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The use of performance-enhancing drugs by athletes has long been a topic of debate, with some of the biggest stars in professional sports coming under fire. LeBron James is considered one of the greatest basketball players ever, arguably the best ever next to Michael Jordan. One of the most captivating aspects of LeBron is his incredible physique at 6’8” and 250 lbs of lean shredded muscle that seems to get better with age.
Even at age 38, LeBron is as fit and strong as anyone in the league, which has led to performance enhancer allegations over the years. Although LeBron has never failed a drug test, some people like UFC legend Chael Sonnen have openly accused him. In this article, we will explore LeBron James’ physique and why he has faced steroid accusations, as well as answer if he is on steroids.
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In short, we don't know if LeBron is on steroids. Over the years there have been people in the media to call out LeBron for possible steroid use, although there is no proof. One of the most outspoken accusers is former MMA fighter Chael Sonnen. Since retirement from fighting, Chael has spent most of his time as a fight analyst and podcaster, often speaking about other athletes.
Sonnen was suspended in 2010 after a drug test revealed his testosterone levels were almost 17 times higher than the normal range. He was suspended for one year for the violation and then failed a second test in 2013, essentially ending his career.¹
Regarding LeBron, Sonnen claims that James purchased steroids from Sonnen’s own steroid source. In a February 2023 episode of Andrew Schulz’s podcast FLAGRANT, Sonnen claims, “We have the same drug guy, I know exactly what he’s doing.” Sonnen suggests that steroid use might not be as simple as taking testosterone because there are several banned substances that have positive effects. “They got some performance enhancers, like if the world understood what LeBron did, like other basketball players will hear what LeBron does and go ‘yeah that doesn’t matter.' If you knew what these performance enhancers did, you would know why it DOES matter.” (1:41 in video below)
One of the “under-the-radar” performance enhancers that Sonnen claims LeBron and other athletes, such as Tiger Woods, use is called erythropoietin (EPO). EPO is a naturally produced hormone that stimulates red blood cell production, which helps the body transport oxygen from the lungs to the muscles faster. The higher red blood cell count increases aerobic capacity and endurance, allowing the athlete to train harder and longer.
This is the reason why athletes and Olympians train at high altitudes, as it has the same effect and stimulates red blood cell production due to the lower oxygen levels in the air. Sonnen continued, "EPO matters; it’s the reason LeBron takes it. EPO increases your red blood cells, giving you endurance to play all game long. You can shoot the fourth quarter just like you shot the fourth minute. It’s the king of performance enhancers."
These are obviously serious accusations, but it's important to note there is zero actual evidence, and Sonnen is not the most reliable source. When you consider the long-term damage to his brain from repeated shots to the head, coupled with his own failed steroid tests, it’s hard to take his word for it.
Steroid accusations are one of the most damaging an athlete can face, especially one of LeBron’s stature, which very few ever reach. Before accusing LeBron, or anyone for that matter, you must consider their genetics, emphasis on health, training routine, diet, and supplement use.
LeBron has been in the national spotlight from a young age, leading his 8th-grade AAU basketball team to the finals of a major national tournament. He famously appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated at age 17 with the caption “The Chosen One.” At age 17, as a junior in high school, LeBron was ranked as the number one high school player in America and touted as a generational talent.
He has incredible muscle growth and already resembled a fully grown man with his 6’7” 225-lb frame at that young age. His incredible genetics have been visible from day one, and is further solidified by his children’s success. LeBron’s eldest son, Bronny, is a 6’3” freshman on the University of Southern California basketball team and has a muscular frame reminiscent of his dads. His other son, Bryce, is already 6’6” as a 16-year-old junior and also a top-rated recruit. The self-proclaimed “James’ gang” clearly won the genetic lottery.
LeBron has always done a great job protecting his family from the spotlight, as he rarely offers insight into his personal life. It is well-known around the NBA and among serious basketball fans that LeBron is a freak regarding the dedication and investment into his body. In a report from Business Insider, LeBron’s business partner Maverick Carter revealed that he spends roughly 1.5 million dollars a year on his body.²
This report was from 2018, so between inflation and technological advances, we can assume it's closer to the two million figure by now. The 1.5 million dollar cost is said to cover his home gym, personal trainers, massage therapists, personal chef/nutritionist, appliances, and other routine costs associated with his physique.
The report also revealed that LeBron was one of the first professional athletes to invest in a cryo chamber, a machine that uses liquid nitrogen to simulate a more efficient ice bath. He has also been shown to use a hyperbaric chamber, which helps deliver more oxygen to the body to increase recovery. He can often be seen in pregame and post-game videos with a physiotherapist stretching or getting a massage.
He wears a compression sleeve and shorts during every game, and uses compression boots to help stimulate blood flow to improve recovery. LeBron strategically uses all the legal resources available to improve his longevity and maintain his powerful physique.
As we just mentioned, a large portion of his body expenses are tied to his diet and training regimen. LeBron has a personal chef who creates a balanced diet plan based on his specific needs. His diet is pretty simple, high in protein and plenty of vegetables. He has said he tries to avoid red meat and sugar but treats himself to the occasional splurge. His one vice is a love for wine, which serves as a social hobby and way to decompress mentally from his daily grind.
