On Monday, Sports Illustrated’s Greg Bishop published a story about Tom Brady’s longevity that greatly credited the quarterback’s fitness guru, Alex Guerrero, while failing to properly address the fact that Guerrero has been sued multiple times for fraud and has run afoul of the FTC for hawking products that he claimed could cure cancer and prevent concussions. Today, Bishop published another piece that is essentially ad copy for Guerrero’s snake oil.
The premise of Bishop’s piece is that he spent three weeks “trying to live like Tom Brady” by adhering to a diet and workout program that Guerrero and Brady developed together, known as the TB12 Method. Bishop presents the results of his experience in a diary format, and by the end of the three weeks Bishop, 16 pounds lighter, declares himself a “well-hydrated convert.”
What led to Bishop’s weight loss and conversion? By the evidence presented in his piece, he succeeded because he started eating healthier. This story would be entirely inoffensive, if deeply uninteresting, if it was simply about a man discovering that cutting back on caffeine, alcohol, and sugar while eating more protein can yield positive results. But Bishop goes beyond that, and allows Guerrero to peddle his bullshit unchecked. For example:
In the 13 years since they met, Guerrero and Brady evolved their program until it became their way of life. They changed Brady’s diet. They replaced weight training with resistance bands. A few years ago they added the cognitive training. “Most athletes are really good at taking care of their bodies,” Guerrero says, “but they never look at taking care of their brains. They get annual physicals, blood tests; they check everything except their brains.” Guerrero says Brady ranks in the 99th percentile on every one of those games now.
Earlier in the piece, Bishop participates in the “cognitive training” referred to in this paragraph. It’s an iPhone game that, according to Bishop, works like this: “Three balls appear; they start to move around, and then more balls are introduced; you have to point out the original balls.”
You may remember games like this being advertised by a company called Lumosity, which claimed its games could improve cognitive functions. Lumosity was forced to pay $2 million in fines after the FTC determined that its games didn’t actually do anything that the company claimed they did. The fact that Tom Brady ranks in the “99th percentile” of Guerrero’s similar-sounding games means absolutely nothing.
It’s not just the brain games Bishop buys into. He describes how he audibly gasped when a compression sleeve imbued with the same “infrared–emitting ceramics” that are in Brady’s performance pajamas seemed to reduce the swelling on his fractured pinky toe. He buys a slew of TB12 merchandise, including a $154 pair of resistance bands and a $200 foam roller. He makes this extremely embarrassing admission:
I’m a walking advertisement for TB12, which is a little awkward given my status as a journalist. But it’s working. I extol the virtues of electrolytes to strangers, tell friends about the diet and add “brain exercises” to my to-do list every morning. I progress to the second level with the vibrating fitness roller. I even consider buying some recovery-pajamas . . . but decide against it.**
**Everyone has limits.
This sort of uncritical writing would be shameful even if Guerrero were to all appearances a standup guy using some positivity and the placebo effect to get results. But he is a proven fraud who has an extensive history of lying in order to sell useless products to marks like Greg Bishop. Again, take the FTC’s word for it (via Boston.com):
If anyone cared to look closely, however, there were a couple of problems with Dr. Alejandro Guerrero’s claims. First, he wasn’t a doctor of any kind—not a medical doctor, as he admitted in the infomercial—or a doctor of Oriental medicine, as he claimed to business associates, according to a sworn affidavit. The FTC would eventually bar Guerrero from ever again referring to himself as a doctor. In truth, Guerrero’s degree was a master’s in Chinese medicine from a college in California that no longer exists.
The other problem, of course, was that Alejandro Guerrero’s Supreme Greens was a sham. Total nonsense. Modern-day snake oil. “This is just out and out quackery,” says Barrie Cassileth, a bona-fide PhD in medical sociology and the founder of the Integrative Medicine Service at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, who helped the FTC investigate Supreme Greens.
Turns out, Supreme Greens had never been scientifically tested. The “study”—the one in which Guerrero claimed that 192 terminally ill patients had survived thanks to Supreme Greens—never actually existed, he later admitted. The FTC found not a shred of evidence that Supreme Greens could cure or prevent cancer, AIDS, MS, Parkinson’s, or any of the other ailments Guerrero had mentioned.
Cassileth says “cancer quackery” like Supreme Greens is a $40 billion-per-year industry. Over the years she has investigated dozens of similar products. And while the FTC did not allege that there was anything affirmatively harmful about Supreme Greens, Cassileth says that among the most pernicious effects of products like Supreme Greens is that they can delay cancer patients from seeking proper, evidence-based medical care. “This is fatal for many patients,” she says.
This is malevolent behavior, and the kind of thing that should disqualify anything Guerrero does or says from being taken seriously by journalists. In a just world, Guerrero would be shunned from public life and quickly identified as a scam artist who has preyed on desperate and even dying people when making any attempt to present himself as a credible fitness guru. Instead, he runs a successful business with one of the most famous athletes on the planet, and magazines like Sports Illustrated and Men’s Journal are openly endorsing his dangerous quackery.