Danny Chau is one of the best natural bodybuilders in the world today. He is one of only a few truly natural bodybuilders who have been able to successfully compete at the top level in the IFBB and their respective natural federation.
Danny defeated the phenomenal American Ron Williams to take both his division and overall INBA Natural Olympia in 2000. The following year he placed a very respectable 9th in the IFBB World Championships against non-tested opposition.
AL : Firstly Danny perhaps you could tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to be involved in bodybuilding?
DC : Sure. How I got be be involved in bodybuilding was when I was in year 12 in high school there was a couple of guys who were quite well built and, or well, they had the shape. On my frame I was more of a skinny guy but I had, you know, good shape. But I wanted to put some size onto that shape so I asked those guys to take me to the gym and that's how it all started.
AL : Did you do bodybuilding for other sports or more for itself?
DC : No, I just wanted to put some size on myself so I just wanted that.
AL : Were you involved in sport before hand?
DC : Yeah, you know, I enjoy sport. So in high school it was my favourite time of the week, or day, you know the sporting time.
AL : Was your family supportive of your interest in bodybuilding?
DC : No actually, actually they not. So, 'cos being of an Asian background they want you to you know study hard, be studious, you know, get top grades, go to uni, find a good job. Bodybuilding is not in that plan. It is something you do when you've got extra time. Not something you do first and then something else comes after. So they're not very supportive, no.
AL : What was the point in your life which made you decide to concentrate more on bodybuilding and more particularly the competitive side of the sport?
DC : I was training at the local police youth citizens club and there was a guy there who was preparing for his first comp and he asked me to join him in the comp. You know I had been training for four years 'til then and I decided to help him to be as more of a support, not for myself. Just to go along with him. So that was my first comp and as a junior in 1991...
AL : And what show was that?
DC : It was the IFBB Canberra Classic. Yeah I came second in the under 80s and first in the juniors.
AL : A good result for your first show.
DC : Yeah.
AL : Were you always naturally muscular or was it something you had to work at from scratch?
DC : No, Iâ€™m naturally skinny!
AL : But you had good shape?
DC : Yeah, so symmetry wise, shape wise, that's, yeah, I'm blessed with that. But size wise I have to work really hard to, you know, get every little bit of it.
AL : I remember when I was first getting into training one of the top bodybuilders at the gym said to me "bodybuilding without taking steroids is like going to the fun park and not going on the rollercoaster".
DC : Oh, ok ok.
AL : Did you feel pressure to take steroids and if so how did you avoid this?
DC : Sure, no no, because where we trained there wasn't that. You know some gyms have got that push I guess, but you know they didn't have that at the police boys club. We didn't have that push so we just trained our hearts out, just go in and just do your hardest.
AL : And since then have you felt any pressure to take it?
DC : Any pressure to take it? No, no 'cos I consider my long-term health and you know. I hear stories of what it does to some people and, like yeah, I just want to and just like how the body changes so much, up and down and all that, and I'm not wanting to go through all that.
And I've got a close friend too who has taken it and he tells me what he's gone through and his experiences. Even like having a child and stuff like that. He was having a difficult time just trying to have a child so you know I like it like this.
AL : There has been a lot of criticism of the accuracy and shortcomings of the drug testing methods in natural competitions, in particular the polygraph. What is your opinion on this and how would you like to see it improved?
DC : The drug testing or the polygraph?
AL : Both!
DC : Well ok sure. Yeah, well I guess they're trying to do their best and there are cheaters who try to beat the system. Yeah whatever method they can come up with to be better at it, well you know I'm all for it. But well, that's the current thing that they have, but somehow I hope they get better.
AL : Would you support blood testing?
DC : Yeah, yeah. I support blood testing but you know I hate needles and things poking into my arms and you know taking test tubes loads of my blood out to test. But like I support testing if they can get some, a more painless way to, you know, a prick on the thumb or something to get your blood and they can analyse it that way, I'm all for that. But taking test tubes out is not very, I'm not looking forward to that.
AL : You now compete in the IFBB as well. What is the reason behind this and is it to prove a point that you don't have to take steroids to build a great physique?
