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Updated on March 20, 2012

Sport or Lifestyle...You Decide!

I originally published this article in Iron Man magazine in the spring of 1986. The steroid controversy had surfaced. Many bodybuilders, who had started training as an outgrow of physical culture, were pushed aside by the chemical element that now days dominate the sport. The article is somewhat dated but the message remains true.

Since the 1940's bodybuilding has been struggling for the recognition as a sport and legitimate exercise activity. It has taken time and much effort on the part of many to rid us of unfair criticism. It required an education of the general public to the idea that bodybuilding is neither synonymous with narcissism or homosexuality. It has been a long wait for public understanding but the past several years have seen much progress in their acceptance. Witness any day of the week the media attention to the weightlifting sports. Interviews, talk shows, local radio, national television, newspaper and magazine articles , endorsements, exercise videos, posters, sports channels, feature films and the list continues. The average person not only has become acquainted with our sport but even knows its stars by their first name, i.e. "Arnold". The public has finally looked in our direction and the spotlight is focused. With all this attention it might be said "finally our ship has come in!"

The opportunity for changing public sentiment is here and now. As popular song lyrics proclaim "we may never pass this way again". Some people have recognized the opportunity and capitalized on the situation. More magazines devoted to our sport are for sale at the newsstands. New gyms, health spas, and health food stores are opening and many existing ones are expanding. The demand is toward a health oriented lifestyle. Yet, at a time when the sport is enjoying its golden age, it is being menaced by a cancer fed by profiteers and self-gratifying participants. Their greed and lust for self-glory overshadow the meaning of bodybuilding. A sport which evolved from the cult following of physical culture is in danger of self-destruction. When the attitude of win at any cost is the substitute for integrity, the promenade to the posing platform becomes an illusion. A spectacle in self-deception.

Drug use is a pernicious habit. It pervades the entire bodybuilding community and engulfs at a time when the sport could grow and the public be educated to the benefits of our activity. Athletes are allowing themselves to be violated as the result of their own insecurities and avariciousness. Instead of riding to national attention on the shirttail of the fitness craze, bodybuilding should be leading the world in a fitness revolution; a crusade for better lifestyles involving exercise and balanced nutrition. A lifestyle exemplified by our healthful pursuits. So crucial a time is now being wasted on research to provide methods of masking drugs so as to continue the charade of deceit. However, the public will not be fooled.

Many people who are still skeptical of our sport now will have additional reasons to point the finger in ridicule. Accusations will span the spectrum from side-show freaks to drug addicts. The fathers, who years earlier discouraged their sons from entering the sport; are now, with our help, discouraging their grandchildren. The sport is in crisis and many of its participants are oblivious to the harm they are creating for themselves, and more important, the sport.

For those of you still struggling in the field of competition; you must realize the sport has changed. You are no longer competing in the game for which you trained. Your opponent is not the challenger who stands beside you in the lineup but rather their doctor, pharmacist, gym owner, or pusher. This is chemical warfare. The duel of the Titans of today are as plastic as the "Masters of the Universe" in your children's toy boxes.

There does exist those gyms where their members still practice the art of bodybuilding. They are struggling to preserve bodybuilding in its pure form. They realize the hope of our sport lies in educating the youth. Don't waste your time on the individuals already intoxicated by the false size and strength produced by drugs. They have lost sight of bodybuilding's ideal and compromised their integrity in the process.

Continue your natural training methods, including hard work and proper nutrition. Let your physique speak for itself each day of the year not only at contest time. Make bodybuilding the lifestyle of your health and fitness. Set an example that others will want to follow. Yes, in terms of public attention, our ship has truly come in; but, we must by our actions prove we have not all "missed the boat!"

By the way, the sport did miss the boat!!!


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    • Gary Breen profile imageAUTHOR

      Gary Breen 

      6 years ago from Canton, Ohio

      The 70's were truly the "Golden Age" of bodybuilding. You could enjoy the unique look of Zane, Coe, Dickerson, Mentzer,....each with their appeal. But the "champions" today all look the same: over blown proportions, lack of symetry, and bloated midsections.

    • dwelburn profile image


      6 years ago from Birmingham, UK

      I was attracted to bodybuilding as a teenager. There were some great physiques back in the 70's (and earlier) that were a real inspiration. Big, strong, healthy and vibrant.

      However drug usage has gone way too far now, and the excessively bloated physiques of today are simply ridiculous. I'm with you; we should get back to the purity of physical culture before steroids reared their ugly head.

    • Gary Breen profile imageAUTHOR

      Gary Breen 

      6 years ago from Canton, Ohio

      Jaybird, You are smart young fellow! You will reap good rewards for this healthy approach to training. Long after the competition days are over you will have not compromised your health for a plastic trophy that gathers dust in the closet. You are an example to others. I'm glad to know there are bodybulders out there who have "not missed the boat".

    • jaybird22 profile image


      6 years ago from New York

      Well written hub! I've done a few INBF bodybuilding shows. The reason that drew me to that federation was the exact reason you speak of. I did not want to let all my hard work, of being a natural bodybuilder, go to waste while I stood next to the pharmacist/science experiment beside me.

      Unlike the NPC & IFBB, the INBF/WNBF not only drug tests the winners, it also subjects all athletes to taking a polygraph exam before the pre-judging. Although some science experiments still slip through the cracks, it discourages a lot of the real roid-heads and forces them to the NPC/IFBB.

      Voting up on this. Great job!


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