About Shaun

Shaun Assael is one of the original staff members at ESPN Magazine and a member of the network’s Enterprise & Investigations Group. He is a regular contributor to the ESPN show Outside the Lines and has looked into subjects as varied as the mysterious hanging of a black high school athlete in North Carolina, the FBI’s investigation into FIFA, professional tennis, NASCAR, World Wrestling Entertainment, and the myriad scandals involving performance enhancing drugs.

Shaun graduated from New York University and spent his early years as a crime and court newspaper reporter in Florida. That was followed by stints at American Lawyer Media and The Village Voice. As a freelancer in the mid-1990s, he wrote for such places as New York, The New York Observer, Glamour, Smart Money, and Esquire before finally landing on the development team that launched ESPN Magazine in 1998.


Shaun Assael | Photo credit: Amy K. Nelson
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Although he started out as a police reporter, Shaun has taken some wild rides in sports. He spent a season working as a member of three NASCAR teams for his book, Wide Open (1998). He also chronicled the rags-to-riches story (with co-writer Mike Mooneyham) of America’s great showman, Vince McMahon, for the New York Times best-seller, Sex, Lies & Headlocks (2002). And he put a decade’s worth of reporting on PED’s into Steroid Nation (2007), which the Guardian called “a rip roaring good rock’n’roll read” and  “the classic American drug story.”

His new book, The Murder of Sonny Liston, is a four-year investigation into one of the sports’ world’s biggest mysteries.

A native New Yorker, Shaun now makes his home in Coastal North Carolina.


Cover steroid nation  


Skin in the Game

Counter-Strike has spawned a wild multibillion-dollar world of online casino gambling; it’s barely regulated and open to any kid who wants in.


His work has made him one of the country’s leading authorities on sports doping, anti-aging medicine, and the performance-enhancing underground.

We’re a win-at all costs society. But in sports, we believe in the notion of fair play. How do we reconcile winning and fair play with performance enhancement? It’s not easy. You enhance yourself when you go to the gym. But that’s not considered cheating. So where is the line? This is the murky ethical area I explore..

*The Thin Line Between Optimism and Avarice

*The Game Within the Game:  Drug Testing in Sports


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Planning to reopen the unsolved case of Sonny Liston's mysterious death, or reading one of my other books, with your book club or class? I always enjoy joining a book discussion, and can do so virtually. Just reach out with your details.

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