As a bodybuilding fan, as well as being a writer on, and observer of the sport, I have always been intently curious as to exactly what it takes to become a top professional bodybuilder and what the bodybuilding athlete must do to maintain their pro status upon reaching this exalted level.
Like many fans, and insiders, my perception often was that the life of a professional bodybuilder was an enviable one, glamorous and privileged almost. That was until I researched the sport and found that, although it can certainly have its benefits, the life of a pro bodybuilder is far from easy.
This became especially apparent in talking to the subject of this interview series, Nasser El Sonbaty, after he had given his most recent honest account of life on the professional bodybuilding frontlines. In Nasser's case, being a top professional involves inherent risk but major benefits if you work hard, like he has done, to be the best.
Another thing many people don't realize is that the pro bodybuilder must often work twice as hard as other professional athletes due to comparatively few financial rewards for the majority of lifters and because it demands a 24-hour-per-day commitment to building and refining the physique. As Nasser says: "you must make friends with starvation." To be a good pro requires 100 percent sacrifice for your chosen lifestyle, but most professionals wouldn't have it any other way. They enjoy being among the most muscular people walking the face of the earth and being rewarded for this achievement. It is satisfying and immensely gratifying for them.
Click Image To Enlarge. You Must Make Friends With Starvation.
But making it to the pro ranks does not mean an easy ride thereafter. The opposite is often true, as the professional then has to compete against established athletes until they make it to the inner circle of the sport's elite if in fact this ever eventuates. They are also faced with greater pressure to do whatever is necessary to compete among bodybuilding's best.
For most observers it is pretty clear that the life of a pro bodybuilder can be at once hard and rewarding for various reasons. As an inquisitive person I sought to take this line of thought a step further to find out what the life of a pro really is like, all the details - the so-called minutiae.
Let's face it: pro bodybuilding is a fascinating sport. In what other activity would you find people willing to starve themselves while simultaneously increasing the intensity of their training to arrive in their best possible condition? In what other pursuit would you find people willing to push the envelope in terms of anabolic drug use specifically to build their body? The kind of mentality needed to live this lifestyle does not belong to the average person living the average nine-to-five existence. And this is what makes professional bodybuilders an interesting bunch. It is not a boring sport and its competitors live life at the edge. As Nasser himself says: "Success and ultimate success does not come without risks. And champions always take risks."
What I really wanted to know was how and why a professional bodybuilder maintains their exhaustive regime year after year? What daily challenges do they face and how does the general public perceive them? Is there a specific bodybuilding stereotype? How do they justify the demands they place on their body, and just how deleterious is the nature of their chosen sport in relation to other professional athletic pursuits? How does their lifestyle affect those close to them?
Click Image To Enlarge. Nasser El Sonbaty.
Although it would be wrong to assume that all pro bodybuilders share the same experiences, it would be safe to say that these athletes all endure the struggle of striving to be at their muscular best. As one of bodybuilding's longest surviving, and most physically and intellectually impressive competitors, Nasser El Sonbaty has seen it all and shares his observations with remarkable insight, candor and wit. During our recent interview nothing was off limits as he shared with me the realities of his professional bodybuilding life.
Just how difficult is it to stay on a torturous pre contest diet in which ice cubes in a glass of water and a dry chicken breast amount to a daily feast? What kinds of requests do professional bodybuilders receive? How difficult is it, in general, to be a pro bodybuilder and what must a pro do to survive financially? Read on to find out as, once again, Nasser gives his astute, and often controversial insights into the colorful game we call professional bodybuilding.
[ Q ] In our last interview you mentioned staying with your parents while recovering from your surgeries. Just how important has your mother and father been throughout your bodybuilding career? How important is it for a professional bodybuilder to have a good support system?
It is always good to have a support system. It can be your partner, your friend(s), your family (members). In my situation at the time of my latest surgeries (lipomas) and before in my 2003 surgeries even more so, and as well in other numerous situations I had the good luck that either my former wife was there or my parents were there. Also a few friends have surrounded me in difficult situations.
Click Image To Enlarge. It Is Always Good To Have A Support System.
But most of the time, especially because my parents have been there longer physically than anyone else in my life, I have relied on them in the most difficult situations of my life. So I can class myself as being very lucky.
At this point, I do want to make clear that I am not talking about my family supporting my body building aspirations. My mother was and is supportive to whatever I am doing and helpful in whatever I am going through. My dad is the same but he never really liked me bodybuilding originally.
Click Image To Enlarge. My Mother Is Supportive To Whatever I Am Doing.
As I mentioned before, he did not see lifting weights and flexing muscles as something creative or even productive. In retrospective it was very good that he did not support me in this field. I have made, based on experience, the observation that most great athletes and champions did not get their support from daddy - regardless if it was intentionally done or not.
Too much support from daddy is actually counter-productive and makes you not work as hard. I definitely think and believe that the no support for my body building "adventures" made to a huge extent a champion out of me.
When I am at bodybuilding shows/expos I do meet lots of people, especially dads' who tell me what they are doing help-wise for their sons in order to see them succeeding in bodybuilding on or off the contest stage. It always comes to my mind that the sons' of these men won't go anywhere in most cases. Often also the fathers want to live their lives through their sons because the dads did not/could not fulfill their own original bodybuilding dreams.
In 2003 Nasser was diagnosed with a staph infection in his right real deltoid, which almost claimed his life. Read the full story in part four of this Nasser interview series.
[ Q ] How does/did your family view the risks involved in your competing/training as a bodybuilding professional?
I do not think that being a bodybuilder is just pure risky. But I think becoming and being an outstanding athlete or an extreme "anything" can - be risky. And some people do take whatever risk they like to take and they like to meet any given challenge in their path and field of sport or work. Being a skydiver, a free climber, a mountain climber, a track-and-field athlete, a football player, a Tour-de-France cyclist, a race car driver, a soldier, and an outspoken politician is and can also be very risky. Entrepreneurs and business people do also take risks. Risks can be of a financial nature and physical nature but also of an emotional nature. And it also can be a combination of these things as well.
If you like to be outstanding in any field of life and society then you have to take risks. And if you like to belong to the best in any "department of life" you have to take risks - regardless if you are aware of it or if you are less aware of it or if you underestimate certain challenges. Success and ultimate success does not come without risks. And champions always take risks.
I chose to become a bodybuilder and I chose to do what I had to do. Nobody forced me into the sport. At the end it is up to you to decide how far you want to go or how far you want to take it.
Click Image To Enlarge. I Chose To Become A Bodybuilder.
Also I decided to go and get along with the criteria of bodybuilding. I do not see myself as the messiah to rescue other athletes or to be a Che Guevara of my chosen sport - regardless of my assessment and critique of this sport.
Ernest "Che" Guevara worked and studied medicine in various parts of Latin America, teaming up with Fidel Castro in 1959 to force a revolution in Cuba. After the revolution, Guevara was second only to Castro in power. In 1965 he left Cuba and travelled the world, working unsuccessfully toward Marxist/Leninist revolutions in the Congo and Bolivia. Known for his flamboyance and ruthless dedication to revolution, Guevara became an anti-capitalist icon in the 1960s. He was captured in Bolivia by U.S.-backed military forces and executed in 1967. In 1997 his remains were discovered in Bolivia and moved to a mausoleum in Cuba.
