There is no question “Dr. Tony Huge” is the public face of sports nutrition brand Enhanced Athlete, a company on the radar of U.S. and European authorities, but a rival supplement company has challenged claims that the globe-trotting bodybuilder—also known as Charles Anthony Hughes—is merely an unpaid “brand ambassador” for Enhanced Athlete.
Hughes’ role in Enhanced Athlete was at the heart of a hearing held Feb. 8 in U.S. District Court in Sacramento to decide if Hughes should be compelled to appear for a deposition in the lawsuit filed by Nutrition Distribution (dba Athletic Xtreme) in July 2017.
The suit alleged false and misleading advertising related to Enhanced Athlete’s continued sales of SARMS (selective androgen receptor modulators) in products marketed as dietary supplements—violating the Lanham Act, a federal statute governing unfair competition. The primary SARMs involved in the lawsuit are under development by pharmaceutical companies, including ostarine by GTx Inc. FDA has sent warning letters to several companies selling SARMs as supplements, and the agency raided Enhanced Athlete in December 2017—seizing SARMs and other research chemicals.
The motion to compel filed by attorney Robert Tauler, Tauler Smith, on behalf of Nutrition Distribution, stated Enhanced Athlete failed to produce Hughes for a January 19, 2018 deposition properly requested by Nutrition Distribution and required by law. “Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(b)(6) makes clear that managing agents of a corporation are subject to deposition by notice,” the motion stated. “With respect to Mr. Hughes, defendant contends that he is a ‘brand ambassador’ and as such may not be compelled by deposition notice alone.”
In the motion, Tauler argued, “Hughes should be compelled on the separate basis that his role in Enhanced Athlete is far from clear. While defendants have downplayed Mr. Hughes role to that of an unpaid ‘brand ambassador,’ the evidence suggests he has a central role in the operations of the company.”
According to Tauler's office, the court ruled in the hearing that Hughes must be made available for a deposition within the next 60 days. However, questions about Hughes' role in Enhanced Athlete linger.
Decoding Dr. Huge’s Role in Enhanced Athlete
Hughes has been posting content on and appears to control Enhanced Athlete’s social media pages, including Instagram, Facebook and YouTube, where his videos about taking SARMs, steroids and other controversial and illegal substances have caused a stir. YouTube took down the Enhanced Athlete channel in late December 2017, so Hughes moved his videos to his personal channel. However, after having violation issues with several videos, he started a new website, Anabolictv.com, where he posts new videos, including those marked with the Enhanced Athlete logo.
Enhanced Athlete acknowledged it granted Hughes permission to post content to its YouTube channel but insisted the company controls the content of its own social media and can remove anything Hughes’ posts.
According to court documents and both his personal and Enhanced Athlete social media pages, Hughes is currently outside the United States traveling around the world in such far-flung countries as India and Thailand.
Enhanced Athlete has claimed in court documents that it has no ability to require Hughes to appear for a deposition in California or anywhere else. “Enhanced Athlete has no ability to instruct Mr. Hughes to return to the United States or to go anywhere else," the company asserted, in a joint statement filed Feb. 1 by both parties regarding the motion to compel Hughes’ deposition. The statement further argued because Enhanced Athlete does not have control over Hughes, Hughes is not a managing agent as a matter of law.
“Charles Anthony Hughes, aka Dr. Tony Huge, receives no direct compensation for his endorsement of Enhanced Athlete nor is he an officer of the organization or any related organization,” said Scott Cavell, CEO of Enhanced Athlete, in an email to INSIDER. “Tony exercises his freedom of speech in endorsing our and other companies' products.”
In a declaration filed with the court, Cavell emphasized Hughes is merely a brand ambassador and is neither paid a salary nor an hourly wage. “He has no ownership interest in the company and never has,” Cavell declared, claiming Enhanced Athlete has paid only some travel expenses to Hughes for his many trips around the world, including Asia, the Middle East and South America. “Plaintiff’s quote a purported social-media statement by Mr. Hughes that he reinvests money into product development. I presume that is a statement about a different company, because Mr. Hughes has no control over what Enhanced Athlete does with its revenue, including whether it is reinvested.”
