One of the most spectacular pro-bodybuilders of the latter part of the 20-century would be Shawn Ray—a man often referred to as having the perfect combination of mass and aesthetics. For over 17-years, Shawn has wowed bodybuilding audiences with a perfectly presented package of quality muscle, narrowly, and often controversially, losing the Olympia on many occasions.
The qualities Shawn has in abundance (muscle symmetry, definition, presentation skills, and great muscle shape) appear to be overlooked today in favor of the more massive physique according to Shawn. This has prompted him to award worthy competitors with a best presentation award and openly condemn the current emphasis on the 'mass at all costs' approach.
Half a lifetime dieting and training to win bodybuilding's most converted prize, the Mr. Olympia, has given Shawn unparalleled insight concerning bodybuilding politics and the professional system as a whole: he feels the system needs to change to accommodate a dwindling fan base and reward the athletes who are overlooked in favor of the more massive individuals. "I walked away from competition because I wanted to live a healthier life" said Shawn. "I didn't want to raise the bar to the standard the judges are now rewarding."
A man much admired, and often derided, for his propensity to speak his mind and 'tell it like it is', Shawn never distanced himself to far from controversy, and always kept the bodybuilding media well-stocked with personal predictions and his own, sometimes vitriolic, brand of bodybuilding commentary.
One of bodybuilding's meteoric risers, Shawn achieved his pro-card by winning the 1987 Nationals at the age of 22, at 196 lbs, on his very first attempt. His first pro-show, the 1988 Night of the Champions, where he secured forth-place, and an invite to the Mr Olympia, presented Shawn with a golden opportunity to highlight the physique of a new era.
Shawn's first Olympia was not the most auspicious of starts simply due to his lack of experience, but a win at the first ever Iron-Man pro two-years later (in 1990) gave him confidence to realize his destiny as one of the best ever.
Since this win Shawn has accumulated 13-years experience as an Olympia competitor and has gone down in history as one of the most persistent, and consistently well conditioned pros of all time.
In the following interview Shawn talks about his life in bodybuilding and reveals all about the current state of the sport.
Q. Where are you living at the moment Shawn?
Yorba Linda. Which is in Orange County Southern California, 10 mins East of Disneyland. The Birth and resting place of former President of the United States, Richard Nixon.
Q. I understand you just arrived back from Istanbul, Turkey? What exactly were you doing over there?
I had four seminars to do over there. They bought me in to Speak & Lecture about information related to:
- Health and Fitness
- Bodybuilding 101
- As well as the Shawn Ray story.
That's what I do. I travel the world performing professional seminars and training exhibitions. I don't pose anymore. The last time I posed on a bodybuilding stage was in Okinawa, Japan August of 2002. My last contest was the Mr. Olympia in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2001.
Q. What have you been doing since your last contest Shawn?
Since my last contest in October of 2001, I have been working for and representing Weider/ AMI Publications, the same company I have been sponsored by for the last 17 years of my professional career.
My contract expired on February 28th of this year and I'll be moving on.
Q. Do you have anything planned for the period after your contract expires?
Yes, I will immediately begin working with and representing the nutrition company called out of Beverly Hills, California as their spokesperson and representative at trade shows, contests, exhibitions and conventions for the next two years effective March 1st, 2005.
Q. Tell me about your Muscle Camps?
I just got back from Johannesburg, South Africa this past November, promoting the first ever Muscle Camp Seminar / Posing and Contest! My Co-promoter, Tommy Fraser and I took top professional bodybuilders:
- Troy Alves
- Melvin Anthony
- Lee Powell
As well as:
- Fitness Queen, Adela Freidmansky
- and Fitness/Model, Timea Majorova.
The pro bodybuilders took part in judging bodybuilders at a South African competition. We then had the athletes perform a posing exhibition and seminar. Next, we provided the fans with an opportunity to train with the Pro bodybuilders.
I hold Muscle Camps every year with others planned in the future including, Las Vegas.
I have also have had them in Dublin, Ireland, Miami, Florida and Sydney, Australia—so I am really getting a lot more support for the Muscle Camps from pro Athletes to the fans!
Bodybuilders in Turkey are now wanting one there. With every Muscle Camp I like to try and bring in new athletes, both bodybuilding/fitness and figure for the different markets.
I'm taking this show on the road and to the fans because not a lot of people can afford to visit California every day and live the bodybuilding dream, or come out to Gold's Gym in Venice Beach, Ca. to pick the brains of the Pro bodybuilders.
Therefore, I chose three to five Pro athletes and take the information and show to the fans!
Q. When are you bringing a Muscle Camp to New Zealand?
That would be awesome! As a matter of fact, last year we had Muscle Camps in both Melbourne and Sydney, Australia. Muscle Camps will only work if I can work with someone from a particular region who can promote it there, while I gather the talent and help with the marketing side of things over here.
Essentially we are catering to certain clientele and we just want to ensure they get their moneys worth.