And also generally speaking, if I had been involved in any other sports as I was involved in bodybuilding I would have to say the same or even more. By being realistic and considerate about different aspects does not make bodybuilding more dangerous and does not make some other sports less innocent. We are talking about the most extreme version of bodybuilding - and not about millions and millions of others who are working out just for the purpose of building and improving their bodies/physical appearance and not trying to be at the pinnacle of their physical, most extreme state.
Regarding the point of view my family has regarding the risks I am taking, I can say in general that they really do not know all the aspects of the sport and that responsible parents are always concerned but at the same time they leave my life decisions up to me.
[ Q ] To be a great professional bodybuilder does require immense discipline and sacrifice. In your opinion are the rewards worth the sacrifice?
I have contemplated that question often, especially when I did not succeed on the contest stage to the point I would have liked. Independent of being cheated by the judges from my point of view or just being in poorer shape because I did not do all the necessary work to be up there. Or whether it was the frustration about not having the certain knowledge to get in the ultimate shape.
Here again, I would like to first give a general answer. It is very good, important and essential to get your children into any sports where they can perform and can be kept busy. Too many teens nowadays do not have any goals in life, so keep them at least busy with sports - otherwise a lot of them end up being greatly dysfunctional. They do become drug addicts, alcoholics, gang members and a lot of unhealthy behavioral patterns will be the result.
Click Image To Enlarge. Nasser With A Friend: August 2007.
I my case, I played soccer and started working out in my teens. For sure I continued going to school. And this is a fantastic combination: education and sports. This definitely keeps most teens out of trouble and out of jail. And to keep your kid(s) in sports is even more important if you are a single parent.
I made the transition from working out to becoming a pro bodybuilder. A hobby became a profession. As I said, it was never planned. But because of bodybuilding I have traveled the world, met lots of different people and cultures and made friends and I could make a living out of that what I liked doing. I was stable before bodybuilding but because of the discipline and sacrifice I had to make I became even more stable.
In my case, bodybuilding gives me personal satisfaction because I am known in my field around the world and bodybuilding gave me a physical look a lot of people would kill for. And again, you can't buy it regardless how much money you have it or you can offer. We pro bodybuilders belong to the most muscular humans in human history who ever walked the planet earth. This is not something special for everyone but it definitely is for us. And even if I was less bulky in the future with progressing time, it makes me feel great to be muscular and it affects my personal and psychological well being immensely.
Also in my case I did not have major injuries or imminent health issues solely resulting out of bodybuilding but I do wish that bodybuilding were a much higher paid sport.
I just would have liked it if pro bodybuilders would be paid way higher. It does not make sense to me that someone like pro footballer like Michael Vick could have/had a contract of over $100 million US Dollars in approximately 10 years in his field of work. And I do not even want to talk about the money that average pro baseball players and basketball players are receiving.
Almost any other sport is, in relation to pro bodybuilding, way higher paid.
Regardless of how much is being announced every year "how much more prize money this year is being paid" for the Olympia or Arnold Classic - this is nothing compared to the blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice all the pros put in, both male and female bodybuilders.
Click Image To Enlarge. Nasser El Sonbaty.
The sport of bodybuilding does need more money for the athletes who are the seed of the sport. The pro bodybuilders do not need more talk but more action. Action means again more money in all areas for the athletes and just and fair judging. This is the best way to promote the sport. And if there is way more money the pro bodybuilders will also have no problems competing in slaughterhouses with bloody meat hooks and portable toilets on bare uneven stony, stinky ground - unbelievable.
Click Image To Enlarge. In His Executive Hotel Room In Abu Dhabi, 1999.
[ Q ] How to you reconcile that fact that professional bodybuilding is a potentially dangerous sport in light of the quantities of steroids that need to be taken, and that you have willingly taken this risk throughout your career?
In this interview the mistake should not be made in thinking that bodybuilding is the most or only steroid induced sport in the world. 99% percent of all people who are taking steroids do not even show any major muscle development. So, visually you would never expect that some of these guys are using any anabolics. And this is the truth.
I do know so many people who tell me that "the steroids aren't working... maybe it is a fake." Yes it can be fake drugs but it is mostly the belief that steroids just create a complete different human being out of you. With the intake of anabolics you have to train harder and much more intense to see concrete, long lasting results.
You can't just take them and wait and expect that you will grow muscles. If was that easy I would just order a truck load of steroids and even take them over night via an IV drip and expect to look bulky, proportioned, symmetrical, hard and huge and have a low body fat percentage. So why then would anybody still be working out if this were the case? Why then are they spending all these years and decades in the gym if the steroids do it all? Steroids are just a smaller part of all the sports. Do not forget that we all do have different body types and genetics.
Click Image To Enlarge. Nasser El Sonbaty.
I like to make it clear here in this interview that I do think and believe that all athletes are taking anabolic steroids. The question is, if there is a question: how long are they on or off in order to maintain proper health. Everything can be taken for too long, even if it is just vitamins, minerals, coffee or antibiotics.
I like to make the statement that even 95 % of all Olympic athletes (that is to me: ALL athletes) do take or took performing enhancing drugs, even if it was any stimulants, or any (short) acting steroids, or Human Growth Hormone, or...at one or the other point of their performance and career.
To be not caught in a drug test, you basically have to use short acting drugs and to stop them at a certain point of time before the sports event is on. There are experts/scientists who try to create new not (yet) detectable drugs and other experts who are trying to find them. The drug testing in a lot of sports are mostly done to avoid potential health risks if too much is taken for too long but also to satisfy the naive population who thinks that with plenty of milk, steaks, chicken and eggs you can solely achieve world class results in any field of sports.
So it is very important to consult a qualified physician if you decide to use anabolic steroids which primarily reduce the needed recuperation time for an athlete, give him more endurance and strength and put the protein faster and more efficiently into the cells.
Click Image To Enlarge. Nasser El Sonbaty.
By the way, soccer is one of the most anabolic-induced sports. Most recently a couple of pro golfers (!) have been tested positive for anabolics as well. Even some of the so-called beach volleyball players are taking anabolics. As I mentioned in another part of our last interview, unhealthy fragile and sick individuals are also receiving steroids during or after surgeries, or in general, in order to help these patients in the healing process.
I am not making all these statements to promote anabolic steroids or to make them look completely harmless but to make it clear that not only bodybuilders are using steroids.
Steroids can have side effects also, depending on how the person's body handles it.
Also steroids are less dangerous to my knowledge than all sorts of painkillers, amphetamines, and the real drugs a lot of people are using like ecstasy and cocaine.
Also I do recommend steroids for all depressed males, and not anti depressants.
Click Image To Enlarge. Nasser In The Gym At Cocoa Beach Florida, 1999. Shortly Before Giving A Seminar.