DC : Sure, you know this has been one of the things that has been I guess controversial for me at the moment. 'Cos coming from after winning the INBA Natural Olympia and being well known and having won most of the natural bodybuilding titles, such as the overall Mr Australia and so forth, and now coming across to the IFBB, all the naturals and all that say ' oh has he gone to the dark side now, has he started to take some stuff now'.
Because the IFBB is known, in Australia anyway, for it's not naturalness. So what personally though, my reason for coming across is to improve myself in that the challenge is more there in that there are guys who are definitely bigger, rippeder and so for me to see that sort of standard it lifts me to have to train harder, diet harder and that's what I want.
Instead of just being number one in the naturals and sitting wait for someone to knock you off, I'd rather be the underdog and train that much harder because I know what the standard is. So as a natural guy still I'm coming across to set a new standard as a natural.
AL : Do you see the extreme steroid use in bodybuilding as ruining the sport or do you see the natural and non-tested competitons as being separate and having their own positive effects?
DC : Well the first part of it, yeah, it's ruining the sport. I guess there just in a class in themselves and if you just want to be really freaky and be godly that's the standard, the Mr. Olympia standard. You've got to be taking so much stuff. Yeah I can't even fathom, you just hear stories. What was the second part of the question?
AL : Do you see the natural and non-tested competitions as being separate and having their own positive effects?
DC : Well they are separate definitely. Positive effects? Well I guess when you look at bodybuilding that's sort of the look people want to see but sometimes now I think people are thinking no they are really separate, they are just damaging themselves too much.
AL : Just too unobtainable?
DC : Yeah, for an amateur person, yeah. Definitely, it's like a freak show.
AL : If you believed everything the IFBB said you would think bodybuilding was going to be part of the next Olympic Games. Do you think this will ever happen?
DC : That went back a couple of years ago too when there was a big push for it. Then Joe Weider going up on the Olympia stage and announcing that we have been recognised by the IOC and things like that. But yet my hope is that bodybuilding will be accepted as an Olympic sport. I would love to compete and be tested and do all the things that need to be done to prove that you're natural. I am willing, freely willing to do all that. But I don't know, there was Samaranch and now there's a new bloke and he's not very positive towards bodybuilding in the Olympic movement because of the drug stigma with it. So itâ€™s like a step back now.
AL : What do you believe is holding back the public's acceptance of bodybuilding as a legitimate sport?
DC : Definitely drugs.
AL : Anything else?
DC : That's the number one thing.
AL : You are now sponsored by AST. Does this sponsorship make pursing your bodybuilding goals a lot easier?
DC : Sure, financially it does and also I'm taking one of the best protein powders. If I had to pay for my own that's what I would have bought, so now they're giving them to me for free so I save that much money. It makes life a little bit easier.
AL : Are you able to earn a living solely from your income from bodybuilding?
DC : No. I mean I work in a bodybuilding shop, I train a few people.
AL : But your income stems from the fitness profession?
DC : Yeah, yeah, so in a way yeah. But I'd be working here irrespective of whether I had won no titles or whatever titles I've won. So it's more like a job really. But it is connected to the bodybuilding industry so it is down my alley.
AL : What advice would you give people who wanted to persue a fitness based career?
DC : You've got to have a love for it I guess, be interested in some aspect of it. I guess these days you've got to sit for the certain certificate relevant to the area of the fitness industry you want to get into. But in the end you've got to enjoy what you do.
AL : For the young bodybuilders out there on a budget what supplements would you recommend and why?
DC : OK, sure. The most basic supplement I recommend is protein definitely. The second one is glutamine and then creatine. They are the three. Although I take a meal replacement myself which has those things in it. So those four. The most cost-effective protein at the moment is the Optimum. A good one, easy to mix. For the price they're paying they get double the amount from what they would get from some other US brand.
AL : Do you mind us printing that as you're sponsored by AST?
DC : (laughs) That's just based on cost effectiveness I guess. The AST 'cos it's a high quality protein it's going to cost more. Sometimes like a kid who's on a budget just can't afford it, but if they can, they should get the AST.