Q. Tell me about the post Olympia seminars?
For the past 6 years the day after the Olympia, I have been putting on seminars with all the top Pros. This year I had four out of the five top five guys, including Ronnie Coleman, Markus Ruhl, Gunter Schlierkamp Dexter Jackson and Jay Cutler. Also I had Kevin Levrone and Flex Wheeler, kind of the "where are they now type guys".
Monica Brant, Shawn Ray, Ronnie Coleman & Skip LaCour At The Shawn Ray Seminar In Early 2002.
This is a big task given that this is 24-hours after the Mr. Olympia Contest and the bodybuilders take their shirts of and pose for the fans and answer questions for 2 hours!
As well, I raffle off personal items belonging to the Pros and give away a "VIP ALL EXPENSE PAID" trip to contests as my personal guest!
Q. Explain the "Best Presentation Award" you developed following the Mr. Olympia?
This is where I present an award for the finest display of posing. Last year Melvin Anthony won the award. This year it was presented to Darrem Charles. I gather other Professional Bodybuilders and we collectively decide based on the following criteria who the winner of the $10,000.00 Award is:
- Musical Score
- Smooth Transitions
- Best Poses
- Balance and Harmony.
Any athlete on that stage is capable of winning this award without bias or politics. As an athlete I put a lot of emphasis on the "Presentation" side of the sport to entertain the fans. Sponsors include:
- Pure Performance Nutrition
- Crisis Management Event Services
- Gerstner & Associates
- M&F / Flex Magazines
- Muscular Development
- Muscle Mag. INT.
- Body Rock Productions
- Love Productions
- Kristie Ray
- Shawn Ray Productions
- Stronghold Ministries
I feel that competitors should be rewarded for going the extra mile to perform for the paying audience.
Q. Do you feel a bodybuilder like Darrem Charles, who has perfected his presentation, will ever place toward the top based purely on his presentation and symmetry or will he continually be relegated toward the lower end of the top ten? What is the state of judging in the IFBB today?
He will continue to be relegated toward the bottom of the top ten of the Mr. Olympia not based on lack of quality but quite simply because, and I will be emphatic here:
"The Judges Will Not Rotate!"
There is currently a total lack of rotation within the pool of IFBB judges currently qualified to judge. Once you're an IFBB judge, you're always an IFBB judge. Meaning, typically there are a hand-full of judges, mostly from the USA, who preside over an "International" pool of competitors.
Bodybuilders are simply not being judged by a jury of their peers. For example:
- A guy like Kris Dim being placed 13th at the Olympia while Markus Ruhl places 5th.
- Only a week later he beats Markus Ruhl in Europe TWICE during the same week, in basically the same condition as the Mr. Olympia but with totally different judges?
The Mr. Olympia judging has become an embarrassment to the fans and a lot of the athletes. I have the emails, phone calls and response from the fans when I travel for seminars around the world and they are emphatic!
This problem can be easily ratified through "Proper judge rotation" annually, so that not one single judge on that panel judges the Mr. Olympia in consecutive years.
If you have 60 judges qualified and you only need twelve, there is no reason why we cant have a different panel of judges each year?
If you are an IFBB card-carrying judge, you should have the opportunity to judge the biggest bodybuilding competition in the world, PERIOD! Sadly, however that is not the case. I personally know of Professional IFBB Judges whom have NEVER judged the Mr. Olympia that have been judges for years.
The flip side is, I also know some Pro judges that virtually judge the contest EVERY YEAR!
I don't know whether it is a control factor or what, but ALL judges should be entitled to gain the relevant experience by virtue of a random selection process giving them all an equal chance to partake in and event as big as the Mr. Olympia.
Many judges are alienated based on the language barriers and their geographic location. The problem is, if you are able to judge a show in Italy without speaking Italian, you should be able to judge a show in America because the judges shouldn't be talking anyway - the outcome is based on a points system and it is a physique contest.
This is an area beyond my control but the fans and athletes are equally disturbed by the lack of changing opinions that direct the outcome of this contest.
Q. Is this system to blame for the lack of variation in exactly who wins the Mr. Olympia year after year?
The multiple winners we have seen are a sheer reflection of the lack of rotation of opinions and the people who are judging this show. There is no reason why Jay Cutler, Flex Wheeler, Kevin Levrone and myself haven't won a Sandow trophy?
It is not like we did not have a chance to win, it was that people who judge each year don't change what they like each year.
Meaning, if the judge likes mass then balance symmetry and conditioning will lose out every time and every year.
Q. Does this lack of rotation explain why a guy like Dexter Jackson can't place second or ever win the Mr. Olympia, when clearly in the opinion of many he should be right up there with Ronnie?
I don't know whether it is a control factor. These placing's reflect the outcome of a system that is still being twisted and tweaked and not a reflection of actually what the fans see. There is no accountability on the part of the judges.