[ Q ] If you had your time again as a professional bodybuilder would you do anything differently?
It is really difficult to answer this question. Right now I really do not know what I could have done much more differently. I can't really say that I should have trained harder, dieted stricter. I could say that I could have been more politically correct and I could have brown nosed in order to win some more shows instead of ending up more than ten times in second place and more than ten times in third place in pro shows.
At least in my case I can say that I did not get anything in my career as a pure present. Especially not when it came down to contest results.
Click Image To Enlarge. Bodybuilding Is A Blue Collar Sport.
The posing is often used by the judges to score you low(er) or high(er) regardless of - like so many times in my situation - whether I had beaten guys in the muscularity and symmetry round for double digits they made it still possible (for them, the competitors) to catch me in the posing round and "even it up". It was not that I was such a terrible poser but in the posing round you can definitely easily be used to manipulate results - and on top of that with the non-existing computer as I was frequently told.
In retrospective I can definitely say that if my parents would have guided me in any other direction, like for example in any other sport, I possibly would have been similarly successful but with way more financial benefits. Generally speaking bodybuilding is a blue-collar sport with lots of people having a blue-collar mentality. And only with more financial benefits and fair judging for the athletes can the sport grow more, make positive changes and not go backwards like it is going now since many years ago.
"Figure" shows are not making bodybuilding grow or more popular but they will generate more income for the promoters - nothing wrong with that. But bodybuilders should and must also make way more income through prize money and contracts. And any type of drug testing does not make the sport more popular either. Also having Schwarzenegger as the Governor of California did not make bodybuilding more mainstream.
Click Image To Enlarge. Nasser El Sonbaty.
What I definitely can tell you is that I would not recommend for anyone to become a pro bodybuilder. Not only necessarily because of the pharmaceuticals people are using and have to use but also because of the financial insecurities, the "being cheated" situations in shows and the de facto lack of social securities like health insurance, pension plans and the very obvious disorganization and a certain lack of interest from the side of various (but not all!) show promoters to take full care of the events with its necessary responsibilities.
Also I do not personally know too many sons/daughters of judges/promoters who are encouraging their kids to pick bodybuilding up as a sport for their future.
Click Image To Enlarge. Relaxing In His Jacuzzi At His Home.
[ Q ] Who has served as inspiration (from the sporting world or otherwise) throughout your career?
I never had inspiration from someone in the sporting world or anything like that. I never had an idol or "that" specific person in my mind. And despite bodybuilding it was never Arnold or a (war) hero, Oprah or president Bush who is so admired by so many (but definitely not by me) that I admired. I truly do not know what inspired me or what was the true driving force behind me as a person and athlete.
Click Image To Enlarge. I Never Had Inspiration From Someone In The Sporting World.
But I am thinking that you can simply pick up things even from people like garden workers, or anyone who is just a regular person. My biggest inspiration sources have been people like parents but also later very much school, TV, books and even the Internet nowadays; regardless of how much junk the media produces. You have to filter almost all information before you take it for granted these days.
[ Q ] What is your relationship status right now? If you are in a relationship is your partner supportive of your bodybuilding training?
I am single and live by myself. At this stage of my life I do not need a partner who is supportive of my bodybuilding training. Any female who is coming into my life today or tomorrow or never has it incomparably so much easier than my former wife because the main work is done and the highlight of my career with all its privations, mood swings and frustrations is over and behind me.
I do see it like back then the diamond was in the process of being made, was then successfully created and was polished. A sculpting process of decades plus was concluded.
Click Image To Enlarge. I Am Tired Of The Leeches.
Also, now I do not really desire someone supportive to my bodybuilding training, but I would rather desire someone being supportive to herself all the way and would rather desire someone also who does not see me as their next money making and accumulating machine which is additionally taking care of all their personal problems, their disasters and former abuses by this guy/person or this and that circumstance. I am tired of the leeches, the takers and the free loaders in the form of desperate females and the aforementioned fake friends.
Click Image To Enlarge. On An Airplane.
[ Q ] You have told me you receive an inordinate number of emails requesting drug advice. Why do people consider you to be some kind of drug guru? How does it make you feel getting correspondence of this nature?
I said before that I got at least 260 personal verbal requests for drugs in the last ten years. Yes, I am bombarded with even more emailed drug advice requests or/and even delivery requests.
It makes me also tired to read these requests from these fake friends. But mostly these requests are either from people who I have never met before or from those who are just desperate, cheap and irresponsible and who are additionally trying their luck.
You are either a bodybuilder who takes drugs like anabolic steroids and growth hormone or you're a bodybuilder who doesn't. The debate continues about whether to take them or not. [ Click here to learn more. ]
Especially those people who email me and do write to me who I have never met before or I have met them once before and who realized that I am a nice, friendly person. By being also outgoing and communicative they just feel it should work. With a lot of people it is just a regular pattern and a lack of proper home training. They learned that asking doesn't cost anything and they can't lose too much if the answer is no. I do also get money offered in some cases. But I am not doing this with or without a money offer.
And if you do it, it is mostly a so-called drug exchange as a reimbursement for your efforts. But on the other side of the coin, a lot of other pros are doing it as a regular thing and it is a natural basis of their income source. I am not judging those people but I am actually judging the ones who want to use you as a source for free and they do not even know you that well at all but met you somewhere at a show or restaurant or club. For your free advice you can go to jail. But from their point of view it is nothing really big
[ Q ] Why is it, in your view that many people who contact you seem to equate steroids above all else with bodybuilding success?
Now something for you - what is better, to give drug advice in any form and being reimbursed for that or being a personal trainer who claims to be drug free and to train people for shows but pretend that they can look as good as someone who takes drugs? And at the same time this trainer is getting reimbursed for that kind of half assed information he is providing?
This is another grey area where everyone is making his own choices how far he is going with advice. Just generally speaking, it is illegal to give drug consultations via email.
Also lots of people do think that being in good shape or being consistent and successfully competing on contest stage can be associated with lots of drug knowledge, which is definitely true up to a certain point. But again, drugs do not create champions. And again, why should I just talk about drugs with everyone and especially to strangers and to "friends"?
Click Image To Enlarge. Drugs Do Not Create Champions.
Besides, people in general have the tendency to think (regardless of their IQ levels) and to believe that the solution to all their physical appearance problems is mainly drugs and plastic surgery. Not too uncommon in the field of bodybuilding. There are bodybuilders competing with implants and there are even judges who are judging (who have never competed) who also have, for example, implants. And I am not talking here about the female pro judges with their chest augmentations. I am not condemning this (the male judges with their implants). I just find it funny.
I even know females who have regular jobs and who barely work out but they do take steroids in combination with all kind of beauty surgeries. I did not know that steroids can make someone pretty. It is in the average human's nature to have a drink, take a pill or get a shot and everything will be and get better.
Not too many people like to admit that someone has a better body because he/she already has, just by nature, a better body. So even if people do not take steroids, plenty of people will think that he/she is taking them as I said before. Some do, some don't. But for the ones who "do know steroid users personally a little bit" it is easier to attribute someone's good physical appearance to pills and shots rather than to hard work like training and diet.
