There’s a trend in most of the Canadian organizations that put on supposed drug-tested bodybuilding competitions – their men’s lineups are shrinking at a rapid rate. Over the last two years, I’ve looked at the lineups at many shows and there are often only one or two competitors in them – or sometimes none at all. If you judged the sport of bodybuilding by those organizations, you’d think it was dying.

In contrast, the men’s bodybuilding lineups at Physique Canada started small back when the organization began in 2012, but they’ve been growing steadily in size and quality ever since. Physique Canada is at the point now that men’s bodybuilding is the highlight of each show. So why the discrepancy between Physique Canada and the others?

I think it comes down to two reasons. One is that many organizations followed the lead of the IFBB by implementing the discipline of men’s physique a few years ago. That’s the category where men wear board shorts, not posing trunks, and only do quarter turns, not actually posing. Frankly, it’s more of a male-modeling contest than a sporting event. As a result, these organizations turned their focus away from bodybuilding.

BackstageCompetitors Winston Johnson (left) and Frank Apuzzo with coach Mike Jackson (white shirt)

That said, Physique Canada is not totally innocent in this regard. The organization included men’s physique in a few shows, saw little success or purpose with it, and quickly distanced itself from the discipline by eliminating it altogether – with the acknowledgement that it should never have been there in the first place. It was definitely a mistake. But most other organizations still have men’s physique and that’s where their priorities now seem to lie. Undoubtedly, it’s not helping men’s bodybuilding in their shows.

I think the other reason probably matters more – Physique Canada competitions are properly drug tested, both in and out of competition. This has been the mandate of the organization since the beginning, mainly because so many other organizations claimed to drug test, but really didn’t – oftentimes, their testing was a charade. That is why I used the word supposed at the beginning of this article. So, as word got out that Physique Canada was legit by doing true testing, more and more competitors came to compete. For the organizations that have been lying about doing testing, their deception is finally costing them in terms of bodybuilding competitors who no longer come to their stages.

That brings us to the 2016 Physique Canada Canadian Championships, held October 22 in Gatineau, Quebec. Everyone who has followed Physique Canada from the beginning thought this to be the highest quality Tier 1 Pro men’s bodybuilding lineup yet, even surpassing the 2015 Canadian Championships’ Tier 1 Pro lineup, which is when Erik Alstrup won. Unfortunately, Erik wasn’t in this year’s competition, so that left a clear path for Winston Johnson to claim victory and the first-place cash prize at this year’s Canadian Championships, just as he had done at the 2016 Physique Canada National Classic, held in June. Winston wasn’t the biggest competitor on the stage, but his physique is as close as you’ll find to flawless, head to toe. Winston is now a two-time Tier 1 Pro winner and the 2016 Canadian Men’s Bodybuilding Champion.

Winston JohnsonWinston Johnson receives the gold medal for his win

Selecting the remaining two competitors for the top three wasn’t so easy for the judges, since the rest of the lineup had put up quite a fight to get those spots, leaving the judging panel with several predicaments as to whom to choose. There were a number of other competitors in the category, but it was Kristopher Reid, Alexandre Villeneuve, Carl Giguere, and Frank Apuzzo who were in almost a dead heat for second and third places. For Kristopher and Carl, it was their first Tier 1 Pro competition. For Alexandre and Frank, it was their second – Frank took fourth at the 2016 National Classic, while Alexandre was second at last year’s Canadians, right behind Erik.

Alexandre, Winston, CarlAlexandre Villeneuve, Winston Johnson, and Carl Giguere

All four exhibited numerous strengths, but they all also had some weaknesses. For Alexandre, his size, shape, and symmetry were excellent, but he wasn’t as defined as he needed to be – or as he was last year. Frank doesn’t have the great structure that Alexandre does, so some judges knocked him down on that; however, he showed excellent size, good symmetry, and razor-sharp definition. Kristopher and Carl both have tremendous upper-body development, but they are both a little weak in the legs, particularly in the calves. Legs aside, Carl edged Kristopher in terms of definition.

Kristopher ReidKristopher Reid

Because of the differing strengths and weakness, the judges’ scores varied more than some would’ve liked, which tends to happen when one competitor isn’t clearly better than the other. What’s more, in the fight for second and third places, there ended up being a tie, so a tie-breaking mechanism was used, which put Frank in second and Carl in third. At the end, the final placings were a little controversial because those four competitors were so close and everyone had a favorite – but that’s also what made it exciting. (The full results can be seen on the Physique Canada site, which are now official since drug-testing procedures are complete.)

Frank, Winston, CarlFrank, Winston, and Carl with medal presenters Nichole Alex (left) and Virginie Roy

Don’t judge the state of men’s bodybuilding by what you see in the other organizations, particularly if they don’t drug test and their focus is on men’s physique. At Physique Canada, bodybuilding is not only growing, the quality is improving every year, which was in evidence in the Tier 1 Pro men’s category at the 2016 Canadian Championships. The way things are going, 2017 is going to be nothing short of incredible for the sport of men’s bodybuilding, at least at Physique Canada, where it’s back in a very big way!

Doug Schneider Founder and Publisher