No one on behalf of the athletes to ask them questions of how and why this happens, which is why the bodybuilders do articles and interviews to express how they truly feel.
Things are only to be threatened by the federation or talked about behind their backs by the very judges who will judge them again down the road.
Who Is Judging The JUDGES?
They are not beyond criticism and evaluation in my eyes. I call things as I see them and some of them don't like what I am saying but what I say regarding these matters I have lived, witnessed and painfully suffered through.
When a judge takes what I am saying personally, they probably have some guilt in them knowing I am speaking the TRUTH!
Q. What are your thoughts on the new "Challenge round?"
To put in a new round like the challenge round that gets judged on the spot in front of the fans pulls the curtain back on the Wizards of Oz. It exposed some of what is wrong with our judges and clearly, there were going to be some casualties.
The vast majority of the athletes were not in favour of this round. They felt they could be knocked off their perch at any time without rhyme or reason.
The challenge round eliminated the entire pre-judging round. They essentially started the whole contest over and I didn't feel it was a fair way and had no bearing on the final result according to the way the round was introduced. I will give the federation credit because they went out on a limb and tried something different and I'm all for change.
Next time, why not just start with ALL NEW JUDGES! That said, there are bugs within this new round that will need to be ironed out, but a lot of athletes will fall by the wayside before this happens.
Q. What is your biggest concern within Pro bodybuilding today?
The biggest problem we have, and this is part of the reason I quit being the IFBB Athletes Representative, is that the athletes complaints fall on deaf ears and there is little to no is change when the athletes voice their concerns.
There are certain promoters that don't pay some athletes (James Goad Orlando Pro and Nimrod King Toronto Pro) after the show is over and these athletes have no way of recouping their prize money?
The federation doesn't lift a hand in support and the our Vice President does not guarantee the promoter will pay even after issuing a sanction fee to the promoter which is the saddest part of all.
These guys bust their humps to compete for their money and for the fans, as well as commit to the promoter but they have zero support in getting paid in full!
Q. Who will take over from you as Athletes Rep?
Well, the next person with the biggest mouth is Bob Cicherillo. Bob is a good friend of mine with the same passion and love for the sport with the best interests of the athletes in his heart.
He is qualified to be the Athletes Rep based on his ability to stand by his word and he has an opinion. I was told he is taking over the position by "Appointment" However, I had to round up 98 Signatures by way of Email, Fax and Phone Calls around the world to get the position.
You feeling my pain yet?
No matter who is the Athletes Rep they will run into the same brick walls I ran into - a system that nobody can infiltrate. The division of the athletes is what keeps the old system in place.
Change is needed at the higher level, not just with Wayne Demilia being Axed as Vice President of the IFBB but the whole system. When a year has gone by and there is absolutely nothing accomplished and nothing has been changed in the way of increased prize money, new judges etc.—we have a big problem.
There are athletes that qualify for the Mr. Olympia these days who sit the contest out. 10-years-ago no one would have passed on a ticket to the Mr. Olympia that they earned by qualifying. Craig Titus, Shari Kamali and myself have sat out the Mr. Olympia.
Lee Priest doesn't even want to compete in this contest. There is a problem when the athletes don't have respect for the way the contest is run. Especially when their inclusion in the developmental process of the show is excluded!
Q. Where do think bodybuilding is heading in terms of gaining a broader public acceptance and support?
I don't think bodybuilding is gaining support. The public can only get fed so much SIZE! If you only start judging a bodybuilding contest on size alone this will not enhance its profile and the lower attendance numbers and general television coverage reflects that.
We don't even wind up in the local newspaper the day after the Mr. Olympia contest (The Arnold Classic does though)! There is a large population of people out there who are into proportion, condition, shape, symmetry and presentation. All these things are all being overlooked for size. The IFBB has Pay-Per-View for the Olympia, yet nothing financially ever gets back to the Athletes.
If this continues, the fan base will continue to be limited and the next generation of athletes that might be interested will turn away. You've got to remember that the present Mr. Olympia competes at 297 lbs. If one is 200 lbs, they probably are not going to go very far in this industry.
I was one of the fortunate few. Up and coming stars quickly get woken up to reality on the Olympia stage you can ask Rookie Pro, Richard Jones whom some magazine were heralding as the future Mr. O? NOT!
Not with these judges, not in my lifetime.
The bar been raised so high by the judges over-rewarding the freaky mass and size, that not only will you have athletes questioning whether competing is worth it financially or in terms of general health, but also asking themselves what they can do if they are 5'8 or under?
It would be like the NBA having nothing but Centers (ie. Shaq, Mutumbo, Ewing, Duncan). There has to be room for the Kobe Bryant's (Kobe OKs payout to accuser, Allen Iverson's and Jason Kidd's in the game to cater to everybody of different talent and skills
There are some great bodybuilders who will never have the opportunity to win the big one with these judges simply because it will always be the same people judging who are caught up with the emphasis on MASS!
