15 biggest bodybuilding controversies
Found this article and thought some of you would enjoy it. It is from a Weider magazine.
15 biggest controversies and shocking moments in bodybuilding history
by Greg Merritt
Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Murder! Sex! Drugs! Political intrigue! More shocking than a backstage cardiac defibrillator, more outrageous than Ronnie Coleman teaching Pilates, FLEX has the scoop on the biggest tabloid headlines of bodybuilding. Some are all but forgotten; others are forever discussed and disputed. From arrests to untimely deaths to the most confounding decisions, we uncover and revisit the 15 biggest bodybuilding shockers of all time.
15 KAL SZKALAK CRUCIFIED
Kal Szkalak was a bodybuilding phenom who burst onto the scene in 1976, winning the AAU Mr. America at age 23. The following year, he won the heavyweight Mr. Universe (defeating Mike Mentzer). His legs were lacking, but his upper body ranked among the best of the disco years. In 1978, Szkalak tried to organize a pro bodybuilders union; he failed. That same year, he placed fifth in the Mr. Olympia, and he promptly struck a martyred pose--arms outstretched, head to one side--saying later he was "crucified by the bodybuilding hierarchy of the day." Szkalak never competed again in the IFBB after his first and last IFBB pro contest; he was 25.
14 JAY CUTLER ALMOST DEFEATS RONNIE COLEMAN AT 2001 MR. O
The three previous years Ronnie Coleman had seemed unbeatable, but in 2001, after the first two rounds, he was beat. Sporting new mass and striations, Jay Cutler took a seemingly insurmountable six-point lead after the prejudging. The buzz spread; a new Mr. O would be crowned.
That fateful evening, Coleman won both the posing round and the posedown with straight firsts, barely relegating Cutler to second at the O for the first of four times. Boos and cheers thundered, debates raged and another epic rivalry was born.
13 NEW PRO DIVISION FIZZLES
At the athletes meeting before the Florida Pro Xtreme Challenge on May 1, 2004, then-Mr. Olympia promoter and IFBB Pro Division Vice President Wayne DeMilia made his move, announcing that he was breaking the "Pro Division" free from the IFBB. DeMilia would lead this new organization, and he anticipated pro bodybuilders, promoters and officials following his lead.
The house of cards collapsed within days. Although expediters at the final Night Of Champions three weeks later wore "Pro Division" T-shirts, DeMilia had already effectively slashed his own throat, losing his IFBB position and that of promoter. His new organization never materialized, although rumors continue to swirl.
12 PROMOTER ARRESTED
In the early years of the 20th century, pioneering bodybuilding promoter and publisher Bernarr Macfadden was arrested twice. The first bust, for lewdness, was in 1905 for one of the earliest bodybuilding shows, this one at Madison Square Garden featuring men and women. The women exposed little more than arms and legs, but that was enough to close the show.
The second bust was in 1907 for a medical story about venereal disease in Macfadden's Physical Culture magazine. Macfadden was convicted of obscenity and sentenced to two years of hard labor, but he appealed and, when the case caused a national uproar, was pardoned by President William Howard Taft in 1909.
11 JOE VS. BOB
The fiercest bodybuilding feuds have been fought not by men in posing suits but by men in business suits. The longest running war of words and lawsuits was waged by the Weider organization/IFBB against the Hoffman organization/AAU. Bob Hoffman resorted to printed insults at the height of the strife in the '50s that alleged everything and anything nefarious, including treasonous complicity with Communists. By the '60s, the Weiders won the war, securing the biggest names in the sport with the promise of impartial results and a focus on physiques over Olympic weightlifting.
10 FLEX WHEELER ATTACKED BY NINJAS?
Coming into the 1997 Mr. Olympia, most observers thought reigning Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic champ Flex Wheeler had the best chance of defeating an injury-riddled Dorian Yates. Then, 48 hours before the event, the number-one contender arrived at the host hotel with his left forearm and hand bandaged, claiming that six days prior he had been the victim of an unsuccessful carjacking.
He supposedly knocked out a gun-wielding assailant, and a second foe came at him brandishing nunchakus. Wheeler, a martial artist, said he overwhelmed that man, too, but not before suffering wounds that would keep him out of the Mr. O. Few in the bodybuilding community bought what came to be known as the "ninja story," with most believing Wheeler had concocted it in order to avoid competing out of shape. Tellingly, Wheeler left the incident out of his 2003 autobiography. Yates won the 1997 Mr. O, his sixth and final Olympia victory.
