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Book Review: Gladiator: A True Story of ‘Roids, Rage, and Redemption

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Since I was a competitor on American Gladiators, competing against the original Gladiators, I was excited to get my copy of Gladiator: A True Story of 'Roids, Rage, and Redemption. Plus I love true stories and this is a story about someone I knew, Dan Clark AKA "Nitro". In fact there were many people he wrote about in this book that brought back fond memories!

American Gladiators was the first reality show and it became a cultural phenomenon. The year I competed (1990), which was only the second season, 10,000 people tried out with only 12 of us making it as contestants on the show –- and it only got bigger each year. The best part about American Gladiators is that it was REAL!

Speaking of reality, Gladiator A True Story of 'Roids, Rage, and Redemption, is as real as it gets. Dan Clark is not just open and honest about his steroid use (abuse rather) but gives candid accounts of his tragic childhood, who he was as "Nitro", and who he is now.

Athletes are a unique and exciting breed of people and have a never-ending drive toward perfection and winning. But do we know what makes them tick and the price they sometimes pay? Dan Clark is no exception other than he has a dark secret to overcome…. but I won't give away the story!

If you like stories about athletes or about people who overcome adversity, this book is a must-read. This book is stimulating and highlights Dan's drive, trials and triumphs, all while he is tackling his inner "demons" and grasping his humanity.

Reading about his childhood was particularly touching and left me with an overwhelming feeling of compassion, which stuck with me throughout the book. Learning about his struggles and addiction was tolerable and actually touched my heart at times, but I was annoyed by his arrogance (with a slice of self-deprecation), coldness, and self-centeredness throughout. Was this his personality now? Where's the redemption part?

In fact what drew me to this book (other than knowing him personally) was that I wanted to learn the details of his personal salvation — was there a defining moment? I wanted to know how he sheds the "character of Nitro" and finds true character. Excerpt: "The only way I can beat the steroid addiction is to kill Nitro. The cocky, in-your-face, aggressive competitor has to die, for Dan Clark to live. One big problem. Nitro is a tough son of a bitch and isn't easy to kill."

There were also a few accounts of his life and conquests (specifically womanizing) that I found to be uncomfortable and some of the graphic details I deemed unnecessary. Maybe that is because I am a female. But no matter what gender you are, hearing the truth can be an "assault" on your psyche and maybe explicit details help keep the story intact, are relevant to the bigger picture, or just create more drama.

All good, because in the end I discover Dan Clark to be a man who is not afraid to "joust" with the truth, a man willing to climb "the wall" of humility (with no harness), and deep down a man who really does care about others. Dan Clark may have slain Nitro but is still a "Gladiator" in the arena of life, and unlike the game (or like the game), he knows how to "breakthrough and conquer" all of the challenges (crap) that real life brings–and he is doing it with a heart of gold!

Five stars for Gladiator A True Story of 'Roids, Rage, and Redemption because it is more than a story about steroids and ego. It goes beyond fighting, football, and fame. It's a story about an athlete, a son, brother, and father — about a man (testosterone and all) and a message. It is a gripping book that you will want to read in just one sitting, as I did.

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About Christine Lakatos