Q. So this is why bodybuilding is losing popularity?
The present criteria is unattainable for 98% of the population.
When I started bodybuilding back in 1983-84 I had guys like Mohammed Makkaway, Chris Dickerson, and Bob Paris (who was very large compared to me.)
These guys had shape, aesthetics, balance, beauty and symmetry—a certain look that wasn't so chemically enhanced, and which didn't look like a science project.
Adjectives like pretty, shapely, artistic were applied to these gladiators of the iron game and I wanted to be one of them.
I think this is what Joe Weider's vision of the sport was going to be like and then something changed.
I mean today you have synthol, growth hormone and insulin running rampant.
Words like gross, GH gut, freak, mass monster and beasts are being tossed around in our industry referring to the best in our business. My how times have changed.
Some bodybuilding magazines shy away from these freaky bodybuilders claiming they hurt sales? We have athletes getting arrested and charged with distribution of steroids and growth hormone to make ends meet. It's ridiculous.
Q. How big a reality is synthol in pro bodybuilding?
Oh yeah—it's a reality. The problem is although there is a rule that clearly states a bodybuilder will be marked down for this that and that, the rules are never enforced?
Lou Ferrigno competed in Helsinki, Finland in 1992 for his comeback, with complete calf implants! Then he went on to compete in 93', 94' and 95' with these calf implants. What gives? The rules state that calf implants are illegal! An athlete can be suspended for having them.
Synthol use is rampant.
Nasser El Sonbaty had surgery on both shoulders as a result of synthol.
Milos Sarcev had both his biceps operated on because of Synthol.
Flex Wheeler admitted to using Synthol after his career was over during the time he was at the peak!
The federation made a rule in 1997 that the judges would mark down everybody who had a "distended stomachs". The competitor with the biggest distended stomach was the winner of the show Dorian Yates, Mr. Olympia which included a torn biceps and triceps.
With arm, he single handedly dominated the competition based on what the judges were looking at, now that was a joke!
When I started bodybuilding I had total control over what I could do to my body and at that time, Lee Haney was the measuring stick at 245 lbs.
Then there was the Dorian Yates era at a winning bodyweight of 255 lbs. At present, Ronnie Coleman has taken it to another level competing at 297 lbs. Where are we heading?
There is a large population of fans and sponsors who want to draw a line in the sand.
Could Ronnie Coleman have lost a few of those Olympia's? Certainly. Could Kevin Levrone, Flex Wheeler or Jay Cutler have won at least one? Yes!
When the fans pay to see one thing and the judges give them another, clearly the fans and the athletes get disgruntled and many of them walk away from the sport. I walked away from competition because I wanted to live a healthier life. I didn't want to raise the bar to the standard the judges are now rewarding.
The judges have now issued a statement to the women that they have to reduce their muscularity by 20%. The judges shouldn't tell the athletes how to train and look instead, reward the women who win the contest by sticking to a judging criteria that rewards less muscular women.
So the outcome of the contest is controlled by the judges, not by the athletes?
The contests are becoming much more controlled by the judges. When the judges pass the baton on to the athletes and say they are too muscular, then it makes it look like the athletes are doing something wrong when the judges should be the ones looking in the mirror and saying, "Maybe we shouldn't pick the most muscular female in the contest, we should pick a champion that reflects the direction we want to go in."
The choice may not be a popular one but fits what our criteria is because this is what we what our sport to be. It doesn't make the woman feel less of a woman because we pick the less muscular female. It means we have criteria that we are looking for and that will be rewarded.
Q. What about a guy like Ronnie Coleman who is thought to be both big and symmetrical?
The judges are trying to tell us that Ronnie Coleman is the standard. Unfortunately, it was the same judges that chose Dorian Yates. If I can tell you in January the name of at least five judges sitting on the panel in October, we have a problem. We have a problem with how these judges are selected.
"Who Is Picking These Judges & How Are They Picked?"
No one in bodybuilding knows how these judges are picked? I competed in the contest for 13 years and I don't have the answer to that question? Let me tell you something:
The Mr. Olympia is just like the Super bowl of football. The referee's of professional football are picked out of however many referees they have throughout the year. They are randomly picked by the NFL to judge the Super-bowl 5 or 6 of them—the creme de la creme of football. However, when we get to the Mr. Olympia, there is a mystery as to how these judges are chosen?
The judges are not being chosen on a set criteria that athletes or the fans are aware of and we happen to be PAID Members of this federation meaning there should be some sort of "Inclusion" regarding this mysterious process.
This is why you have people judging the Olympia multiple times.
So I think our biggest problems are: General perception in regard to the abuse of anabolic steroids, marketability, cross-over appeal, judging criteria, lack of rotation in the judges, the alienation of judges who are qualified but will never have the opportunity to judge and the overemphasis on mass being the main criteria.