But, if you would give all people the same amount of steroids, they will adequately look the same in relation to how they looked before; and the ones who look already better naturally will look also always better physique-wise.
Take my female Akita dog Sato. If she were to get steroid-induced (which she does not) she will always look more bulky and massive than a poodle that is receiving even ten times more steroids. It is all genetics when it comes down to the physiques of people and animals. You can't change your DNA by taking any amount of steroids.
Click Image To Enlarge. Nasser's Sato Car: The Toyota Avalon That He Uses To Take His Dog Sato To The Beach In.
[ Q ] Fascinating Nasser. We will come back to this topic very soon. Switching gears: who in your opinion have been some of bodybuilding's real pioneers?
I was born in the 60s and the first Mr. Olympia contest was already staged. I really do not know enough about the history of bodybuilding in the decades before I became really bodybuilding conscious.
But what I definitely can say, especially out of my own experience and observation is that without the engagement and work of the Weider brothers Joe and Ben, there wouldn't be the sport of bodybuilding, as we know bodybuilding before and today.
Click Image To Enlarge. Inside The Weider Office In Montreal, Quebec, Canada - Where Ben Weider Is Located.
The Weider's created a bodybuilding Empire with their immense work ethics, the articles, the numerous different magazines over the years, the creating of shows, especially the most prestigious one, the Mr. Olympia, establishing an equipment line, gyms, nutrition stores, their nutrition department, sponsoring athletes and giving them a regular and steady income.
Interview With Joe Weider!
People say you were never a lifter yourself, your vitamins are crap, Muscle & Fitness is crap, you make too much money, you lie to kids. [ Click here to learn more. ]
I have been with the Weider Company for 12 years, which means that I received from Weider a regular salary in this time frame. I could workout and dedicate myself 100% completely to the sport without having a financial shadow existence. Some companies followed the steps of Weider by also sponsoring bodybuilders but there is no company that even came close to the engagement for athletes like the Weider Company.
By receiving a Weider contract and receiving continuously more money over the years by progressing physically I originally also made the transition from living in Germany to California. I could talk to Joe and Ben whenever I liked to talk or whenever I thought things should be differently done or handled. They made time for me.
Click Image To Enlarge. Fishing With Friends In Hawaii, Off The Honolulu Coast, Summer 2002.
Often I have heard that the Weider's have been manipulating shows or even the Olympia. This is completely wrong and fabricated by either jealous people or by people who really do not know who to blame because they do not know any other figures on the chess board and do not realize who the real manipulators are. Joe and Ben have never been involved in any manipulations.
Also I had heard that for example Joe was impatient with people - but how would you feel if approximately 100 people a day tried to reach you over phone, personally, via internet and letters in order "to convince" you to invest your money in them?
Joe likes and loves bodybuilding and without him I would not be in the USA today and would have never become a bodybuilding superstar. He created a hero out of me - and he paid for all the photo shoots I have ever been in, in magazines like "Flex" and "Muscle & Fitness." He also motivated me personally.
In 1995 I had been in California for a couple of months. Joe Weider made the promise to give me exactly $10,000.00 US Dollars for the moving expenses I had to pay to come from Germany. He kept his word and he gave me that money at the end of 1994. It was not a loan or anything like that. At that time I was already signed up with Weider.
Click Image To Enlarge. With Joe Weider In The Master Blaster's Office In Woodland Hills, CA.
Also I know when I was still living in Germany in 1993 when I met Paul Dillet there at the gym owned by German guy Bernd Beiderbeck, who was also the German Grand Prix promoter for many years, that Dillet had received extra money from Joe. Joe had it wired to him because Dillet told him that he was "out" despite his regular monthly Weider check. Also Joe had paid at one-point overview taxes for Wheeler.
Ben did tremendous work in all the areas of the worldwide amateur federation and was promoting this sport worldwide over many decades. He even wrote a very good book about Napoleon Bonaparte. Many, many things, which are going on wrongly in the pro division cannot be blamed on Weider.
A Great Deal Of Respect Is Due To The Weider Brothers.
This year marks the anniversary of the Weider brothers and I think that we finally should ALL praise them, and I know that all bodybuilders owe them a great debt. Without them, pro bodybuilding would never have existed. - Vince_Young.
[ Click here to learn more. ]
Since Weider was taken over by Pecker, lots of pro bodybuilders have lost their contracts or have had their salaries greatly financially reduced. Also hundreds of former Weider employees lost their jobs because of Mr. David Pecker's financial cuts. This is the status quo. Pecker is a nice guy who does not know anything about the sport of bodybuilding regardless how many other businesses he successfully owns.
The financial transition from Weider to Pecker was a huge mistake and brought the sport of bodybuilding down to its knees. Pecker knows as much about bodybuilding and its mentality as I know about the Chinese language.
For sure there are also some other pioneers of the sport who either promoted bodybuilding or/and have been active athletes. But no one comes close to the unique Weider efforts worldwide.
[ Q ] What do some professional bodybuilders do to make money to continue working toward their bodybuilding goals?
I am giving you here my personal answer, resulting out of knowing bodybuilding extremely well.
Until a couple of years ago, not even the 11th placed guy at the Olympia, the Super Bowl of bodybuilding, got any prize money at all. So, being 11th best on the planet and not having any prize money after a world-class achievement like that? So luckily this changed after some bodybuilders became loud.
Most bodybuilders, either amateurs or pros do not have a contract with any company where they are or would be getting a salary on a regular basis. A few do have contracts but the majority of these are not getting money, but supplements. Good at the beginning but pretty bad for someone who is world-class. I am not talking about world-class in the amateur ranks but world-class in the pro ranks.
Click Image To Enlarge. Nasser El Sonbaty.
By the way - to be amateur world champion is a fantastic and tremendous achievement but being a professional world champion (Arnold Classic winner, for example) is a completely different thing. It is a difference like day and night.
When I came in 7th place at my first Olympia in 1994 I was pretty much shocked not to get any contract offer. This was also shocking to me because there were others who placed worse than I did but they had money contracts. I contacted in my desperation multiple nutrition companies but did not get any positive answer.
My wife at that time and I thought that we would have to go back to Germany and I would have to pick up a regular job in order to make a living (I just had finished my studies at the University in Germany in November 1992). So I would not be able then to concentrate fully on pro bodybuilding.
Finally after spending a couple more expensive months in California I got to talk to Joe Weider who offered and gave me a one-year Weider contract. This was urgent, I needed help. This was the rain for the drought. From there on I made tremendous improvements and had in between even a contract for four years in a row until it was again renewed. So finally I moved to California in 1994.
"There Are Very Few Females Who Do Have A Good Contract Because Of Their Marketability."
Here I have to say at the same time that a contract or moving to the USA does not make you a great bodybuilder. You have to be good before and world-class as I already was. Lifting weights in the US is not easier than somewhere else in the world. But you definitely get much more publicity if you are good and the contract makes it possible to pursue body building 100 % - if you are also driven and willing to give it your all.
