Lance Armstrong is living proof that no matter how many races you win, titles you earn, and accolades you receive, once people know that your accomplishments were achieved by cheating – in his case, the use of performance-enhancing drugs – they’ll turn on you faster than a starving bodybuilder can wolf down a protein shake. Furthermore, your credibility as an athlete gets shot, your sponsors flee, and your sports career is pretty much over. To put it bluntly, nobody wants you around – or back.
The Lance-Armstrong debacle also showed us something else – no matter how entrenched drugs are in sports, the public still has no respect for those who get caught using them. As a result, Armstrong’s recent fall from grace was as quick as Ben Johnson’s was when he got caught using steroids at the Seoul Olympics, which was back in 1988. Times haven’t change.
I believe the reason that most people frown on drug users comes down to this: they believe these people are frauds. And why wouldn’t they? The person’s performance has been aided – often greatly – by a chemical (or likely chemicals) banned for usage in the sports they’re participating in. It also doesn’t matter that supposedly “everyone is using them,” which is what those who get caught always say. The fact is that when a person actually gets caught using drugs, either through testing or their own confession, then it’s not hearsay or conjecture anymore – it’s a cold, hard fact that they were on stuff, and now everyone knows.
In Ben’s and Lance’s cases, there was actually more they did to further the public’s disdain for them – both spent considerable time before and after they were caught denying drug usage. In the end, however, both confessed to their drug use, and those confessions proved that they weren’t only cheaters, but liars as well. After all, confessing only after you get caught isn’t really coming clean. Talk about having zero credibility.
In ways, that puts bodybuilding and bodybuilders in a very tough spot. Not only is the sport rife with drug abuse, it has been that way for decades and pretty much everyone on the planet knows it. What’s more, there are many involved in bodybuilding who actually want the drugs in the sports, mostly because they desire the look that the rampant use of drugs gives – the “freak show,” as drug-free bodybuilder Denis Pedneault (who is shown in the photo below and is featured on our cover this month) often says, referring to the mass-monsters who now line the competition stages. However, the result of that thinking has driven bodybuilding farther from the mainstream than it has ever been, mostly because the general public today just can’t relate to what they’re seeing on the stages and in the magazines’ pages. This is in stark contrast to back when Arnold Schwarzenegger was in his heyday as a bodybuilder, and then went on to become a huge movie star – the public adored him.
But not everyone in bodybuilding thinks that encouraging drug use is the way to go, which is why there are a number of so-called “natural” organizations in Canada and the United States – organizations that shun drugs. Physique Canada, which was established in 2011, is one of the organizations, and, if you ask me, it’s the best of them in Canada for one key reason: the organization’s world-class drug-testing program, which not only follows the standards set out by WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) insofar as testing protocols go, but also tests competitors in and out of competition, which is vital to catching cheaters. Their combination of WADA standards and year-round testing is effective – in my opinion, the organization has the “cleanest” stage in the nation. By clean, I of course mean drug free. And by being drug free, that means real credibility insofar as sports go, and in the eyes of the public. (The reason I put “so-called” was because many of the natural organization, despite some good intentions, don’t necessarily come through on the testing side – but that’s another story.)
However, this testing Physique Canada does has costs. One of the costs is the testing itself, which is very expensive to do. Another cost has to do with the number of competitors that can’t get on that stage because they’re on drugs. As I mentioned, not everyone involved in bodybuilding is against drugs; in fact, my experience shows me that most are for it in bodybuilding. So Physique Canada is basically turning away many competitors and their money by adhering to a true anti-drug stance. Surely, not every organization would do that – and doesn’t.
On the other hand, if one wants to have acceptance in the mainstream, which is what Physique Canada is after, then there’s no other choice but to take this path involving true drug testing to create a fair stage for natural competitors and, in turn, a legitimate, drug-free sport. After all, like all other sports, the drug-free way is the only way that bodybuilding will ever attain credibility and respectability again – and that’s certainly something we want to see happen. Don’t you?
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