Q. Do you feel you should have won an Olympia by now?
The contracts that I have had, the marketability I have achieved in our sport, the money that I have earned in the bodybuilding industry and the way the fans have been behind me over the course of my career have shown to me that I should have won at some time or another. There were many Mr. Olympia contests where it was close but no cigar.
The sole criteria was height and weight and unfortunately for me, when I entered bodybuilding Chris Dickerson at 5.5 and 189 lbs was Mr. Olympia and I thought anything was possible.
However, I came on in the heels of Lee Haney at 5'11" and 250 lbs. They then replaced Haney with an even bigger Dorian Yates. Now they have replaced Yates with still yet a bigger version again in the form of Ronnie Coleman.
It has gotten to the point where it is a forgone conclusion that the defending champion never loses. I want to go on record as saying that the last Mr. Olympia Champion to have lost on stage was 21-years-ago in 1984.
This was when Lee Haney beat Samir Bannout. As far as me not winning the contest, obviously for personal satisfaction the trophy would have nice but I think the fans and the puritans of bodybuilding have solidified my place in the sport of bodybuilding history based on what they saw and bore witness to.
Photo's don't lie and being there in person to witness these contests are an even better testimony for me when people reflect on my past achievement or lack there of.
Q. Which bodybuilder impresses, or has impressed, you the most Shawn?
I am more impressed with a collection of body parts than I am with an individual bodybuilder. Nobody really has the perfect package. If you go back to the 93, 94 or 95 Olympia's you had some impressive guys to choose from.
Unfortunately, now you have the big distended stomachs. I am not all that impressed with the conditioning or just the sheer size - it is more like a freak show.
In 2005 bodybuilding is like a freak show and I would never had said that phrase back in 1985 or even 1995.
In saying this I am highly impressed with Ahmed Haidar's physique. I am impressed with Dexter Jackson in certain poses. His conditioning is great but I am not really that impressed with his thigh separation which he has very little of. I believe this is an area he can improve on and will if he is to truly develop a complete physique. He has a great mid section, nails the mandatory poses but his high Lat's are a distraction. His most glaring weakness is his calf development which helps define a complete physique.
That being said, he is the best of what is up there from where I sit.
Q. What are your thoughts on the physique of Troy Alves?
Troy Alves has an athletic physique that is pleasing to the eye. No particular body part jumps out at you. Again, Troy has some difficulties with his hamstrings and calves but has a nice flowing upper-body.
Q. Who do you think will take over from Ronnie should he chose to retire within the next two years?
Jay Cutler would be next in line. At the moment he is Ronnie Coleman's whipping boy, the same way I was Dorian Yates whipping boy. Somebody's got to take over at some stage. Gustavo Badell was no slouch from where I was sitting either. He was an unknown, a foreigner, but you can't ignore his physique and the progress he has made. Will he win? Absolutely not. Inherently it's Jay Cutlers contest to lose under the current system because they just refuse to let Dexter Jackson knock him off.
Obviously the next generation of bodybuilders are here. Me, Kevin Levrone and Flex Wheeler are gone. I believe this will be Ronnie Coleman's last Mr. Olympia, after he wins. He only has to show up. Then we will have to look at the guys who are a little younger.
Jay's got age on his side. He's only 32, Dexter Jackson's 35. I don't particularly like the direction in which bodybuilding is going. You only have to survey the females in the audience to get an accurate picture of what is wrong with our sport. There are a lot more people who are liking young new comers like Frank Roberson, Mark Dugdale and Richard Jones.
Even the magazines are promoting physiques like that. These physiques are not too intrusive on the general public or the older fans out there and they are pleasing to the eye.
What are you going to do when we have a near 300 lb Mr Olympia. They still haven't figured it out. To save our sport they had better or we will have more bodybuilders dropping like flies (i.e. Don Long, Flex Wheeler, Tom Prince and Mike Matarazzo.)
Q. Is it true that you have only added 8lbs of muscle to your physique since you began competing as a pro?
No. I turned pro at 197 lbs and my heaviest at the Mr. Olympia was 218 in New York city where I placed 5th. I came back to Las Vegas in 99' and was 215 and got 5th. I figured I was competing too heavy. In 2000, I got my weight down in to 212 lbs and moved up to 4th place. In 2001, I repeated that 4th place finish at 210 lbs.
Arguably, I was at my best between 205 and 210. That being said, when one puts on extra size this does not necessarily equate to quality, in that some of the detail gets lost.
It is all trial and error so I hit my peak sometimes, I missed my peak sometimes but I was always good enough to stay in the top five for 12 straight years.
Q. Why did you quit bodybuilding when you had made so many amazing improvements?
I will paint this picture very clear because up until now it hasn't been told. People ask me why did I quit? I stopped competing for a number of reasons.
Firstly, Kevin Levrone in 2001 never paid for his pro card, which every competitor has to do every year in order to compete. Also, he never signed his Olympia contract for 2001.
