hd_pubpage_230hIn only five years, the IDFA (International Drug Free Athletics) has gone from one event in Toronto to almost ten events across Canada. Its shows are huge and diverse – anywhere from several dozen to over a hundred competitors line the stage at every competition. And it’s now attracting competitors not only from its home country of Canada, but from the United States and overseas as well. Without question, the IDFA has not just become the fastest-growing organization, but also the most dominant one in Canada. 

I started covering IDFA events about three years ago. Since I wasn’t there at the beginning, I can’t say with any certainty exactly what its formula for success was right from the start. But from what I’ve seen in the last few years, I can point to a couple of things that have certainly helped to bolster its growth and make it the success it is today. 

One is the outstanding quality of its events, both on and off the stage. The IDFA always holds its events in first-rate venues, and the shows are always very well organized. Its promotional literature is outstanding and the coverage it gets in magazines has always been excellent. It was these elements of quality that attracted me to the group. It’s also likely what attracted so many outstanding competitors including Erik Alstrup, who is featured on our cover this month. Erik competed as a pro in the IFBB in the ‘90s and then disappeared from the competitive stage for about 11 years. Erik told me that it was the IDFA Natural Novice Classic in the spring of 2009 that enticed him to compete again. He did so in the IDFA three times last year, the first two times as an amateur, and he is now competing as one of the organization’s top pros, placing second to Dickens Lambert at the 2009 IDFA Pro Universe. Erik is scheduled to compete this month at the IDFA’s International Championships on July 17 in Toronto. 

Neil Flores (left) congratulates Erik Alstrup on his win at the 2009 IDFA Montreal Classic after an 11-year absence from the competitive bodybuilding stage.

Another reason for its success is the IDFA’s insistence from the beginning on being a “natural” organization – in other words, one where competitors compete drug-free, which is not an insignificant proviso when it comes to bodybuilding. A number of people in the bodybuilding press and in various organizations will try to pull the wool over the public’s eyes, claiming that drugs are a problem in any sport, not just bodybuilding. True to a point. But I counter with this statement: Drugs in sport are a problem, but when drugs are the sport, it’s a far bigger problem, which is the way it is with bodybuilding. Quite simply, the drug epidemic in bodybuilding is at an all-time high, something that not only infiltrates the highest-levels of competitions, but the lower levels too. In my ten or so years covering the sport, I’ve been to far too many local level events where rank beginners are jacked up on more drugs than a pro was taking 20 or 30 years ago. In April, the International World Games Association voted unanimously to suspend the IFBB from its competition because since 1989 more than 68 percent of the positive drug tests were attributable to bodybuilding. It’s no wonder to me that the mainstream simply won’t accept bodybuilding and you can’t find it covered on TV.  A sport this rife with drug abuse just isn't acceptable. This image is something that the IDFA is working hard to change. 

From the beginning, president Shaun Campbell has insisted on a strong and effective drug-testing program to ensure the IDFA is drug-free and remains that way. In my opinion, it’s working. This has not only created a level playing field for its competitors, but has also created an organization with a positive image and the potential for mainstream exposure, not to mention enormous growth – proven by the fact that it has grown from one event to almost ten in about half a decade. I believe that for the longest time there has been a large number of natural competitors waiting for an organization to confront the drug problem head on, and when it happened, those people came to compete. As a result, this goal to promote natural bodybuilding like no one else was doing gave the IDFA a natural competitive advantage over other organizations; it should be no surprise that the IDFA naturally dominates the drug-free scene in Canada today. 

With the kind of success that the IDFA has had, you’d think it would be enough to tempt their executives to rest on their laurels. After all, it’s success that no other Canadian organization has replicated. But it’s not enough. President Shaun Campbell and vice president Desmona Cole have another surprise in store that they’ll reveal at the IDFA’s International Championships on July 17 in Toronto, Canada. It will help to make the organization bigger than it is today. I know what the surprise is, but I’m sworn to secrecy until the 17th. However, when they unveil it, it’s sure to solidify the IDFA’s position as the number-one bodybuilding organization in Canada and it will open the doors wider for even greater exposure for the organization and its competitors. Stay tuned!  Better yet, be there in Toronto for what’s sure to be a fantastic show! Look for times and ticketing information on www.IDFA.ca – home to the number-one physique organization in Canada.

. . . Doug Schneider, Publisher

Doug Schneider is the publisher and chief photographer for SeriousAboutMuscle.com.