Today’s induction involves Hulk Hogan, some leaked documents, a big scandal, and a black man. No, I don’t mean the Hulkster’s racist rant that recently came to light. I mean Hogan’s appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show amid rumors of steroid abuse.
It just goes to prove that old saying: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
Unless the thing that changes is Hulk Hogan’s steroid intake, in which case, things change pretty drastically.
Among even his steroid-abusing peers, who typically cycled on and off steroids, Hogan was notorious for never taking a break from his chemical regimen. In other words Hulk, with his total refusal to “cycle,” would never be confused with Lance Armstrong (except, of course, for their performance-enhancement).
When Hogan’s name turned up on documents of Dr. George Zahorian, the Pennsylvania physician convicted of steroid distribution, there was great cause for concern. Sure, for the better part of a decade, fans and the media had played along with the idea that Hogan’s massive physique was the result of training, prayers, and vitamins, but right there in black and white was a claim that the emperor was naked.
So to speak.
When Hogan appeared on The Arsenio Hall Show, everyone including the host expected him to come clean about using steroids. But the Hulkster had something bigger in mind. Well, not bigger, but stupider anyhow: He would just lie his ass off and hope he’d get away with it.
You’ve got to admire Hogan’s chutzpah, at least, for opening his interview about steroid abuse by flexing his chemically-enhanced biceps.
When it came down to it, even a master-manipulator of crowds like Hogan couldn’t fool anyone. Instead, he hemmed, and he hawed, and occasionally did both at the same time. So basically, Hogan was clearly uncomfortable, and he basically tried to weasel out of doing the right thing and admitting that he used anabolic steroids, but basically he gave himself away by his constant verbal tics, like the word, “basically.”
To prove that his size had nothing to do with steroids, Hulk showed a picture of himself, supposedly at age 10, with his Little League baseball team. I don’t mean to cast doubt on Hogan’s claim, but does anyone else find it unusual that there are two other “ten-year-olds” on the team who are as tall as the coach? If this picture was legit, though, it proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Hulkster didn’t get tall from using steroids. Take that, media!
Hogan flat-out denied taking steroids… at that period in 1991, at least. And if we are to believe his 1994 testimony in Vince McMahon’s federal trial, this is true, as he would claim to have stopped taking steroids in 1990. That in itself is pretty hard to believe when you compare Hogan’s physique from around the time of this interview to that of just a year later.
Then again, at least 1991 Hogan resembled a human, which can’t be said about 1990 Hulk Hogan.
“But,” Hogan said, “there’s a situation where steroids, Hulk Hogan, and my private physicians have something in common.” Wary of providing any sound bite that could be construed as an admission of steroid use, Hogan instead phrased his story as the set-up to a Carnac the Magnificent gag.
Now, as any media-savvy celebrity knows, the network news will take the sound bites they want and run whatever story they want to tell. Just look at John Cena’s 2007 interview with CNN, where his response got chopped up to say, essentially, “I use steroids, but you’ll never prove it. Suckers!”
So it’s understandable that Hogan would be very delicate about how he phrased his answers. It’s even more understandable when you consider that he was lying about damn near everything.
Hogan could have summed up his defense against steroid allegations in one sentence (“I only took steroids three times, and only for injuries”), he instead rambled on for an entire minute about sports therapy and the importance of recovering from injury. I suppose he felt he could soften the blow and make his story sound more believable if he included all the literary elements of plot.
Here, for instance, is how he described what his therapy consisted of: “Hours of the ultrasound to get the blood going again, the electric stim to get the nerves going, the deep muscle massage, and prescription drugs by physician that I trusted, legal prescription drugs, and those involved basic anti-inflammatories and a synthetic male hormone, which is a form of a steroid.” By the time his meandering piece of prose got to the part about steroids, viewers had already forgotten what the hell he was even talking about in the first place.
For all the great detail he went into about his character traits and motivations and the finer points of sports therapy, Hogan was surprisingly reluctant to go into specifics about the trusted physician who played so big a role in his novella. Was that trusted physician Dr. George Zahorian? “Well, basically I’d rather not comment on that.” Meaning yes.
But look closely at what he said. He doesn’t use steroids. That could be true. He had three muscle tears in 1983 that required the use of steroids. That could be true, too. Nowhere does he actually rule out the fact that he had done steroids all throughout the eighties.
Until he concluded by saying, “That is the extent of Hulk Hogan’s steroid use.” Hey, maybe that just means that all the other times he injected decagabril from the mid-1970s onward, it was Terry Bollea’s butt. (Or maybe Rip Thomas’s)
Hogan showed his creative side, saying that suspecting him of using steroids is like suspecting all the Supreme Court justices of being on drugs. Although that would certainly explain that recent SCOTUS ruling, the one you disagreed with.
As for how much of the WWF roster was on steroids, Hogan gave an estimate of between 0 and 100%. He would have been more specific, but he had never seen anyone “taking the pills or taking the shots.” And maybe he hadn’t. Whatever those wrestlers did after bartering with Hogan for vials and pill bottles was no one’s business but their own.
I mean, come on. You’ve got to figure that pretty much everyone was on the juice when even Bret Hart’s head was so puffed up in the late 80s that he resembled the Pillsbury Doughboy with sunglasses.
Hulk said that once the steroid tests were implemented, the WWF was pretty much going to be the envy of the sports world. And it was. I mean, the Federation saved a fortune on crowd control alone when attendance plummeted.
Hogan pleaded ignorance when asked about the new human growth hormone, which couldn’t be detected by drug testing. And who were we to doubt Hogan’s word? HGH wasn’t very well-known or widely available at the time. It was the kind of expensive drug only main-eventer-type guys with big salaries like Hulk Hogan could afford.
You can actually hear Arsenio get progressively more dejected as he realized he wasn’t going to get a confession out of the Hulkster. He made one last salvo to give Hogan the chance to admit to his Hulkamaniacs that he had used steroids more than three times before looking down at his hands as if to say, “Oh, don’t mind me.”
So was an honest answer finally forthcoming? Nope! Instead, Hogan told kids that if they trained hard and didn’t do drugs, they could be like the Hulkster.
Oh, and the government should cut off the steroid supply at the source by prosecuting doctors. No need to go after the harmless people who merely used the stuff. Not that Hogan would know who any of those people were.
Hogan then inexplicably freaked out and, clearly forgetting about Richard Belzer, put Arsenio in a headlock to lighten the mood. End segment.
Hogan’s credibility never recovered from this fiasco. If there were still any believers left after the scandal broke, and after the news magazines followed up on the Hogan-steroid connection, there weren’t any left after he was forced to testify in Vince Mcmahon’s 1994 steroid trial and contradict all of his previous public statements about not being on the juice. For Hogan, it came crashing down like the lyrics of a popular wrestling theme.
Even his old buddy Vince McMahon mocked his steroid use in the Billionaire Ted skits a few years later.
Appearing on Arsenio and lying to the public was, as Hogan would write in his autobiography,* the biggest mistake of his life.
*This autobiography was written before Hogan borrowed his friend’s wife while cameras secretly filmed him having sex and using racial slurs while complaining about his daughter dating a black guy.