Wayne Demilia and several other people, including Jim Manion, said that he was not going be allowed to compete. This directly affected me because Kevin is somebody that could possibly beat me. He beat me in the past and I beat him in the past but this is big news:
"Kevin would not be competing in the 2001 Olympia."
The organizers went as far as to let us know this the Tuesday before the Olympia. On the Wednesday, we find that the "Powers that be" demanded that Kevin Levrone be allowed to compete. The guy doesn't have a pro card, the guy doesn't have a contract but he is going to be let in to compete?
For a lot of bodybuilders who have earned the right to be there it was a slap in the face, not to mention the fact that the rules had been broken right in front of us!
The final votes come down: Jay Cutler second place, Kevin Levrone third place, Shawn Ray fourth place. Whoa, hold your horses, a week after the Mr. Olympia 2001, Jay Cutler fails the Diuretic Drug test and is stripped of his prize money ($60,000) and his silver medal. This puts Kevin Levrone up into second and Shawn Ray into third.
Well, Jay Cutler decides he is going to bring a lawsuit against the federation if they try to strip him of his prize money and silver medal.
When the dust settled absolutely nothing happened. Apparently, the lab that they used to conduct the test was not an official Olympic accredited lab, so all the drug tests were going to be thrown out the window. This was news to the bodybuilders because we never heard of this "Official IOC Lab" in any of our contracts?
So they said that since the lab at which they did the tests had not renewed its license for that year, ALL the tests were null and void. How does this directly effect me?
First, Kevin Levrone was illegally allowed into the show, and had he been out, Shawn Ray would have been in third. Jay Cutler failed a diuretic test for the world to see and the federation at that time should have stripped him of second place and his prize money and Shawn Ray would have made second.
At the Press Conference in 2001—two days before the show, I argued with a female judge in front of the fans and media who said, I hadn't changed in 10 years but that she would be judging me for the first time ever in her first time judging the Mr. Olympia that Saturday evening.
Talk about a judge already having their mind made up. She went on to state that, "no one could beat Ronnie Coleman" out loud in front of all the athletes! Well, it also didn't hurt the defending champion that this judge happened to be from his home state of Texas.
I promptly demanded her removal from the judging panel and reluctantly, Wayne DeMilia removed her. It was at this time the paying fans of our sport got a chance to see some of what is wrong with our sport as this judge was a reflection of other judges and the way they think.
In all those little events, the federation was manipulating and tweaking the rules, which were in black and white. These rules were carried out for me when I failed a drug test in 1990 and it cost me $60,000!
So here's another guy who's going through the same process who is standing up to the federation with a lawsuit and the federation backs down. As far as I was concerned, this backing down cost me $20,000 and second place in the world.
When I saw that they could do that with Kevin Levrone and Jay Cutler, I felt that there was absolutely no way that this was level playing field for any bodybuilder, let alone Shawn Ray.
I felt I was way to intelligent to let my destiny lie in the hands of people who can manipulate the final outcome of the contest. Now guess what?
Lee Priest, Dexter Jackson, Jay Cutler and Kevin Levrone have all gotten a bitter taste of the system and they are not happy bodybuilders either because they have to deal with what I walked away from.
Kevin Levrone walked away a very bitter bodybuilder. Lee Priest won't even compete in the Mr. Olympia and Dexter Jackson feels he was robbed yet again by this new Challenge Round (Editor's Note: I think he was too!).
There's nowhere these guys can go and nothing they can do to right the wrongs they suffer. There is absolutely no checks and balances regarding the judges decisions and no accountability when they screw up.
In the past, at least we had Joe Weider to speak with and get answers from.
This is why I walked away. I have the peace of mind of having competed in a record 13 Mr. Olympia Contests under my belt and my health is still intact.
Q. You talk about casualties of the system. Who are some of these casualties and why is this the case?
I didn't want to be the next Flex Wheeler, Don Long or Mike Matarazzo. These were healthy young men who ultimately tried to play the size game. So these are some of the casualties.
I was smart enough to walk away. I realized there was more I could do for bodybuilding in terms of promotion off stage rather than on.
Many contest "GURU'S" came along to infiltrate our sport and they helped ruin some otherwise great physique's playing chemical warfare with athletes who were chasing ghosts in the form of a Sandow trophy.
Q. So the future for you is in promotion as opposed to competing?
Possibly, I feel the future for bodybuilding is in education. I would like to continue with seminars, getting bodybuilders together to share their experiences and teach bodybuilding fans how to body build correctly.
People are reading the magazines and thinking all they have to do is load up on drugs, rather than hearing it from the professionals who are living it. I would like to focus on education.
The fun of bodybuilding disappears for many who begin to understand the politics of it all.
Q. Seriously though, isn't drug use in bodybuilding a reality for anyone considering taking to the next level?
We are talking about chemical warfare in professional sports not just bodybuilding.
I'm all in favor of having all the drug tests bought back because this would help to save some people from themselves.