The court filings and an independent review of certain online materials by INSIDER suggested that Hughes’ role is unclear and may be larger than Enhanced Athlete has claimed.
For example, in his motion to compel Hughes’ deposition, Tauler referenced Enhanced Athlete’s marketing materials listing Hughes as a CEO and founder. While Cavell now claims the titles of founder and CEO, Cavell’s Linkedin page listed him as the company’s sales manager; Cavell’s Facebook page has listed himself as chief operations manager; and he was referred to as chief of operations on an Enhanced Athlete employee’s Facebook page.
Media interviews featuring Hughes have listed him as either creator, founder or owner. Further, Enhanced Athlete employees—in both the United States and Europe—have called Hughes ”boss” on social media. Hughes never openly corrected any such media statements, and some of his responses to fan questions/comments on social media have indicated the Enhanced Athlete supplements and company are his.
In an interview posted to the MuscleSport TV channel on YouTube (warning: foul language and graphic content), Hughes responded to a question from Joe Pietaro, publisher of MuscleSport Magazine, about the Enhanced Athlete lines of supplements and apparel.
“So, EnhancedAthlete.com and EnhancedChemicals.com … I started it to sell all the supplements, mainly just within my friend circle and then spread from there, kind of word of mouth, just to have the best quality, most hardcore stuff, like SARMs and what I would use as my personal custom formulas for fat burning,” Hughes said. “It was always to lose money too, as a tax deduction, because I just didn’t need to bank any money, but I wanted to have a tax write-off. I never imagined that the supplement company would get that big, but there was a huge demand for all the really hardcore products.”
Tauler referenced in court documents how Hughes bragged on social media about creating the Enhanced Athlete mission statement; he also noted that a post on Hughes’ personal Facebook page detailed how he was in Colombia for a number of reasons, including setting up distribution for Enhanced Athlete.
In his court declaration, Cavell claimed Hughes has never entered into a distribution agreement on behalf of the company and has no authority to do so. He further rejected claims in Tauler’s motion that Hughes is a founder.
“Although Mr. Hughes and I discussed how it would be helpful to the consuming public for there to be a company that would market nutritional supplements and products in a way that would be more transparent than how such products generally were being marketed at the time, I was the sole founder of Enhanced Athlete,” Cavell stated.
However, in a podcast entitled “How Tony Hughes Became an Online Fitness Celebrity and Built Enhanced Athlete to a Million-Dollar Brand in Less Than a Year!” AJ Mihrzad from OnlineSuperCoach.com billed Hughes as the “creator of Enhanced Athlete” and asked him several times about the company.
“Another [pursuit] that runs parallel to the YouTube channel is your company, Enhanced Athlete… Your supplements are top notch,” Mihrzad said. “Was Enhanced Athlete a part of your channel initially and—right now you have so many different products—was this the game plan from day one?”
Hughes did not deny Enhanced Athlete was his company, but said he wanted to create supplements for himself and his friends after years of buying bulk ingredients and formulating products in his kitchen.
“Coming up with the chemistry and custom formulations and experimenting with compounds was even something I did long before Enhanced Athlete,” he said, adding Enhanced Athlete provided him an opportunity to create and sell products on a larger scale. “Initially, I was going to just sell some of it on Amazon or eBay, but the problem is, those got shut down real quick, ‘cause you can’t sell hardcore stuff on Amazon or eBay.”
During the podcast, Mihrzad asked how Hughes describes what he does for a living. “When developing Enhanced Athlete, in the beginning I said I am a semi-retired attorney,” Hughes responded, alluding to his many years as a bankruptcy lawyer. He also talked about building up his customer base by being an educator.
Later in the podcast, Hughes further implies ownership of Enhanced Athlete when he offered entrepreneurial advice: “There’s a lot of principles that I’ve learned … that have helped me become successful at Enhanced Athlete; I learned through trial and error in other businesses, because I had many businesses before this.”
Hughes did not immediately respond to INSIDER’s emailed request for comment for this article.
Josh Long contributed reporting to this story.