It is definitely more difficult to get a sponsorship contract if you are not US-based.
Getting back to the general survival situation of pro bodybuilders. We do have a couple of hundred female and male pro bodybuilders. I would say that about 95% of these pros have to pick jobs unrelated to bodybuilding to make a regular living. They do work several jobs, do almost 24/7 trainer jobs, do additionally website stuff of all kinds and some do escort service or/and sell drugs on a regular/irregular basis.
And the situation for the majority of females in the sport is definitely much worse than for the majority of their male peers (a lot of the females do domination and wrestling stuff in hotel rooms). There are a very few females who do have a good contract because of their marketability and their outstanding results in the area of bodybuilding, figure and fitness.
Click Image To Enlarge. Nasser In One Of Hundreds Of Hotel Rooms He Has Stayed In During His Travels.
There are also a very few who do have money contracts but have not even turned pro yet. They are the exceptions to the rule. Also the contacts that the female athletes are receiving are way less money-wise than the ones the men are getting.
At the end there is still for most of the athletes the problem that they do not get renewed or regularly renewed. With one word, most athletes in bodybuilding are at the poverty line and not too many can afford a lifestyle of a football or baseball star. This is the very sad reality.
And not to make it too complicated - even with a high paid contract or being personally wealthy - if you do not have the genetically God-given body you cannot make it to the top nowadays. Money can and will help but it does not change the structure of your muscles and the structure of your bones. If you believe that with more money you can afford more and "better" drugs for the change you need, you are dead wrong.
Click Image To Enlarge. Nasser El Sonbaty.
I do often criticize this or that pro or even Mr. Olympia. But at the same time I am very aware that these people are the best of the best on the planet. They can't create with more money a complete different body either. You can go only as far as your genetic DNA allows. You have to find out by trial and error, by going from show to show. Everyone can put muscle on - but most people can only go with their bodies to a certain degree of muscular density and development. Drugs and money can't change that fact.
Nasser - Greatest Potential In History?
Everyone now a days is all into Ronnie Coleman being the biggest guy to walk the stage, thereÃ?'Â¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s no denying... at least mass wise he is the biggest. But one person I think is often overlooked is Nasser El Sonbaty. The guy weighed around 320 pounds off season and came into contest between 270 and 280. - Guardian.
[ Click here to learn more. ]
During my time with Weider I got a couple of other offers from other nutrition companies to which I either did not respond or I just turned them down. While I signed the contract with Joe in 1994 he looked me in the eye and told me that I would also sooner or later work against him like so many others before me. I told him that "I don't think so" - which I never did to this day.
I got some - all together five - low budget movie offers which I never pursued because, rather, I wanted to concentrate on that which I was good in instead of becoming one of the 500,000 mostly jobless actors in the Los Angeles area. Otherwise there have been no real constructive proposals, suggestions, offers or "deals" coming out of bodybuilding related matters.
Click Image To Enlarge. Tight Squeeze. On Yet Another Airplane; One Of Many Nasser Has Been On As He Has Traveled The World As A Professional Bodybuilder.
[ Q ] With all you have done in bodybuilding has there been one standout moment, something that you will forever remember as a career-defining moment?
This is really not possible to say because I cannot really measure success in the aftermath. I would like to give a more complex answer. In some shows I looked better and placed lower. In some other shows I looked less good but placed in relation higher because some of my co-competitors were also in less than their best condition. Also paying so much tax money for so many top placements was not that great either.
And, for example, from an insiders point of view - you can not really say what is "better", my second place at the Olympia in 1997 or the Arnold Classic win in 1999 or for example receiving the fantastic feedback from all British contest reporters through beating Dorian Yates physically again (but not on paper because of the judges and with Dorian Yates still the Olympia title holder) during the British Grand Prix in Birmingham.
Click Image To Enlarge. Dorian Yates.
Or getting a standing ovation at the 1996 Olympia in Chicago IL was good. Also I can remember very well when I was competing at the Russian Grand Prix in St. Petersburg - while I was still doing my posing routine onstage, a good looking Russian girl entered the stage and presented me with a rose. There are so many great moments so I can't name them all during this interview.
And traveling the world definitely belongs among my greatest moments in bodybuilding. Otherwise I would have never seen places like Japan, India, New Zealand, Australia, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, IIe de la Reunion, Finland, and never seen cities like St. Petersburg, Moscow, Dubai, Hong Kong, Rome, and even cities and places in the US (Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico) and Canada.
During these times I met also lots of great and very different people from all different types of cultures. Traveling definitely widens your horizons. And in some cases I could see my relationship with the other pro bodybuilders getting either worse or better because of the simple fact that you had more time to "study" them and see how good or selfish they are.
Here I can also say that it is difficult to be friends with other pros because you are going for the same prize money, the same titles and the judges can also make an impact on you how you perceive certain other pros because of the "presents" they are getting, reflected by the outcome of their placements. You can bond more or the opposite will happen.
Click Image To Enlarge. The Greatest Moments In Bodybuilding Are Not Reduced To Show Results And Money.
The life of a professional bodybuilder is, besides extreme hard work and strict dieting for shows, also like the life of a rock star. Being at lots of events, which are not necessarily bodybuilding related, being at parties, meeting plenty of good-looking girls and celebrities of other branches of life.
The greatest moments in pro bodybuilding are not just reduced to show results and generated money.
[ Q ] What would tempt you to make a bodybuilding comeback? And if you did come back would you still be competitive?
I am definitely not interested in making a bodybuilding comeback. My last show was about two years ago. There is much to less money compensation for the pain and sacrifice you go through - especially when you have done this for over two decades at the most extreme level. Further, nothing changed for the better in the judging. Still married couples are judging, still a "buddy - buddy" mentality among the judges in general (with exceptions), still mentally prejudged contest results are present, the new(er) judges are already being indoctrinated by the already long(er) established ones.
Click Image To Enlarge. Returning From Shark Fishing And Feeling Sea Sick. Off The San Francisco Coast In 2005.
And I never will be judged fairly because of all the things I said now and that I already said in the prime of my career. I am just angry as some people would say but I am being realistic.
I will not subject myself any longer to the dictatorial abuse and the manipulation of some few mentally rotten judges. At the same time I am very proud of myself that I never lost my pride or dignity for the goal of being placed better and I never made either phony phone calls to the judging clique and never handed out to certain judges birthday gifts for the sake of saving my @ss, being placed better or being qualified/upgraded "additionally" to the Olympia. And I never went around and had to tell them that my dad is either wheelchair bound, my mom is sick, my brother is...or that I was sick - just for the sake of being up there.
Click Image To Enlarge. Nasser El Sonbaty.
At the same time, I can say that I have nothing to prove to myself, the biased judges or anyone else. I do know how good I am, without appearing overbearing or arrogant. I am still the uncrowned Mr. Olympia and will always be. I do not need fake pseudo-approval from some cheating bodybuilding judges who are just concerned about their own position of remaining on the judging panel or who are just being opportunistic and are going with the wave.
