Of all the contestants to have appeared on NBC’s American Ninja Warrior, Drew Drechsel may be the most identifiable, with his nickname “the real-life ninja” but now he’s been dropped from the show—and its upcoming season—after the 31-year-old was charged with federal crimes related to sex with a minor.
American Ninja Warrior had quietly filmed a new, eight-episode all-star season in late July, and Drechsel will be edited out of that, as he now faces life in prison.
The show usually films around the country, and then has its finals in Las Vegas. The new season filmed at the St. Louis dome from July 14 to 23, USA TODAY reported.
It “shifted to a team format, inviting 50 of its biggest names from past seasons, with each choosing two more competitors, men and women, of their own choosing.” Drew was among that group.
NBC said in a statement published by the newspaper,
“We are shocked and disturbed to learn about the charges alleged against Drew Drechsel. American Ninja Warrior is a family show that has inspired countless people, and we will not let the actions of one contestant tarnish the hard work and amazing stories of so many. Moving forward, the American Ninja Warrior brand will sever all ties with Mr. Drechsel, including his appearance on future seasons of the show.”
On Tuesday, Drechsel was “charged with seeking sex with a minor and inducing her to send him sexual explicit images,” according to a Department of Justice press release. One of his charges, “interstate commerce to entice[,] carries a maximum sentence of life in prison,” the DOJ said.
His attorney, Frank J. Riccio II, tweeted a statement that said “Dreschel is presumed innocent of the charges” and “intends on entering a ‘not guilty’ plea.”
Drechsel was the last contestant standing on three seasons of ANW, becoming the second person to complete the finale’s fourth stage and winning $1 million last year.
He’s been competing on ANW and its various spin-offs since 2011.
In 2017, when I reported on the show when it was in Daytona Beach, Matt Iseman told me, “Drew Drechsel’s a rock star out here,” and Drew—who owns a series of gyms called The Real Life Ninja Academy—told me that being on the show is “my lifestyle. This is what I do.”