As mentioned in my last article professional bodybuilding is going to have to make some difficult decisions to break out into the mainstream. It can be much more than it already is- but not with its current stigmas and drawbacks.
There is no doubt that Ronnie Coleman is a massive hulk of a man with hours, days, months and years of hard work and commitment under his belt. I wish that were enough to have won him the championship, but alas, it isn't. No there is a dark side to our sport - an insidious force that, while it seems to vault participants to new levels, it actually undermines our industry in the worst way. We're talking juice-gear-steroids.
I am not going to debate whether they should be legal or not. The fact is, they are not. Possessing them and using them is a violation of federal law, and it is a stain on our industry that Ronnie's hard work and dedication is not enough to take him to the top. He knows, and so does everyone else, that he has to obtain, and pin, illegal gear in order to catapult him into the spot above
Jay Cutler. Jay knows that he has to use dope in order to stay on Ronnie's heels until he defeats Ronnie, or someone else will take his spot. And on and on down the line. It's accepted (even encouraged) that our champion has to break the law to be the champ. Do I blame Ronnie? Yes and No. I do not in the case that he is just doing what is accepted by the industry - a sport that pretends at removing drug use, while winking at the guys in the back room sticking needles in their massive glutes.
Many have already told me "Deen, you're fighting uphill. No one will listen." But the stigma if our industry keeps away the very people we want to attract- big name sponsors.
Remember NASCAR? It had to fight a huge uphill battle to change the mentality that its name stood for Non Athletic Sports Centered Around Rednecks - and they have done an unprecedented job. Their sponsors used to be Pennzoil, STP and Motorcraft and teams and drivers had to fight it out for what little money and recognition there was. But now, NASCAR sponsors, along with individual team sponsors, are now a Who's Who of corporate America: Lowes, Kelloggs, UPS, America Online, VISA, Cherrios, Viagra, Home Depot and many others.
What do those companies, now sponsoring a sport they would have never dreamed of connecting with, have to do with autos or racing? Nothing. The companies attach themselves because they see a positive result from the name recognition. We could benefit too from sponsorship like Gatorade, Chevy, Nike apparel.
What do those companies have to do with bodybuilding? About as much as cornflakes has to do with car racing. But I have close personal friends at both Nike and Microsoft and I will tell you that our industry will not attract money from corporate America as long as we have the reputation that we hide in dirty little bathrooms sticking syringes in our hams so we can win a championship.
Back in the beginning, guys like Arnold, Frank Zane and Larry Scott worked hard, banged iron and probably shot steroids - but it wasn't illegal. My contention all along is not the use of performance altering substances, but the illegal use of such things. I used ephedra and I use Pro Hormones. If PHs get banned, I'll look for something else.
If you check Ronnie bio on his own page, you come across a very interesting item: He's a police officer for the Arlington Police Department. Reserve or not, he's a badge carrying law enforcement officer, and he knows better.
I can understand Arnold and Larry using gear when it wasn't illegal. I may even be able to understand the mentality that competitors have to do it to make the big money. But from Ronnie, I expect more - he carries a badge.
Just like I have to walk in a more strict accountability than some of those around me because of my leadership position at church, he has an integrity to uphold because of a situation he chose. He wasn't born with that badge. He had to go after it and earn it. And keeping it isn't free. Not only does he spit at the laws he was sworn to enforce, he flaunts his disrespect by posing in an altered police uniform from time to time, bringing more disrespect to the situation.
What, you ask, is a Rodney Hawthorne? Just the two-time NGA Pro Universe champion, and a man I greatly respect. He's my champion.
I caught up with Rodney over the 4th of July weekend. He was fresh off his win of the National Gym Association's Pro Universe, a win that he shared with his lovely wife Claudia. It was the first time ever that a husband and wife team won the men's and women's championships respectively.
Rodney and I discussed everything from soy protein and his supplement regimen, to Christian service in the community that afternoon. He talked to me a bit about his days as a wrestler at OSU and how, after getting out of college, he wanted to do something to help others become the very best they could be. He opened Ironfish training (www.ironfish.us) and begin to teach men and women in the community about taking care of their whole selves.
Rodney has been drug free for life. I asked him about his Post Cycle Therapy for M1T and he asked "What's M1T?" His commitment to natural growth is a good quality considering that the NGA requires all of its pros to submit to random drug screenings and polygraph tests. The requirements are stringent, they are effective and they are working. Andy Bostinto is the NGA president and he pulls no punches about the cleanliness of his organization. It is, and will stay, drug free.
In addition to continuing to advance his own bodybuilding career, he has a strong desire to help others become championship material. He is currently putting the finishing touches on the upcoming show he is promoting in Vancouver, Washington: The 2004 Pro/Am IRON SPIRIT OF AMERICA.
The show will take place August 21st and will feature natural bodybuilders from all across the Pacific Northwest, including some that Rodney has personally trained. As is the standard with all NGA sanctioned shows, participants will be polygraphed. The show offers $5000 in cash prizes. Rodney will be a guest poser at the event, showing off the physique that made him a Mr. Universe in 2003 and 2004.
That physique represents something special in the world of bodybuilding - an example of what someone can attain if they will grind through the hard work and keep the commitment to themselves to stay drug free. And by the way, Rodney has never expressed to me a negative take on Pro Hormones; he just hasn't used them.
The NGA rules state that all contestants must be willing to pass a urine test under the guidelines of the IOC, banned substance testing regulations. In addition the NGA does offer warning about hormone precursors and the effects they make have on T/E ratios. Promoters are able to include a polygraph test as part of the prejudging, if they choose.
To restate: The guidelines are strict and they are working.
Question: If major league professional bodybuilding wants to continue to juice, and doesn't really want to deal with the drug issues then why not move the organization and contest to Europe where it is legal? Money.
The leaders know that the big money for any sport is in America - Basketball, Football, Baseball, Hockey, Auto Racing and even non-sport sports like Poker all have a stake in the prosperity of the American economy.
So the owners may just continue to allow champions to break the law in an attempt to offer a bigger and better product, while at the same time, undermining the very success, sponsorship and paydays they claim they want to see. A new mentality is going to have to come to the leadership of our sport.
Bodybuilding can thrive and become a mainstream industry, but it will not as long as we have the stigma that our champions have to shoot up to be what they are. It's artificial, it's seedy, it's degrading and it's time for change.
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