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The viral TikTok persona known as Liver King, who gained 3.5 million followers by preaching the benefits of eating raw animal testicles and his own branded supplements, has confirmed he takes performance-enhancing steroids after vehemently denying it for months.
The heavily muscled influencer, whose real name is Brian Johnson, came forward after leaked emails were posted online on Tuesday detailing his prescription dosages. He had long been dogged by accusations his enormous size clearly did not come solely from his strenuous workouts and animal organ milkshakes.
“Primals, I’m making this video to apologize,” Johnson says in a video uploaded Thursday titled “Liver King Confession… I Lied.” “Because I fucked up. Because I’m embarrassed and ashamed. Because I lied.”
He addressed his fans shirtless from a burgundy leather throne with a nondescript dark staircase in the background.
“Yes, I’ve done steroids, and, yes, I am on steroids, monitored and managed by a trained hormone clinician,” he said. “When I talk about the 85% of the population that suffers from self-esteem issues, that’s me. I’m part of that statistic. This is why I fucking work myself to death in the gym. This is why I do 12 to 15 blood-burning workouts a week.”
Weightlifting YouTuber More Dates More Plates, whose name is Derek, posted emails purporting to show Johnson’s steroid prescriptions on Tuesday in a YouTube video titled “The Liver King Lie.” The hourlong video detailed the past allegations against Johnson, which have included steroid usage and ab implants, and featured spliced clips of Johnson continuing to insist his physique was solely due to the “ancestral lifestyle” he advertised, which is essentially a machismo-branded version of working out, eating raw liver daily, and buying his products.
According to a June 29, 2021, email published by Derek, Johnson was prescribed a medley of medicines totaling 16 vials a month, five of which were steroids and one a synthetic protein hormone. In the emails, Johnson specified that he was spending about $11,000 per month on steroids.
In Thursday’s video, Johnson doesn’t address Derek’s claims specifically but confirms the timeline matched up, saying he sought out “pharmacological intervention” in 2021, when he was 43 years old. “It’s true, I have tried several peptide combinations in an effort to increase my growth hormone, and it didn’t work,” he says, explaining he then upgraded to steroids. The influencer who has built his entire brand around being an “alpha male” confirmed he was taking around 120 mg of testosterone per week.
Speculation has dogged Johnson about steroid use ever since his debut on social media in August last year. “Natty or not” threads on Reddit, devoted to discussing if various celebrities are on steroids (i.e., natural or not), had all but written off Johnson as definitely not natural. When Johnson spoke to BuzzFeed News in March from Tanzania, where he was on a “tribal hunt” (filming content), he denied any steroid use.
“We live in a world where people are muscular, fit, and ripped have to justify their fitness,” he said at the time. “And in the same world, people who are obese and metabolically deranged, or skinny and osteopathically deranged, don’t have to justify their level of fitness. Somebody asked me the other day to explain my beard! What’s the fucking deal with you shaving your face? You’re telling me as a man, you’re paying another man money to buy his razor blades and shaving cream, to look more like a woman than a man?”
When the More Dates More Plates video was uploaded on Tuesday, BuzzFeed News reached out to Johnson about the steroid allegations. He responded with a statement that had nothing to do with our request for comment. “Since we first talked in Africa, my message has always been about the 4,000 people a day who kill themselves… the 80,000 people a day that ‘try’ to kill themselves… our people are hurting at record rates with depression, anxiety, autoimmune, infertility and low ambition in life… our young men are hurting the most… lost, weak and submissive,” Johnson told BuzzFeed News.
He then asked for a chance to be a podcast guest. (Sadly, BuzzFeed News no longer produces podcasts.) “A big mainstream, long-form podcast would be the perfect platform to openly discuss this opportunity — to be better,” Johnson wrote. “Liver King here… humbly requesting an invite to tell all.”
After not responding to follow-up questions about the accuracy of the More Dates More Plates steroid accusations, Johnson posted his YouTube confirmation.
He repeats the emailed statement word for word in the video. “I stated that this is a complicated-as-fuck topic, at least to me it is, because before social media, I was rich and anonymous, and after social media, I’m still rich — but no longer anonymous,” he says. “I never expected this kind of exposure in the public eye.”
Johnson addresses most of the claims that have followed him since his rise to public recognition, from the Reddit threads that picked apart his physique — “I convinced myself this was a vocal minority, usually in the fitness category, driving to an unproductive conversation” — to acknowledging that he had repeatedly publicly denied his steroid use. He also said he hasn’t had ab implants or other plastic surgery (something he had joked about on a podcast before) or undergone a gene-editing procedure.
In March, Johnson refuted BuzzFeed News’ suggestion that the Liver King brand had been a predesigned social media marketing campaign for his supplement business. But in Thursday’s video, he acknowledges that Liver King was a consciously authored persona, premeditated from its inception to go viral. “Liver King, the public figure, was an experiment to spread the message,” he says.
Commenters have already taken to Johnson’s platforms, posting the syringe emoji under all his recent videos. “In all fairness it’s like the 3-year-old covered in chocolate frosting lying about eating the cake, everybody knew it we just wanted him to admit it,” one commenter wrote.
“NEEDLE KING,” another said.
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