Category: Biographies

A Drug Free Mr. Olympia? The Strange Case of the 1990 Mr. Olympia

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Bodybuilding, at a professional level, is a sport fuelled by anabolic steroids. This is not to take anything away from the competitors themselves, but is rather an acknowledgment that those at the elite level often resort to chemical means in order to further push the limits of human strength and muscularity. Certainly the Mr. Olympia competition, the Super Bowl of the bodybuilding calendar, has always been an arena for the freakish and dedicated to flex their muscles in search of the big prize.

That Mr. Olympias have used anabolic steroids should come as a surprise to no one. Heck even Arnold Schwarzenegger admitted to dabbling with steroids during his political career despite the negative reaction this risk. This preamble is my way of saying that the idea of a drug tested Mr. Olympia is strange. Yes, we have natural bodybuilding shows but elite, professional, non-tested shows have always proven the most popular form of competition.

With this in mind, today’s post looks at the one moment when the Mr. Olympia contest introduced an explicit drug testing protocol which, it was hoped, would stem the tide of drug abuse within the sport. Examining why this came to be, we’re going to look at the background to the Mr. Olympia, the event itself and the consequences of a drug free Mr. Olympia. In case you’re wondering, it went about as well as you could have imagined!

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The First Mr. Olympia

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It all began in April 1965 in a Joe Weider magazine…

Sick and tired of conversations about who was the greatest bodybuilder, Weider had decided to create a competition pitting champions from around the World against each other. In the same year that the iconic Gold’s Gym opened, Weider’s ‘Mr. Olympia’ would see A Mr. Universe, Mr. World and Mr. America pose, flex and tense in front of thousands of fans to determine the best that Bodybuilding had to offer.

Why create a new tournament?

Peter McGough, ‘The Mike Menzter Story’, Flex Magazine, September (2001).

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In a career that spanned four decades, Mike Mentzer, who passed away on June 12, 2001 was one of bodybuilding’s most prominent, inspirational and controversial figures. In order to flesh out the unique life, times and psyche of this complicated star, we’re reprinting (beginning on the next page) a feature on Mentzer from the February 1995 issue of FLEX. Although the article was first published six years ago, we think it still provides insight into what drove this future Bodybuilding Hall of Fame inductee.

When this feature first appeared, Mike was writing regularly for FLEX, but he later moved on to work for Muscular Development. In the last two years of his life, he contributed to Ironman. His theories and writings continue to be a source for debate, and his books and articles remain popular (see http://www.mikementzer.com).

Dan Levin, ‘Here She Is, Miss, Well, What?, Sports Illustrated, 17 March (1980), 64-75

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We always knew women could never build muscles, at least not, uh, real women. Muscles belonged on men, and women didn’t want any. They didn’t need them, either, not for typing 70 words a minute, not for staying at home all day baking cakes for honeybun. But we also always knew women could never run marathons, and now we have Grete Waitz breathing down Bill Rodgers’ neck. Even more unexpectedly, we have Laura Combes’ sensational double biceps pose.

Guest Post: The History of Sports Uniforms

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Sports uniforms have come a long way since they first appeared. Originally, the idea was to have all the players in the same team dressed the same in order for their teammates to see them better and not mistake them for an opponent. However, very soon after they were introduced, sports uniforms started representing the team’s spirit and values, as well as striking fear into the hearts of opponents. Nowadays, they are designed to provide maximum comfort to players wearing them, while at the same time designers are trying to make them as appealing as possible, so that millions, or even billions of fans around the world would also buy the uniform of their favorite club. So, let’s take a look at how these uniforms have changed when it comes to the most popular sports around the world.

Chris Dickerson’s Training Philosophy (1981)

ironman-bodybuilding-fitness-magazine_1_e0f34dbdfd438d197511a149b6118c7d.jpgIt’s difficult to elaborate on my bodybuilding philosophy. Bodybuilding has become such an integral part of my life that it’s almost impossible for me to identify where the bodybuilding stops and the rest of my life starts.

I think it’s important initially to understand that bodybuilding is my life, and it has been my life since I became serious about the sport 15 years ago. To be a truly great champion in any sport — and particularly in one as all-consuming as bodybuilding — you must be so dedicated that the sport becomes completely woven into the warp and woof of your life.

What I can do in this article is give you my views on five factors crucial to any man’s (or woman’s) success in bodybuilding. These factors are training, nutrition, rest and recuperation, mental attitude and skin preparation. Let’s look at each of these individually.

Ireland’s First Bodybuilding Show

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Since beginning my study of physical culture several years ago, I have been fascinated by  the extent of Irish physical culture. Part of the British Empire in the early twentieth century, Ireland was very much influenced by the broader spread of physical culture in Great Britain. So close were the two regions that the Irish physical culture industry was largely predicated on what was happening in Britain, but more specifically, in London.

Thus in the late 1890s and early 1900s numerous Irishmen, of all age ranges, began writing in to British physical culture periodicals seeking advice, support and kudos for their interest in purposeful exercise. Without simplifying things too much, Irish physical culture at this time was very much a poor imitation of broader British developments. When a British Amateur Weightlifting Association was founded in the early 1900s, a smaller Irish branch was opened the same year. Where Britain had physical culture magazines, Ireland had physical culture newspaper columns. What Britain did, Ireland followed and this extended to bodybuilding competitions.

Jeff Preston, ‘The 1991 Mr. Olympia: The End of an Era’, Iron Age (c.2003)

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I sat poised watching the clock with my finger in the ready position. I knew to get the desired seat I would have to have my ticket ordered the second that it went on sale. I called with speedy precision and connected with the agent who took all the needed

information and we both waited for the event to come up on the computer screen. “Joe Weider’s 1991 Mr. Olympia” appeared as “now on sale” and the VIP ticket was sold. First row, center section! It could not be any better.

Too Big to Fail? Thomas Todd on the Dangers Facing the Fitness Industry

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Given the overwhelmingly positive response to our last interview with Thomas Todd on the growth of the Nautilus phenomenon, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to pick Thomas’ brain on a subject of deep personal importance to both of us, the future of the fitness industry.

Having overseen the management and establishment of multiple gyms over the course of his career, Thomas has a unique perspective on both past and current trends in an industry defined by its incredible volatility.

With that in mind, today’s interview discusses the current state of the fitness market, which although thriving, is undergoing a seismic transformation. Simply put, older, large scale gyms are struggling to compete in an industry increasingly dominated by personalized fitness. Many gyms are failing and the industry, at least in the United States, is looking increasingly precarious.