Just as he keeps it simple with his diet, LeBron also sticks to basics with his weight-lifting training. His workouts are catered to his basketball game, emphasizing developing functional muscle in the core, balance, and flexibility. He follows a five-day split as follows:
To learn more about LeBron James’ workout program, check out our article What Is The LeBron James Workout Routine and Diet?
LeBron is the co-owner of the sports nutrition company LADDER with Arnold Schwarzenegger. LeBron has stated that he uses the following LADDER products: Whey Protein powder, Plant Protein powder, Premium Pre-workout, Premium Hydration, and Superfood Greens powder.
When you consider it is literally his job to train his body at the highest level combined with a billion-dollar net worth, spending $1.5 to two million dollars a year is a slight drop in the James’ bucket. It is an investment into his craft that earns him $47.6 million on the court and an estimated $80 million annually off the court, which translates to over a 100x return on investment. That is a no-brainer and demonstrates why taking care of the body should be a top priority for all athletes.
While steroid rumors have occasionally been mentioned throughout this career, there was nothing of substance until September 2023 when LeBron was connected to the Biogenesis Investigation.
In September, an ESPN article released new documents that linked LeBron’s longtime friend and chief of staff, Randy Mims, to the DEA investigation of the Biogenesis Clinic. The Biogenesis Investigation first made waves in 2014 when 21 professional baseball players in the MLB were suspended, including Alex Rodriguez, Nelson Cruz, and Ryan Braun. The new federal documents named new athletes, such as Paul “The Big Show” Wight from the WWE, as well as Ernest “Randy” Mims and David Alexander as two of the individuals to receive performance-enhancing drugs.
David Alexander is a personal trainer who worked with James’ during his time in Miami and LeBron’s wife on occasion. However, it’s important to note that they found zero evidence that the drugs were connected to LeBron - it was pure coincidence. "There was never any indication that LeBron James did anything wrong," according to the DEA lead investigator.³ Mims was caught purchasing testosterone and metabolism-raising drugs, but he swore they were for personal use, which he only used for three months.
Being in the same circle in Miami, Alexander used the same drug guy (Carlos Acevedo) as Mims, which was also said to be for personal use. Even though the DEA cleared LeBron of any wrongdoing, it still isn’t a great look, being so closely connected to individuals who handle anabolic steroids. Considering the DEA had full access to all phone and computer records, there is no reason to doubt that LeBron had received any steroids or other banned substances.
LeBron James recruiting analysis from scouts always had some form of “a man amongst boys” or a similar nod to his physique. At 18 years old, LeBron stood 6’8” and 240 lbs of lean muscle and raw athleticism. LeBron has perfected his body for basketball, having sculpted his muscles to endure playing 40-plus minutes while having the strength to fire full-court passes or explode off the ground to dunk over someone.
His basketball game has always catered to his powerful build, as he can bully his massive frame down the court and explode to the basket with his 44-inch vertical jump (NBA average vertical jump is 28 inches).
LeBron progressively got stronger and dedicated more resources to his body to preserve his body to withstand over 20 years of competing at the highest level. When you factor in high school, LeBron has been working out consistently for nearly 25 years! Even someone with poor genetics would have an amazing physique after twenty-plus years of consistent weight training and exercise.
Throughout history, the average NBA career is roughly 4.5 years, and in the 2022-2023 season, the average player was 26 years old. LeBron is currently the oldest man in the league, turning 39 on December 30, 2023.⁴
No, there is no proof ever to show that LeBron used steroids. He is genetically gifted and extremely dedicated to his body.
LeBron uses whey protein powder, a plant-based protein powder, a pre-workout formula, an electrolytes-based hydration product, and a superfoods green mixture that contains vitamins and nutrients.
LeBron’s diet consists of lean proteins, protein shakes, complex carbohydrates, fruits, and vegetables. He usually eats three meals daily, a few protein shakes, and a snack.
LeBron is genetically gifted with some of the best genes imaginable, and he has consistently trained for over 20 years. With years of a balanced diet and proper strength training routine, it is possible without steroids.
Based on all the facts, there is absolutely zero reason to believe LeBron James is on steroids. LeBron is blessed with some of the best genetics we have ever seen in professional sports and a relentless work ethic. With the NBA consistently testing players, it's highly unlikely someone using drugs can avoid a positive test. LeBron has never tested positive on a drug test in his 21-year career, and the DEA cleared him after an investigation, finding no proof of using performance-enhancing drugs at any point in his career.
Considering all of the factors, it is clear that LeBron James does not need steroids and has never used them. From the time he first appeared in the national spotlight in 8th grade, LeBron has always been known for his incredible genetics and naturally muscular physique. He has consistently worked out and played basketball daily for over 25 years.
Add in the best personal trainers, chefs, doctors, gyms, and technology available to man, you create the machine known as King James. With the all-time scoring record, four championship rings, four MVP trophies, and countless records, LeBron’s legacy is firmly cemented as one of the best of all time.
He stands to lose everything, from his endorsements to game check to legacy, if he is caught using performance-enhancing drugs. He has no reason to use them, there is no evidence to suggest he has used them, and we firmly believe that he never used steroids.
To learn more about testosterone and anabolic steroids, check out our article Is Testosterone A Steroid? Key Differences Explained.
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