Also in Slate, Troy Patterson reviews the new edition of American Gladiators.
EXCERPTS FROM A REPORT TO THE COMMISSIONER OF TELEVISION BY AN INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION INTO THE ILLEGAL USE OF STEROIDS AND OTHER PERFORMANCE ENHANCING SUBSTANCES BY THE AMERICAN GLADIATORS
By former Sen. George Mitchell
When the commissioner of television asked me to investigate the alleged illegal use of anabolic steroids in American Gladiators, I did not take the assignment lightly. If America can be said to have a national sport, it is this: jousting on platforms with oversized Q-tips, dodging tennis balls fired from a cannon, and scuttling like spiders across a Velcro ceiling. The men and women who call themselves gladiators are heroes to every child who dreams of one day wearing a codpiece on television.
Sadly, my investigation concluded that the veined, grotesque physiques of these mystical warriors were built by needles and pills instead of hard work and warm milk. Most of the illegal substances were procured from Laser, a former gladiator who currently lives upstairs from a Rite-Aid. I conducted four interviews with Laser, during which he was warned that failure to tell the truth could result in jail time, fines, and confiscation of his Atlasphere. "It's a demanding game. You slip when you're backflipping through shooting columns of fire, and you're toast," Laser said in a sworn affidavit. "Some people will do anything to keep wearing that singlet."
Laser provided information on the following gladiators:
One of the top gladiators of this or any era, Titan boasts a lifetime record of 354 Hang Tough dunkings, and he has consistently ranked at the top of the league in preening, chest-thumping, and camera-glaring. Titan hired Laser as a personal trainer in 1997 and began regular HGH injections two years later. "I had to do it for him," said Laser. "He can't actually bend his arm or twist his torso." I attempted to contact Titan for an interview on three separate occasions, and was thrice assured by his lawyer that Titan had built his body using Bowflex.
Militia was introduced to Laser by Titan in 2006, and hired him as a trainer after Laser claimed that he could help Militia "own that Pyramid like goddamn Ramses." In a recent interview, Militia admitted to purchasing steroids from Laser once and only once, and he vehemently denied ever injecting them. "Have you seen my leathery ass?" he asked. "A jackhammer couldn't pierce that skin, let alone a damn needle."
The muscular Fury, one of the premier female gladiators, is known for wrapping her massive legs around contestants in her patented Suicide Squeeze, a move that ought to be erotic but is really just nauseating. Fury was introduced to Laser at a 2006 party at Larry Csonka's house and eventually paid him $3,000 for 25 milligrams of Winstrol and two buckets of hamstring wax. I did not attempt to contact Fury, because I was afraid of her legs.
Venom, the undisputed queen of Assault, sought Laser's help in improving her reflexes while firing the tennis-ball cannon. Although her accuracy rose, so did her rage and aggression, so much so that the Gladiators production staff was forced to cover up an incident where she killed three contestants with an M40 bolt-action sniper rifle. Venom refused to answer my questions, claiming that "a lady never reveals her age, her weight, or the number of times she has injected herself in her navel with human growth hormone."
For seven years, this journeyman gladiator went by the name "The Professor," and was known for his witty asides, graciousness, and fondness for meerschaum pipes. He consistently ranked at the bottom in gladiatorial statistics until introduced to Laser in May 2006. He wrote five checks to Laser over a 14-month span, the second of which was accompanied by a note reading: "Have jumped two hotpants sizes already, and am working my way up that wall like Tenzing Norgay!!!" The rest of the note appears to have been eaten. Mayhem, who has apparently communicated only in points, grunts, and cuss words since changing his name, did not or could not respond to my requests for an interview.