The criteria in which the judges choose the champions is simply unjust. I will say the following categorically: in 1990 when they had steroid tests and Lee Haney won the Olympia it was not the Lee Haney of old.
In 1991 when they got rid of testing, suddenly everyone wanted to push the envelope. So, would the re-introduction of drug testing change bodybuilding? I don't think so, but it would be a start I would not be opposed to.
We need to change the judging standards. We need accountability from the judges, so it's not like the "good ole boys" judging the contests every time.
How do you explain guys like Dexter Jackson and Darrem Charles competing in other countries and beating people that beat them in America?
Q. You have been very successful financially. Is pro bodybuilding a lucrative sport?
It's like anything else. We can all go out today and get our real estate license but that does not mean we are all going to become a Donald Trump.
Getting a pro card will not automatically take you to the top of the heap, unless you win the Mr. Olympia. In bodybuilding, like with any other profession, you get out of it what you put into it—you reap what you sow.
A lot of pro's earn absolutely nothing, but there are many trainers, gym owners, nutritionists and contest preparation guys who earn a lot. You need to find your niche.
Q. So it pays to have a back up plan if you decide to turn pro?
The reality is, there are probably only about 15 guys living off pro-bodybuilding out of 190 registered as professional men. You need to keep things in perspective.
It's not like the NBA or NFL where there are all these teams earning good money. In professional bodybuilding it's dog eat dog. If you're fortunate to get a sponsor this will help. Some guys are better at competing, some are better at the marketing and promotion side of things.
Q. The prize money isn't a factor in one wanting to turn pro?
The prize money's crap. You don't get into professional bodybuilding, just like I believe you don't get into Olympic wrestling hoping to make a lot of money. A lot of good wrestlers don't make anything unless they go to WWE which is entertainment wrestling. It's like anything you love doing, and have a passion for, you might be fortunate to earn a livelihood doing it.
You are doing it first and foremost because it is something you love to do and there are very few people who can survive off of doing something they love to do.
90% of the guys would do it for free because they started out doing it because it was something they loved to do. I will continue to lift weights because this was what I did before becoming a professional.
I just learned to focus on the business side of things and find my niche, just like everyone else has the opportunity to do.
For example, Kevin Levrone and Ronnie Coleman both have their own bodybuilding shows. Others might choose to open a gym. No point in just competing on stage for nickels and dimes when these other things can add up to dollars and cents!
Q. You say you will not make a comeback, but I assume you continue to keep in good shape.
After retiring I took almost a year off training and in January started coming back into the gym to train for general fitness. My contract with VYO-Tech Nutritionals will begin in March 1st, at which time I will be doing the body transformation using their products.
So, I will be getting back into the gym and into shape to be photographed, not to compete. I am now paying a lot more attention to the business of bodybuilding to provide for my family.
It just happens I am one of the fortunate few who can get paid for pursuing their passion.
Q. You have discussed what is currently happening in your life. What are some of your other goals Shawn?
I'm not one of those long term dreamers but more of a short-term guy. I like to accomplish one goal before moving straight on to the next one.
I said I wanted to get married, have a baby, start a family and get out of bodybuilding with my health, and fortunately I have been blessed in all these areas.
Every year I am maturing and learning a little bit more about myself, about the person I am and the man I want to be. These things are all my short-term goals. My deadline used to always be late October—the Mr. Olympia. I would never look beyond this date because that was the next thing I had to do.
Right now my next thing is to make sure I am a good father when we have kids. This is something I have to prepare myself for, just like getting ready for a contest.
Financially and emotionally, everything will have to be in place and I am not looking beyond that.
Q. Do you feel a certain sense of relief as far as not having to prepare for any more shows is concerned.
I feel a certain sense of relief from the standpoint that I have always wanted to be a parent and I have always put that off to pursue the Sandow trophy. When you try for something so long, it is a relief to finally have it come to fruition.
This is much bigger than the Mr. Olympia to me—the biggest event in my life up until now. Right now I'm just looking at the calendar and thinking, great this is one more day we don't have to wait, will it be a boy or a girl?
My wife and I just want to concentrate on being good parents because we have seen some pretty bad situations out there and we don't want to make the mistakes others have made.
This is probably the biggest, most important thing in my life right now, which makes the Olympia pale by comparison.
"I can now sit at the Mr. Olympia and watch it and think about being some place else. That is how much the passion is gone."
People say to me, don't you miss it, don't you want to be up there? To sit in the audience and ponder where I am going to be a year from now, the Olympia just doesn't have the same degree of importance. You just have to understand the dynamics of it:
- The lustre
- Anticipation is gone.
Sitting in the audience I can see the frustration a lot of the fans go through. When I was on stage, there was not the same level of frustration because I was competing in the show I had spent a large proportion of my life training for. But sitting with the fans, I can feel their frustration.
I'm being sold something I didn't pay for. The fans should be happy and satisfied and there were very few happy faces coming out of the Olympia year after year.