AL : We hear a lot about the diets people follow into competitions, what is your dietary and training regime in the off season?
DC : The off season is not actually very different from my on season or as I start to prepare. It's basically very clean. The odd occasional eating out with friends and family and stuff but basically on a day to day basis I do what I do when I am dieting down. The only difference as you diet down your calories get reduced, those occasional meals out gets deleted. So basically the same year round really.
AL : So high protein, low carb?
DC : No I'm not actually on a low carb. A high protein definitely, a moderate, I wouldn't say low carb . Fats, not a lot of that I keep it low, but I have about two tablespoons of flaxseed oil a day. That's a fat, but a good fat. So not much difference between the two, just less cheating and the calories get reduced.
AL : So you stay fairly lean in the off season?
DC : Yeah.
AL : You're not like Lee Priest then?
DC : Nowhere near Lee Priest. In the off season I probably stay around 7 kilos away from my comp weight.
AL : There was a bit of controversy at the 2000 Natural Olympia. I understand your posing trunks went missing. Is there much of these type of mind games that goes on backstage at the top level?
DC : Yeah, I don't know if it was on purpose or accident but it's just when I went to put them on they weren't there any more. Luckily I had people there who were able to lend me the same size posing trunks. You can tell the tension in the back, especially when it's close. When you suss all the competitors out you know who's going to be competitive and who's there just for the numbers. You know it's just between me and him. You know who's going to be in the top three spots really and who's just there for the experience.
AL : If you could change one thing about bodybuilding today what would it be?
DC : More media profile on the natural side of bodybuilding so that they see the bodies that you can achieve without drugs. Keep emphasising that these people they present on the media, TV, magazine, whatever, and the drug test that supports them. Whatever drug testing method they choose, just to show that well this is the physique and he's clean. Keep doing that and the general public will be more accepting of it.
At the moment I think everybody agrees bodybuilding is a very minority, elitist, separate group from society, that's why it's not popular. Golf, tennis, rugby league that's all they show because of the drug stigma. If you can clear that up to the general public and let them know, let them know constantly. That's why McDonalds is so popular, if you keep advertising, people will come. If you say you can achieve this great physique, male or female, without drugs it will become more accepted.
AL : So what are you future plans competitively?
DC : Competitively this year I am doing the Mr Australia again.
AL : INBA or IFBB?
DC : IFBB. I have done all that has to be done in the INBA so I don't think there is a point to prove there any more. Like I said I like to be the underdog and see a higher standard and try to achieve that higher standard for myself. So naturally I am getting myself to be a better athlete so if I come back into the natural ranks, if ever that happens again, I will be just so far ahead to the next natural guy.
I am just trying to better myself all the time, I am just not happy to be, well you've won whatever and that's the standard, I want to raise the bar. After the IFBB Mr Australia in which I hope to place top three, last year I placed fourth in the light heavies, I'm going to the Mr. Universe again.
Last year I placed in the top ten at the Mr Universe, that was in the middleweights though, this year I want to go in a bit heavier. My goal is to be a big bodybuilder; I don't want to be a light bodybuilder. One day I want to be a heavyweight, naturally. It's going to take time. I'm patient, I've got time on my side, I'm in no rush. Steady improvements, notch by notch; I'll get there.
AL : Thank you Danny for taking the time for this interview. Any parting words for the up and coming natural athlete out there?
DC : Just get into the gym 'cos you love it. Go with that love, go with that passion. Work your heart out when you are in the gym and also be very disciplined when you are outside the gym in terms of your nutrition and supplements. Be consistent with it. Things in life will be in the way, but you've got to be consistent with it and you'll just keep improving yourself.
List Of Danny Chau's Major Competitions
2001 IFBB World Championships 9th under 80kg
2001 IFBB Mr Australia 4th under 90kg
2000 INBA Mr Olympia 1st short and overall
2000 INBA Mr Australia 1st short and overall
1998 INBA Mr Universe runner up short class
1998 INBA Mr Olympia runner up short class