Additionally, my motivation "to expose" myself after 22 competitive years and 66 shows altogether, is gone. It is not my destiny to step onstage for the remaining rest of my life and to confront myself just in bodybuilding terms. Good for others but not good enough to me.
"There Is No Such Thing Like A Temptation In My Mind To Step Onstage For Physical Competition Reasons."
Also the dieting for about 18 years, if you are counting all my shows together, does not necessarily contribute to having a good mood and being on relaxed terms with my personal environment and in dealing with family, relations, friends and strangers. And I am definitely not looking forward to the next dry chicken breast meal and the plain water with the "great taste of ice cubes".
But luckily because of my natural very good metabolism I do not have to be on a strict or less strict diet either when I am in the off-season - which is now all year around. I just have not gotten fat - so far.
There is no such thing like a temptation in my mind to step onstage for physical competition reasons. And as I mentioned before, not being competitive on a bodybuilding stage does not mean not working out.
[ Q ] I would like to get into some of the details of your life Nasser. You strike me as being a complex person. What interests do you have?
I go from one extreme to the other.
Sometimes I just like doing very basic simple stuff, like watching TV, looking stuff up on the Internet and reading articles about all different kinds of subjects.
I am not the traditional book reader. And my favorite book is not the bible and the second favorite book after that is not "M & F " (Muscle and Fitness) as Victor Richards once said.
Also, I like to watch movies, more action movies than comedies or any kind of tragedy movies. I even liked watching the X-files and also like to watch on and off CSI. And I do sometimes find that Nip/Tuck is pretty shockingly entertaining. Definitely one of my all-time favorite movies is the one with Mike Douglas called
Falling Down. It is a movie about a more-or-less regular guy who is getting stressed out and frustrated about the environment and its people in general. Finally he is so fed up with the "system" and behavior patterns of all kinds of different people in society so he begins and continues to act irrational and wild.
And for sure I do like pets and I do like to "socialize" with my dog Sato. On the other side I like to go out to different places, like to visit different locations and I like to travel to different spots.
Click Image To Enlarge. Sato.
And I do not like to always hang out with the same people. I do need frequent change of any kind of environment.
And I definitely do not like to talk everywhere 24/7 about bodybuilding and to spend my time with only individuals interested in the physical. But, I also do not like to spend only time with wannabe or true intellectual nerds. I am not in favor of mass events like huge (rock) concert events or like to make a pilgrimage to any other huge events like baseball games, football games - just too crowded and too much unnecessary stress.
As I said, I do not just like one specific thing, a specific club or bar and a specific environment.
And I do not like to surround myself with the same personalities of people. Also I do not like some specific or favorite thing either - like I once read in Flex Wheeler's "Flex" magazine profile, that he liked running around naked with his wife on a desert island.
[ Q ] What are some of the more unusual requests you have received from fans?
There are many things that I could name and list now, things which sound unusual to the average person who has an average job, average desires and an average life. I do get from my fans all different kind of requests but I would not like to be too specific about it right now. Otherwise it would look like I am "too surprised" about it all. But fans are fans. Generally speaking, the most unusual requests are drug questions and "give me a program because I would like to get big/in shape as quickly as possible, without dieting". Or they like to get big "but not as big as you". I always think, and sometimes say something like "do not worry, this will be the least of your problems."
What I definitely do not like is when "Nasser haters" and "bodybuilding haters" email me dumb stuff or make dumb statements and remarks.
Dumb stuff would be to me like to ask me for example "how many people can you beat up at the same time?" Or are "people like you impotent?" I can only say and answer in the following way: "give me your wife or your girlfriend and I will try and test her out and she can tell you tomorrow evening how it was." But in all these cases they do not want to take the risk of the test.
Click Image To Enlarge. Nasser El Sonbaty.
Also a lot of people like to be funny and say they would like to arm-wrestle me, which truly has nothing to do with bodybuilding. This happens to me at bodybuilding shows and everywhere in daily life. In cases of girls I really do not mind but in cases of some guys/waiters at restaurants and bars and random people with hidden inferiority complexes - if I would really arm wrestle them and break their arm and dislocate their shoulders they probably would not find it that humorous anymore.
It is not that I do not have sense for fun or humor but getting this funny stuff for 20 years plus on an almost daily basis is not that funny. It is annoying and harassment. Also questions like "so how much do you lift/pump?" are pretty ignorant. Or when people mix bodybuilding up with strong men competitions and Olympic weight lifting or ask me even if I was boxing "because you look like that."
Another example of a person's ignorance and rudeness would be- and this has happened numerous times to me before - to ask me if I can help them to move for $10.00 US Dollars an hour. And some people do know exactly who I am! Or if I can lift their fridge or/and TV set. Moving furniture is also a job but it is definitely not a job for people like me who are "just used to lifting weights" in the gym. I am not the ochse (ochse: German for Ox) who is just there to assist people in their moving process.
Click Image To Enlarge. Nasser With His Number One Support Team: His Parents. In Front Of His Former Home In 2004.
Just yesterday (!) the new neighbor next to me asked my dad if I could come over later to carry the TV into their house. My dad firstly said that I do not do such things. The person then asked my dad "what happened?" - like I was hurt or possibly injured. From their point of view this was the only possible reason why I would not do it. But my dad who opened the house door then gave that person finally an appropriate answer.
Even when I was dieting I do remember people asking me at Costco or Price Club in the parking lot if I could help them put their heavy groceries into their cars and trunk. And even being there with another female at my side who helped me to get my/our items and groceries into my car, these people still asked me such things. Also at airports I am encouraged to lift people's luggage into overhead compartments. If it was an older person then I do not have a problem with it... but otherwise.
Click Image To Enlarge. Nasser El Sonbaty.
So, I rather have unusual email inquiries from fans like wrestling them naked in a room, being asked if they can physically touch me ("muscle worshipping") or if I am available for paid sex, than dealing with "normal people".
But I do not do anything like wrestling people (if dressed, half naked or plain nude), muscle worshipping, escort service or anything similar going in a sexual direction - not for fun and not for money either.
I am on a regular basis also getting offers to be "financially compensated for my services". To give you just an example - There was this lady who contacted me via email and wanted to have a consultation as she phrased it. But the "consultation" was to have paid sex with her. I was supposed to get dressed in a US Marines uniform (what kind of Marines uniform would possibly fit me?) and meet up with her on one of the islands (where she owns a "huge" house) on the Los Angeles, CA coast. We would meet up there; she described to me in detail what she wanted me to do with her. Also she wanted me during the act to call her abusive names and "dominate" her. She made a contract up with the intention to transfer the first part of my "fee" to my account. At the beginning she offered me $5000. 00 US Dollars - but I asked finally for $12000.00 US, which she hesitantly but finally granted to me. It "would be worth it", as she was saying in the emails.
