In 1979, a British band named The Clash blazed into the consciousness of North American music lovers with their two-LP release called London Calling. To many, it is one of the greatest rock albums ever released. The group fused rock with punk, jazz, reggae and a few other musical styles, sprinkled in some political commentary, and gave 15-year-olds like me reason enough to lock ourselves in our rooms for hours at a time, listening to every song on those four sides over and over again. We identified with them. The Clash billed themselves as “The Only Band That Matters.” Fans believed it to be true back then and I’m pretty sure that most of us still believe it to be true today. The Clash, unlike so many bands, was unique and they stood for something. Yes, they mattered.
Flash-forward 32 years and I’m still proud to say that I listen to all the Clash’s albums from time to time, just not for as long or as vigorously. Instead, I spend more time in my middle-aged years photographing and writing about bodybuilding shows – a crazy pastime perhaps, but it is something I enjoy.
Since I never do anything half-heartedly, I’ve been rather prolific with my bodybuilding work. I started in the year 2000, and since then, I’ve covered more bodybuilding shows than anyone else in Canada. As a result, I know who most of the competitors are, what every contest is about, and what each organization does.
There are a number of organizations operating in Canada these days, but I can tell you without hesitation that the only bodybuilding organization that matters to me right now is the IDFA – International Drug Free Athletics (IDFA.ca). The group was started six years ago by Shaun Campbell and Desmona Cole and has shown unceasing growth and a relentless drive to reshape the Canadian bodybuilding scene. They’re succeeding. They’re also unique in Canada in that they’re the only organization that puts on topflight competitions in beautiful venues, they have a set of positive ideals and goals that they strive for and convey, and, perhaps most important, they drug test every competition. Like the Clash, they stand for something; in contrast, most other organizations don’t.
But does it matter if something matters? After all, it’s just bodybuilding. Frankly, I believe it does. It’s because when it comes to getting bodybuilding back into the mainstream, mattering matters a whole lot.
Ordinary folks don’t go to bodybuilding shows; instead, the people in the audience are friends and family, not true fans like there are with other sports. The mainstream media ditched the bodybuilding scene decades ago, because they didn’t want to deal with the negative aspects of it, such as the drug abuse that has continually grown worse in the traditional organizations, as well as other problems. If you need proof of their abandonment, ask yourself these questions: When was the last time you saw a bodybuilding competition on television? What newspapers put the results of the top bodybuilding competitions in their sports sections? When have you watched a television show on bodybuilding that doesn’t dwell on the dark areas of this so-called “sport” – i.e., drug abuse, violence, even prostitution? And when was the last time a pro bodybuilder was included in a list of celebrated athletes? Interesting question, that last one. Last month’s issue of GQ had a feature called “The 25 Coolest Athletes of All Time.” Is it any surprise that no bodybuilder, even Arnold Schwarzenegger, was included? To most of the world, bodybuilding doesn’t matter, mostly because the organizations don’t.
The IDFA doesn’t have positive mainstream exposure either – at least not yet. Remember, though, that they’re also inheriting the mess that others have brought on and are continuing to bring. However, I believe they stand the best chance of any organization of getting back into the mainstream when the time is right, because what they’re doing matters – and the right time will be when bodybuilding has respectability and credibility, which I believe the IDFA is building due to their commitment to quality, the positive image they promote, and their aim to eliminate drugs on their competitive stage. This is what will attract the masses and the media back to bodybuilding again. The organization stands for something, something we haven’t seen in bodybuilding for a long, long time.
Bodybuilding in Canada isn’t like it was ten or so years ago when I got serious about covering it. Back then, there were very few organizations and hardly any drug-free competitions. Nowadays, there are numerous organizations and a large number of drug-free competitions. But not all the organizations and competitions are the same. To me, the IDFA is head and shoulders above the rest for all the reasons I mentioned already. Right now, they’re what matters in Canadian bodybuilding, and will continue to matter for a long time to come, just like the Clash. What I hope by writing this article is that you’ll understand why we focus so much attention on them with this publication, and that you might support them too. Until next month . . .
. . . Doug Schneider, Publisher
Doug Schneider is the publisher and chief photographer for SeriousAboutMuscle.com.