by Chrisitan Duque
Legendary bodybuilder Shawn Ray sent shockwaves throughout the fitness industry with an Instagram post that many took to be a snub of legendary contest prep coach Chad Nicholls. The fact of the matter is that both of these guys are legends in their own right. Shawn is the most photographed bodybuilder in the history of FLEX Magazine and gets mobbed wherever he goes. While his list of haters is quite extensive, haters make you famous! The truth is Ray has always spoken his mind and he’s never made it secret where he stands with the coach known as “The Diet Doc.”
In fact, I’m including a video that I posted five years ago speaking to one of Shawn’s more direct attacks on Nicholls in which one of the things Shawn was saying was that he hoped Dallas McCarver saw the light and ran from him. And I stated on my video, sponsored by Iron Mag Labs, that the vast majority of the news sites from RXMuscle to MuscleSport Mag, to Muscular Development, none wanted to cover the story. And that’s simply because Chad has always been an incredibly well-placed coach, a promoter, and a driving force in the sport of bodybuilding. Not too many people have the stones to step up to that kind of a person. When it comes to Shawn, however, he’ll say what needs to be said.
You can love him or hate him, but “Sugar” Shawn Ray hasn’t changed. He’s still the same guy who as a pro (DURING HIS HEYDAY) spoke his mind. It’s one thing to be an activist when your career is languishing and retirement is the word of the day, but when you’re telling it like it is when times are good, that’s a sign of a real dude. Further to that you can love the guy or you can hate him, but give him his due. This back and forth has gone on for years and this latest Instagram post was by far the tamest and most subtle of them all. Maybe it’s Shawn’s way of looking out for Big Ramy. Maybe it’s his way of letting the world know that Chad isn’t off the proverbial hook with him. He’s holding The Diet Doc accountable for whatever wrongdoing he suspects him of. And the fact is when Shawn starts listing names it almost reads like a body count. Whether Nicholls has done anything wrong or not, anyone who looks at that long list of guys no longer with us can’t help but notice the common denominator. It’s not a smoking gun by any means but it’s a detail that Ray seizes upon, and again, it’s one that most people aren’t going to be so easily able to overlook.
Many outlets have covered the history of Shawn and Chad as largely a feud. They’ve spoken on Shawn’s focus (or obsession) with bringing his claims to light. And they’ve, largely, painted Chad as a coach caught on the receiving end of a lot of unwarranted criticism. Nicholls has been able to masterfully use this angle over the years to simply ignore Shawn. He’s able to take the high road by not responding, but is that really the high road? The fact is, we don’t know what Chad’s protocols are nor do we know what kind of food The Diet Doc recommends. Then again we don’t really know that about any coach because drug, training, and nutrition protocols are a huge part of how they make a living. You’re not going to see Coca Cola, Kentucky Fried Chicken, or Bush’s baked beans sharing their secrets with the world because then they wouldn’t have secret recipes. In the case of Bush’s, the owner only trusts his dog with the ingredients list. Nonetheless, that too is a bit of a copout, because most coaches aren’t being scrutinized for body counts. In reality, it’s just Chad, and while Shawn may be the loudest of his critics, he’s certainly not the only one.
The questions arising from The Diet Doc’s whole approach have been a matter of great interest over the years. People have long discussed the usual trajectory of up and coming athletes who go to him and how they wind up. Whether it’s Dallas, Don Youngblood, Tom Prince or even Ronnie Coleman. And we really don’t know too much about Coleman’s health. We know about his double-digit back surgeries and we know he’s had to teach himself to walk again, but we have no idea what – if any – medical issues he may have developed as a result of years of heavy drug use, eating, and training. And yes, I said heavy drug use. By that I mean PED’s (performance enhancing drugs). And please gang no one start crying that I made the statement or asking me how I know. You know how I know? 2003.
The 2003 Ronnie Coleman was a look never seen before and never seen since. I’m sure a great deal of that was due to the way Ronnie marinated his chicken breast in KC Masterpiece, how hard he trained, and how often he prayed, but the fact is DRUGS probably played a role as well. How much drugs? We don’t know. What drugs? We don’t know.
Now, it’s become socially acceptable to admit to taking common anabolics. Let’s not forget interviews where questions of PED’s were shot down, audiences booed, and the athletes swore to be natural. For The Big Nasty to say such a thing about his pro heyday is an utter travesty but that’s just how things were. Now that the late Bostin Loyd and guys like Greg Doucette and Tony Huge created more freedom in posting about PED use, now big bodybuilders are becoming a little less tight-lipped about admitting to basic compounds. They still won’t talk about growth, slin, and the more exotic things like SEO’s, implants, or dangerous diuretics. And it’s those dangerous diuretics and how they’re stacked that some accuse certain coaches of turning a blind eye to. One thing I’ve learned in covering this sport is that you should never assume. Just because we’ve never heard of Ronnie having any kidney issues doesn’t mean he’s got great kidneys. Just because we’ve never heard of Ronnie having metabolic damage doesn’t mean he’s doesn’t have any. We only hear what the athletes want us to hear. Same goes for the coaches. Remember that.
The thing Chad has and he’s very lucky to have is the loyalty of the guys he’s worked with, from Coleman to Kamali. His guys don’t just have his back but they sing his praises. Ronnie is one of the loudest supporters of the guru and openly praises the coach and credits as him as being instrumental in his rise to being Mr. Olympia and holding the title for the many years he did. That’s powerful and that wins a lot of hearts and minds to Nicholls camp. It doesn’t silence the critics but it does keep the media from really tackling the issue at hand.
Let’s not forget that the media in our sport is largely sponsor-driven. It’s also far more concerned with public opinion than it is with journalistic integrity. Just to be clear, I’m not saying Chad is in the wrong here, but what I am saying is that very few media outlets would thoroughly investigate him, his coaching, and the fallout. In fact, I don’t know of a single outlet that truly ever has.
This last IG post from Shawn Ray simply makes the point that while most outlets won’t touch this story and most bodybuilding fans aren’t drawing any parallels or talking about this issue, Shawn Ray hasn’t let it go. Maybe Shawn is worried about Ramy. As the guy nears 40 and after a disastrous Olympia in 2022, the guy’s now doing the 2023 Arnold? And then the 2023 Olympia? There’s talk of possible injuries, possible atrophy, and/or possible health concerns. And if there is something wrong with Ramy, but he’s adamant about reclaiming his Olympia title or winning in Columbus, how far is he willing to go?
As Nick’s Strength And Power pointed out – in a very typical long running defense of Nicholls – the athletes decide how far they want to go. After all, they’re adults, and adults can choose for themselves. Of course this is true, but let’s also not forget the huge sway coaches have, especially at the level we’re talking about. We’re not sitting here talking about the Mr. Mayberry contest; we’re talking about the two biggest bodybuilding shows in the world. So once again, how far is Ramy willing to go? And will winning – or trying to win – a bodybuilding title potentially have dire health consequences in the future?
Do you think The Diet Doc’s approach is perfectly suitable? Do you think Shawn Ray is fighting the good fight? I won’t answer, but I look forward to your feedback in the comments. I also invite you to copy and paste the link to this article on your own social media feeds. I guarantee you it’ll inspire some good conversation. As always I hope you enjoyed reading my article, here, at Iron Magazine!