Although, Ronnie Coleman, who has set the standard, won it hands down, all you heard was negativity. I thought to myself, "man this is supposed to be fun" so I couldn't relate to that. There was only one happy person there.
Q. What about the other shows like the Pro Iron-man, or the Arnold Classic? Do they rouse a respectable level of excitement from the fans and competitors?
I have been beating the drum for the Pro Iron-Man for the last few years because they have failed to raise the prize money in 15 years.
I'm trying to help the promoters to raise the prize money by giving them $1000 for the best presentation award and I am encouraging the nutrition company I work for to give away $1000 of their money to award the most muscular competitor.
That adds $2000 more to the competition, but they wouldn't accept it this year for their own reasons which I can respect. However, I tied to be a part of the solution and not the problem by putting my money up and they politely declined.
As well, I turned around and bought 15 tickets at $1,125.00 to promote the show. I am putting my money where my mouth is and challenging the promoter at every opportunity to raise the prize money or get out of the way and let somebody else come and promote that show!
Q. So, you are saying not a lot has changed since the first Iron-man in 1990.
Right. Ticket prices have gone up, sponsorship dollars have gone up, and contest preparation costs have gone up, but the athletes are still getting the same amount of prize money?
It is a lot harder to get ready for a show in 2005 than it was to get ready 1990! It is outrageous and all the bodybuilders should take a stand!
Q. How much does it cost, on average, to get ready for a big show?
It depends on the individual. You need to take into account different body types and appetites.
For me it didn't really cost all that much because I found it cost less buying healthy food as opposed to junk food. But it is a case of chemical warfare out there and that does get pretty expensive.
Q. So the athletes should be getting paid commensurately?
Yes. The promoters need to start raising the prize money. Back in the day when Ronald Reagan challenged Mr. Gorbachev of Russia to tear down that wall he said it loud enough so that the entire world could hear him and the wall eventually came down!
"Bob Cicherillo and I are trying to say it loud enough for them to raise the damn prize money!"
I'm trying to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
I personally have nothing to gain whether the prize money goes up or down, but I do want what is best for the athletes. They should not be afraid to voice their opinions. I can see these bodybuilders being taken advantage of and I will continue to fight for them.
Q. How long had you been competing Shawn?
My first contest was in 1983, my last was in 2001 so that's 18 years of competing. I've spent half of my lifetime dieting and competing.
During this time I saw only 3 guys win the Mr. Olympia and I haven't competed since 2001 and no one else has won the title since.
- Haney: 84-91 won 8 straight years.
- Yates: 92-97 won 6 straight years.
- Coleman: 98-04 has won 7 consecutive times!
Are you starting to see a trend here? This is because the same judges judge year after year!
Q. And all this competing and dieting has not effected your health in any way?
Absolutely not. I never took my body for granted as I felt it was the most important thing that I had. I never got caught up with the reckless, promiscuous lifestyle, the sex drugs and rock-and-roll life of professional sports.
I have always been appreciative of my life's foundations, the support of both my parents. My best man at my wedding I met at preschool when I was 4 yrs old.
Q. You did have your fun I assume?
Yes, there are fringe benefits, but I have always believed that there is no success in excess - I never took my body for granted. If I had a 17-year-old son who wanted to compete in bodybuilding today I would try to discourage this.
That is a pretty sad commentary on the sport of bodybuilding that gave me all I have but it is how I feel the direction of the sport has taken a turn for the worse.
There are many gym owners, judges and promoters who feel the same as I do yet nothing has changed.
Q. What does it take to become a top pro?
Obviously it depends on your genetics. You can't just take a pile of drugs and expect to be the next Mr Olympia. Becoming a pro is unrealistic for 99% of competitors competing.
What Does Tom Price Think It Takes To Become A Pro?
I'm going to cut right to it. Here's EXACTLY, word for word, what it takes for anyone to turn pro. Read it here.
Q. What about natural bodybuilding as an alternative.
The thing with natural bodybuilding is that simply doesn't get the exposure pro bodybuilding does. Muscle magazines like Flex, Muscle and Fitness and Musclemag International focus almost exclusively on pro bodybuilding. The focus is on mass and the 200 lb physique simply is not going to cut it.
Q. What do you believe in Shawn and are you a part of any groups or organizations?
I am presently enrolled in 3 bible study classes as well as attend the Rock Community Church on Sundays with my wife whose name is Kristie. We have been married going on 2 yrs (April 4th, 2003).
I am a Christian and looking forward to what God has in store for me and my family.
As a bodybuilder, I neglected this spiritual side of my life and relied on myself and my own efforts to carry me through the tough times but I soon realized that through Jesus Christ who sustains me, "All things are possible" as I am now an Ambassador for Christ who died on the Cross for my sins.
Q. Thank you for your time Shawn. It has been pleasure to interview you.
My pleasure and God Bless you Dave.