Bodybuilding is rife with drug abuse. Frankly, it has been for decades. It is a problem that much of the bodybuilding press will deny or try to downplay, but when people think about bodybuilding, they usually associate it with drugs, and they have good reason to do so. However, things are changing.
Ironically, in the last ten years or so, the most growth that competitive bodybuilding has seen has been on the drug-tested side. In the year 2000, which was when I started covering competitions, there were just a few drug-tested events nationwide, giving natural competitors very little opportunity to compete. Today, there are more than a dozen drug-free competitions held across the country, and most of them are run by the IDFA, now Canada’s fastest-growing and most influential bodybuilding organization. Times have changed and drug-free competing is on the upswing and is growing.
I can point to a number of reasons for the growth in natural bodybuilding, but that’s not the intention of this article. Rather, I wanted to draw attention to this incredible growth, and also to point something out: This explosion in natural bodybuilding has led to the creation of brand-new, drug-free bodybuilding stars who, in my opinion, have the potential for a lot more mainstream credibility than their drug-using counterparts ever had or ever will have. This new crop of champions aren’t just the stars of today; they will be the stars of tomorrow as well.
The reason I say that these drug-free competitors have more credibility in the mainstream comes down to this: Drug use is frowned upon in sports. It’s as simple as that. Look at the uproar in the United States these days regarding drug use and sports. First there were the scandals with the baseball players and the Olympic athletes like Marion Jones, and now it’s Lance Armstrong on the hot seat. Whenever drug use gets uncovered as contributing to an athlete’s success, credibility is lost and careers are often in tatters.
These days it’s not “if” but “when” a top athlete will get asked about drug use. The topic almost always comes up. And for drug-using athletes, there are basically two options if they’re asked whether they use drugs: they can either lie about it to cover it up or they can admit it. Both answers result in a no-win situation. If the athlete lies and is found out, which is happening to so many athletes in the United States these days, he or she will be branded as a liar and a cheat. If the athlete admits to drug use, he or she might be applauded for being honest, but they’ll still be regarded with disdain because it has been proven time and time again that the public doesn’t condone athletic performance that’s fuelled by drugs. The argument that “everyone is doing it” doesn’t hold either. The fact of the matter is that most people have more admiration for athletes who compete clean than those who do not. So if a drug-using athlete lies or confesses, the result is the same: no credibility with the public.
Drug-free bodybuilders may not have the sheer size or rock-hard density of the drug-using bodybuilders, but they have credibility that their counterparts lack. In turn, their achievements will be treated as more “real” by the people who admire them. There’s no better example of this today than Erik Alstrup, an IDFA professional bodybuilder who’s featured on our “cover” this month. He’s probably the best-known bodybuilder on the Canadian scene right now, with more titles this year than anyone else. Erik’s winning almost every competition he enters, both in Canada and in the United States, and his achievements are inspiring others to compete naturally and with integrity. In my opinion, Erik is one of bodybuilding’s superstars today, and with the way his streak of winning just keeps going on and on, his star will burn bright for years to come.
Erik Alstrup (right) with IDFA judge, Steve Duperre, at the 2010 IDFA Montreal Classic.
Erik’s not the only superstar in the natural bodybuilding scene at the moment. Dickens Lambert is the reigning IDFA Pro Universe and Pro International Champ, and Denis Pedneault, a three-time natural Canadian Champion who competes with the CBBF and is a writer for SeriousAboutMuscle.com, is also a frontrunner in the natural scene. If these three could meet on the same stage one day to compete physique to physique, it would be the bodybuilding event of the decade.
I can name more great natural competitors, but my point is this: There’s a new breed of drug-free bodybuilding superstars today that will still be considered stars tomorrow, even as new ones comes along. They possess credibility because they don’t need to lie to cover up drug use, and they will be respected for their achievements, both in the short term as well as the long term. Even if Erik stopped competing tomorrow, his current achievements will be talked about for years to come. In my opinion, having a legacy like that is reason enough to compete drug-free.
. . . Doug Schneider, Publisher
Doug Schneider is the publisher and chief photographer for SeriousAboutMuscle.com.