Part 2: The nutritionist
By Josh Peter, Yahoo Sports
August 28, 2007
PART 4: The comeback | PART 5: The product | REPORT: Drug allegations
Couch on Laxogenin
Brian Yusem favors tight shirts that show off his muscular build, and he drives a yellow Hummer that draws almost as much attention as the 19-year-old belly dancer and the 23-year-old student he dates. He thinks he looks like Patrick Swayze but just as closely resembles Danny Bonaduce.
Playboy. Sneaker salesman. Steroid user. At times Yusem has been all three. He and his ambitions are the product of charisma, chutzpah and privilege.
The son of a wealthy real estate developer, Yusem said he has run 30 businesses, including an escort service. An unexpected career twist led him back to the service industry, minus the escorts.
About 10 years ago, Yusem opened a store called "Sneaker Madness," and he said the sale of nutritional products soon overtook the sale of sneakers. So the sneaker salesman became a self-styled nutritionist, and Yusem now runs a company in Boca Raton called Maxim Rejuvenation. About three years ago, Yusem said, he earned another title: minister.
By becoming an ordained minister, Yusem said, he could consult people about medical issues and avoid criminal charges of practicing medicine without a license.
"It's one of the loopholes," he said. "You can consult anybody about anything as a minister."
In addition to working with Couch, Yusem said he broadened his company's reach by partnering with a retired NBA player who spent 12 seasons in the league and is developing a program for top youth players; a former major leaguer who runs an instructional hitting business and works with some of the top prospects from Florida high schools and the minor leagues; and a golf instructor who has ties to professional players.
"I think we can create a super race of athletes," Yusem said.
In his office, a row of bottled supplements lines the bookshelf behind his desk. He raves about his proprietary supplements that include products with names such as "Jacked," "Chill Pills" and "Carb Cheaters." But he keeps more powerful substances in a metal cabinet that generally stays locked.
One day in June, with a reporter present, an office employee retrieved from the cabinet a box of what she said was HGH and put it in a small brown bag topped with syringes. The same employee warned Yusem that they were running low on HGH and later explained that a $5,000 order of Somatropin was held up in customs. Somatropin is used to make HGH.
Another day, Yusem produced a small bottle of testosterone enanthate. The label on the bottle indicated it came from Signature Pharmacy, the Orlando business raided in February by federal agents who said they confiscated drugs and evidence of illicit steroid prescriptions tied to professional athletes.
Yusem said he obtained only small quantities of testosterone and other medication from Signature Pharmacy and added, "The pharmacies aren't doing anything wrong. What are they doing? They don't have to police it. They're not supposed to police the business. I mean, the doctors write a prescription, you see the prescription from a valid licensee" and fill the orders.
Yusem is not a physician, and as for his credentials as a nutritionist, he said he is pursuing a degree in naturopathy – a system of therapy and treatments that relies on natural remedies – through correspondence courses. His clients obtain prescriptions through licensed physicians, such as the cosmetic surgeon who serves as the medical director of his clinic, according to Yusem. As for his ties with athletes, Yusem said he has worked with several, including three college football players, two international swimmers, two professional tennis players and a retired Le Mans race car driver.
But nothing makes him prouder than his ongoing reclamation project, the rehabilitation of Couch. Eagerly, Yusem forwarded a copy of an email that he said Couch sent him and included a glowing testimonial.
"After my second surgery on my shoulder, I didn't think I would ever play football again," the testimonial reads. "After working with Brian at Maxim for the past year or more, I went back to see my surgeon. He couldn't believe how strong my shoulder was. He said that about 70 percent of the people who had as major of surgeries as I did never make it back to playing. He cleared me to throw again and I'm now on my way to getting back in the NFL."
Josh Peter is a writer for Yahoo! Sports. Send Josh a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated on Tuesday, Aug 28, 2007 12:34 pm, EDT