She emailed me a contract with 10 paragraphs I was supposed to sign beforehand. Paragraphs which said that "it was money for the consultation", further that I was at least 18 years plus, that I was not working for law enforcement. Also the contract said that there was the option of repeating the "consultation" if wished so by both parties - with an additional financial compensation. And I had fun going back and forth - in that specific case - via email with that lady. She sent me pictures of herself, told me that she was a clean woman and I would not have to tongue kiss her because she knew "that big bodybuilders are picky". I finally just abruptly stopped emailing her back. I just wanted to originally see how far she would go.
Click Image To Enlarge. Nasser With His Friend And Training Partner, Guillermo.
Other people like guys and girls would like to fly me out for example to Paris, France/the Bahamas/Hawaii/New York/ for a couple of days also with the final goal of having sex with me.
Or people would like to have dinner with me and like to pay me "for each piece of sushi" I am eating "exactly $120.00 US Dollars". And others want to watch me having sex with their wives or girlfriends.
There are many, many more of these. But again, these kinds of emails do not bother me as much as being 24/7 asked anywhere and everywhere at any given time about my eating habits, competition plans, my planned body weight onstage and drugs. I even had people coming up to me, and asking me why I "ended up as a bodybuilder" if I supposedly went to school.
Also it is extremely tiring to hear from people just out of the blue why they do not like to look like me - either they have no time, but they "could if they did", or they have a back problem, had an accident, or they would rather like to get an education instead of having some muscles. Or they would have to then buy all this large clothing, which is too much hassle and money.
"I Even Had People Coming Up To Me, And Asking Me Why I Ended Up As A Bodybuilder, If I Supposedly Went To School."
I still remember the times when I was at University in Germany when I was working on Mercedes Benz assembly lines in my semester holidays to support myself. But I also sometimes worked for a couple of days/week in clubs. So when the club guests saw me they told me that they could look like me but they had to work or study as students at the Universities and so they did not have the regular schedule like me to be able to work out and go to work. And if the guest/customers knew that I was a student they told me that I had a flexible time schedule because of being a student and with that it was easy for me to integrate work and workouts into my daily life.
So "nobody" really has/had really time to workout but me?
[ Q ] Well you can never be accused of having a dull life. On the other side, how exhausting is it to be a competitive pro bodybuilder?
To tell you honestly, it is very exhausting. The last three to two weeks prior to a show are the most exhausting ones. I have problems dressing myself before my workouts and I do have problems taking my clothing off after the gym. My former wife and girlfriends used to even put my socks and my shoes on for me, especially the last two to three weeks before a show. And after the workouts or even during the pre contest workouts in the gym I sometimes fell over my own feet.
I have so many scars on my shins because of walking during pre contest time (while dieting) in the gym into and against the weight stacks and machines (due to extremely low carbs) and cutting myself open frequently and drawing blood often. Others even sometimes had and have paid helpers or regular training partners taking their weights off from the machines while (they are) going through the dieting process. Sometimes after the gym I did not talk for hours because of exhaustion or I talked for hours complaining about everything.
Because of the lack of carbs I was always feeling cold even under the hot showers, still freezing. During nighttime I had to get up 15 to 20 times just to use the bathroom in order to pee.
During the diet you urinate more frequently because you have less carbs in your system and so the glycogen that holds the water in your system is missing. Often I slept the last couple of weeks on the floor. Just turning to the sides to urinate while I was lying there into a jar so that I did not have to get up and lose more sleep and strength. Insomnia is normal. By sleeping less, eating less, being deprived off fats and normal life activities you are more irritable and aggressive. And sometimes you do even feel depressed.
Time flies at night when you're trying to recover for the next day when all of a sudden your alarm clock goes off. It's frustrating. Here are some suggestions that may help you feel great in the morning. [ Click here to learn more. ]
You do need to have the right partner around to assist you, even if it is just handing you a glass of water or the remote control. People who you do not like, you like even less during the dieting phase.
I specifically am annoyed during this time when it comes to too bright lights, noises that are too loud or people who are too talkative. And I do not have time and patience for dumb talk or unnecessary arguments. Sometimes I feel like not shaving my face for a week or just peeing in bed because I do feel too tired to get up. But you have to get up in order not to mess your mattress up.
And eating every 2.5 to 3 hours is not really satisfactory either because you do mostly consume protein, which really does not have that much taste. Also it rushes fast through your system and you are hungry again soon after.
Click Image To Enlarge. Nasser Is A Nice Guy, Just Don't Ask Him To Carry Your Groceries.
And doing cardio and weight training, as a combo, is definitely a killer. Doing just cardio like a lot of regular females are doing is easy. And doing weight training by itself is also easy. But doing cardio and weight training and being deprived of calories and sleep for weeks and months (and yes it is brutal. A diet either makes you or it breaks you). It is hard to be a champion.
In order to make more money during my pre contest phase (mostly the diet time prior to a show of 12 - 14 weeks out) I still did guest posing appearances and seminars up to two weeks out. It is so difficult to keep your schedule when eating regularly and clean. You have to carry your food with you, in cars and planes and avoid cheating when you have the worst possible cravings because you will start holding water and fat and you won't be in shape on contest day.
I do remember that Yates as the reigning Mr. Olympia did not even travel five months before the Olympia to any other country in order to be just ready to defend his title. He did not want to risk anything. And he did not ever compete in the Arnold Classic either because he could not manage to come in ultimate shape twice in a time frame of a couple of months.
The same thing applied many other competitors like for example Shawn Ray who never ever did the European Tour (the pro shows right after the Olympia in different European countries). Ray was afraid of not being capable of keeping his shape and condition during this brutal phase which needs lots of will power, mental strength and an unbreakable will of endurance to succeed.
Click Image To Enlarge. A Massive Nasser In Surfers' Paradise, Australia.
It was not the money that Shawn Ray did not want to pick up there. We all know how cheap he can be and how money hungry he is otherwise. It was his pure fear of potentially losing to guys like Vince Taylor, Cormier, Dillet, Levrone, Coleman, others and myself.
Click Image To Enlarge. Shawn Ray.
Once I read a dumb "fan" letter in Flex magazine from a guy who was complementing former Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman for still having and keeping (at that time still for the first couple of years) his job as a police officer. Why should you have another job besides being a pro athlete if you are good enough? Why do pro football players or basketball players or pro soccer players not also work somewhere simultaneously at "7 - Eleven", liquor stores, shopping malls, fabric shops, as bouncers at clubs.
It just shows me that there are a lot of ignorant people, even here in the US and even in the year of 2007 who still do not get it and do not have a clue about bodybuilding, regardless of whether they are reading Flex magazine or anything bodybuilding related.
Pro bodybuilding is one of the most demanding, most extreme and one of most energy robbing sports on the planet. Also people are surprised if they hear that we pro bodybuilders do not work out for eight hours in a row like mine workers. Working out once a day for 75 to 120 minutes or working out twice a day each time for 1.5 hours plus cardio is nothing to most people in society.
Frequently people are asking me what I am doing besides bodybuilding. I do know that they refer to another job. But often I do tell them that I drive a cab during the daytime between Monday and Friday. In the evenings I work as a bouncer at a local club. And Saturdays I skydive, Sundays I am surfing and sometimes I do work out and visit my family and answer random questions.
