world different than the kind of social media fame and content that the previous generations were successful at. The era of TikTok perpetually online personalities has reached a new peak. Any brand that can genuinely tap that without seeming out of touch can find a lot leverage towards revenue.

However, this seems to also lead to higher risks. What happens when a sponsored athlete flippantly posts something that is bad for the brand? With young influencers constantly seeking any possible way to go viral – what kind of controversies can they bring to brands they represent?

This is the core topic discussed in this week’s GI podcast after the recent news of a YoungLA sponsored athlete going viral for abusing a cat – eventually getting let go by the brand. But is this just the tip of the iceberg? Let’s dive in!

Brand Accountability: Unveiling YoungLA’s Scandals and Ethical Dilemmas

The podcast took a critical turn as it dissected the controversies engulfing sportswear brand YoungLA. In particular, the hosts addressed the disturbing behavior of certain sponsored athletes, including instances of animal abuse and open advocacy for steroid use.

A few weeks ago, headlines went viral with news of a YoungLA sponsored athlete who was seen abusing a cat in resurfaced videos online. The videos led to an online upheaval, eventually requiring the brand to make a statement and ultimately cut ties with the athlete.

But host Edwin Mejia notes that this is just on instance of controversy for the YoungLA brand and their stable of sponsored athletes. Two other young bodybuilder brand ambassadors had also posted a variety of viral Instagram videos promoting and glorifying the use of steroids. These videos have since been removed.

Victor Martinez, visibly disheartened by the incidents, highlighted the ethical implications of YoungLA’s failure to enforce a code of conduct for its ambassadors. And while the use of steroids is an open secret within most of the bodybuilding world, he condemned the glorification of steroid use in social media content, emphasizing the dangers of perpetuating such narratives within the bodybuilding community.

RELATED: Bodybuilders Are Dying – An Investigation Into Modern Bodybuilding, Health, & PED Use

Victor notes that it is one thing to discuss steroids and the reality of steroids in bodybuilding from an educational view. But the videos that Victor saw showcased a dangerous glorification of the drug.

The videos in question were posted by YoungLA sponsored athletes Shane Stoffer and David Rau. The videos displayed footage of the young athletes injecting steroids directly on camera.

One video also compares the use of steroids to a natural athlete – with Shane Stoffer stating in one video that he wants to be a massive bodybuilder as fast as possible – and will be open to any shortcuts, including steroids, that gets him as muscular as possible as fast as possible. He specifically criticizes the time and long term commitment it takes natural athletes to look impressive – stating steroids can get him there in less than half that time.

Below is a transcription of Shane Stoffer’s comments in a segment from the now removed video:

“Videos like that are exactly why I decided to NOT stay natural [in reference to a video about a lifetime natural bodybuilder.] The guy on the right has been training for 13 years. Don’t get my wrong he looks good. Shredded. Top 1% physique. But 13 years? Who has f*cking time for that?

Here’s what I looked like after 11 months of taking gear… and you can decide for yourself whether the natty or the enhanced looks better. But the answer is me…

Fuck yeah, I’m impatient. I would like to achieve all of my goals as soon as possible. By the time I am 35, I am basically a wrinkly bitch… And I’m not saying staying natty is not a bad idea, but how bad do you really want it if you are willing to wait 13 years to reach your dream physique?”

The videos, while now removed, were edited in a quick and flashy way – only emphasizing the love of injecting and the rush of strength felt by using steroids. It did not mention any of the risks.

Who Is To Blame? Navigating the Complexities of Bodybuilding Culture

The podcast then dove into the broader reflection on the challenges inherent in contemporary bodybuilding culture. Host Ehsan Farahi asked if the brand YoungLA should be considered at fault – or is this more a problem with internet culture rewarding dangerous actions?

Ehsan explains that the only reason these kind of steroid videos exist online, is because they get far more engagement than other kinds of bodybuilding videos. For example, a video detailing tips on how to do a specific exercise, will not go viral the way a steroid injection video can.

With the videos removed, it’s clear that some sort of action was taken either by YoungLA or the athletes themselves. Beyond that, is there any other accountability that the brand can take? Should the accountability be laid at the feet of the users who demand this kind of content?

Victor Martinez underscored the need for collective responsibility in fostering a culture of integrity and accountability within the community. The brand is allowed to be held responsible while we also criticize the culture at large. In fact, both sides of the coin should be doing their best to improve. That is, in Victor’s opinion, the best solution.

Wrap Up

The Generation Iron Podcast episode offers a thought-provoking exploration of the intersection of online culture and brand marketing. At what point does the search for online relevancy lead to controversy for a brand? Or worse, will this “go viral at all costs” damage the sport of bodybuilding when pursued by both individuals and brands at the same time?

You can watch the entire discussion in the latest episode above. And don’t forget to check back every week for new episodes on the Generation Iron Fitness Network or wherever podcasts are downloaded!

Derek Dufour
Derek Dufour has been managing all digital operations on the Generation Iron Network for over six years. He currently manages a team of editors, writers, and designers to provide up-to-date content across the GI Network.