Click Image To Enlarge. Nasser El Sonbaty.
Once, I told Wayne DeMilia who is located in the state of New York, that I would not do the European Tour (mostly eight shows at that time, starting out five to six days after the Mr. Olympia in Europe after the Olympia was held in Las Vegas, NV). I did not want to do the European Tour at that time because I had already been dieting for seven months in that specific year because I had already entered the Arnold Classic and Olympia.
Wayne told me, "Just do it - you do not have anything better to do anyway." It was not about me, it was about him, making money for himself by bringing the best bodybuilding athletes of the world to the different European countries after the Olympia. For sure, as a bodybuilder you can make good money if you place in the top three but as the promoter of the Olympia as he was, primarily bringing the guys overseas so that he could make even more money was his aim. He did not care about the individual degree of exhaustion I or others experienced or any health hazards or adequate accommodation and direct flights for us to Europe either.
Click Image To Enlarge. With Sato At The Beach; Fiesta Island CA, 2003.
In the year 1996 the so called "drug testing" for the pro bodybuilders started. It was not drug testing regarding drugs like steroids, as you might expect. It was a drug testing mostly for diuretics. Not to make steroids sound like just pure vitamins but steroids actually do not kill. But diuretics can kill because they take the water so drastically (depending on dose and depending also if taken orally/taken via IV) out of your system. Momo Benaziza had allegedly died from it before and people before like Matarazzo and Dillet had to be hospitalized straight after coming from the contest stage because of taking too many diuretics.
The diuretic testing supposedly started at the 1996 Olympia and I still do not believe until today that it was done for sure. I never saw my positive test result and I was the only one who was caught. Nobody else. Nobody else was caught because other guys used other diuretics that were off the list or the collected test results had never been sent in. And a few really did not use any diuretics.
Click Image To Enlarge. Nasser El Sonbaty.
Anyways, the testing continued until approximately 2002 for big shows like the Olympia and the Arnold Classic. But not for the smaller regular shows in the US and the European shows (European Tour).
Also Wayne DeMilia announced so-called testing for substances like cocaine and nubaine. But soon after that, the testing for these two drugs was dropped because too many of the pros use cocaine and nubaine. And they did not want to have over 50% of the competitors being tested positive. This is definitely not a good advertisement for bodybuilding when it was trying to become an Olympic discipline.
On that occasion I said to Wayne DeMilia in the 1996 competitors meeting (two days before the Olympia, which was always on a Thursday) that to me it would not make any sense to test for these substances in the USA but not afterwards in the shows in Europe. Wayne was not happy at all with my question. He told me that I "could do whatever" I wanted. I still insisted that it looks like that it is "not good to die in the US - on US soil" (during the Olympia in the US) "but it is basically okay if you die in Europe at a show." So much for the truth and the health concerns of the profit hungry Wayne DeMilia, officially a so-called "non profit organization".
The testing would have cut into the profit margin of all people who participated in staging these shows. Profit over health. This is another prime example of the hypocrisy within the upper echelons.
So, coming back to doing or not doing the European Tour. If I had signed the contract for the post Olympia tour (like I did many times before) I would have gone. I never backed out of a signed Olympia or European Tour contract like several other of my pro colleagues who either had "family emergencies", or "the wife was pregnant," or they became suddenly "sick". But as I said, the "show must go on" - having names in these European shows generates more pre-sales and final ticket sales for all of those who have their fingers there to stage these shows.
"Profit Over Health. This Is Another Prime Example Of The Hypocrisy Within The Upper Echelons."
[ Q ] How did you cope with the day-to-day grind of being a pro bodybuilder?
Working out in general takes time and costs money and energy. But it is so much harder to do competitive bodybuilding as an amateur and as a pro. Working out with a full stomach is so much easier.
If you finally receive a sponsorship contract as a bodybuilder you have to keep it up by placing good and high on a regular basis or you will lose it and be out of your profession sooner or later because the money is missing and without it you cannot afford all the expensive diet foods and the expensive drugs - and you still have to pay all other kinds of bills like any other regular citizen. And if you have kids or have to pay child support, then you are really at the edge.
As a competitive pro you have to basically make friends with starvation. You are more or less hungry for the whole day during your pre contest diet. Or at least you have cravings. All these other bodybuilders who tell you that they are not suffering or hungry while dieting strictly are liars or they do not/did not really diet strictly.
In most pro shows you do see mostly only four to six guys in very good condition. The rest of the competition field looks okay or out of shape. The reason for that is not that they maybe did not know how to diet (after looking great before in many other shows) but the reason is mostly that they could not make it. They could not stay strict on their pre contest diet; they could not make friends with starvation.
Bodybuilders & Stress!
Training in general can reduce stress. It can provide psychological benefits that can help improve physical health. It acts as a buffer against stress. [ Click here to learn more. ]
For sure there are also in some cases other reasons why these guys could not come in the ultimate contest shape like, for example, being physically burnt out, being sick (psychologically from problems and stress and being physically exhausted) or a lack of motivation. At the professional and progressed pro level nutrition knowledge should have been gained a long time ago.
As I said, there are not too many professions in the world where you go to your work place hungry. And in bodybuilding you have to be strict with the dieting until the show is really over. The higher the level the competition is, the more you have to be aware of what you are really doing training and nutrition-wise. And not even as a very genetically gifted athlete can you allow yourself to be relaxing your diet. I, for example, do have in the off-season a mostly full looking face - and some other people say that I even look fat in the face. Pre contest my face is so drawn-in that people have even assumed that I had Aids.
For sure you then have other reasons why you could not make it to the show. I remember so well, like it was yesterday, when Flex Wheeler said shortly before the 1997 Olympia that he had a broken hand and could not compete. But the truth and the fact of the matter was that he could not come down with his weight while he was cheating on and off during his pre contest diet. He felt embarrassed that he was not able to get in shape on time. So he lied and fabricated the story that he and his wife had been attacked while driving with his car in Los Angeles. The attackers were supposedly Asian gang members with fighting sticks.
It is proven that there was not even a police report that existed about that; also you could see Wheeler on one of pre-Olympia videotapes even holding a gallon of water with his "broken Hand". So embarrassing to come up with such a lame story. Wayne DeMilia who was the head of the pro division at that time knew also about Wheeler's lies and Wayne made Wheeler speak on the Olympia stage into the microphone to the audience about his "ordeal." Wheeler compared his attack by the Asian gang members with the death of former Princess Lady Diana from England who had died in a car accident.
It was also very funny how Shawn Ray, who is verbally very fast and articulate phrased Wheelers story as "having seen too many Jackie Chan movies".
Flex Talks About The "Ninja Attack" At The 2007 Europa.
I however do not have a problem of saying and admitting that I looked bad at my last couple of contest showings in the last couple of years. I am definitely stepping on stage if I have signed a contract - regardless of how bad the outcome will be for me. And I am not making stories up and looking for sympathy and understanding for my own failure.
Be sure to check back for part four of this Nasser interview series.