9 TONYA KNIGHT STRIPPED OF 1989 MS. INTERNATIONAL TITLE
During periods when the IFBB has tested for performance-enhancing drugs, numerous competitors have failed. Shawn Ray had to forfeit his 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic title when he was one of four whose drug test came back positive for steroids. Nasser El Sonbaty failed a diuretic test at the 1996 Mr. Olympia and lost his third-place finish. Jay Cutler was informed he had failed a diuretic test after his second-place finish in the 2001 Mr. O, but that result was thrown out when it was revealed the testing didn't follow correct procedure.
Perhaps the most shocking result was the disqualification of Tonya Knight, when it was learned that someone other than Knight herself supplied her test-passing pee. As reported in the March 1990 issue of FLEX, after IFBB officials presented strong evidence against her, Knight admitted that she sent a surrogate to take a mandatory drug test administered before the 1988 Ms. Olympia, where she finished fourth. (In another strange twist to the tale, the surrogate was a former girlfriend of IFBB pro Mike Quinn.)
In a ruling handed down in November 1989, Knight was suspended, stripped of her 1989 Ms. International title (which went to runner-up Jackie Paisley) and asked to return her '89 Ms. International and 1988 Ms. Olympia prize money, totaling $12,000. After the scandal, she returned to the stage in triumph in 1991, winning the Ms. International title, this time without incident. Knight went on to compete in only two more pro contests, the last in 1993.
8 RESULTS QUESTIONED AT 1981 MR. O
The year after Arnold Schwarzenegger's seventh victory, the Olympia was immersed in controversy again (see controversy #1 on this list). This time, it was 1976 Mr. O Franco Columbu who returned from retirement to win another Sandow--in a Mr. O contest run by longtime friend and previous year's winner Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Columbu's thighs were notably downsized, the result of a strongman injury years prior. The winner was not at his best, but Chris Dickerson (second), Roy Callendar (fourth) and Danny Padilla (fifth) were. And to say Tom Platz (third) was "at his best" would be an understatement. He shocked the bodybuilding world with new upper-body sinew and legs--already the world's best--that even today have not been equaled.
7 ANDREAS MUNZER DIES
On March 15, 1996, six days after finishing seventh in the San Jose Pro Invitational, 31-year-old Andreas Munzer--always noted for his ultrapeeled conditioning--died of internal bleeding and multiple organ failure. German magazine Der Spiegel published an accounting of the well-liked pro's purportedly daily steroid, GH and insulin intake, which, if true, could've melted the livers of a dozen bodybuilders.
6 BERTIL FOX CHARGED WITH DOUBLE MURDER
Nicknamed "Brutal," Bertil Fox was one of the best bodybuilders during his heyday of the 1970s and '80s. According to prosecutors, on September 30, 1997, three years after Fox retired from bodybuilding to open a gym in the Caribbean island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis, 46-year-old Fox fatally shot his ex-fiancee, 20-year-old Leyoca Browne, and her mother, Violet Browne. The first trial ended in a hung jury, but Fox was retried and convicted of the double murder. Currently serving a life sentence in a St. Kitts prison, Fox maintains his innocence (see "A Letter from Bertil," December 2005 FLEX).
5 SCHWARZENEGGER BEATS OLIVA AT 1972 MR. O
After besting Schwarzenegger in the 1969 Mr. Olympia, Sergio Oliva lost two rematches to the Oak the following year: the Mr. World and Mr. O. Oliva was suspended from the IFBB in '71, but he was in the shape of his life for the fourth and final epic battle of the titans: the 1972 Mr. Olympia. Schwarzenegger emerged victorious, although fans continue to debate the results. Did the decision have more to do with politics and skin color than mass and cuts?
Claiming his title was stolen, an emotional Oliva challenged Schwarzenegger to a posedown at the 1973 Mr. International and to a weightlifting contest on TV's The Tomorrow Show, but the future California governor kept his cool and declined both duels. The Myth and the Oak's Nixon-era rivalry remains one of the greatest in bodybuilding history.
4 RACISM TARNISHES THE MR. AMERICA TITLE
The AAU launched the Mr. America contest in 1938, but it wasn't until Chris Dickerson in 1970 that a person of color won. During the first 32 annual renditions, great black bodybuilders such as George Paine, Melvin Wells, Art Harris and Elmo Santiago were denied the title. Despite his unparalleled muscularity, Sergio Oliva lost the Mr. America three times, including 1966, the year he switched to the IFBB and won their Mr. World title. (Cuban refugee Oliva reportedly lost the 1963 AAU Mr. Chicago because he didn't speak English like a born American.)
Joe and Ben Weider and the IFBB were instrumental in breaking down bodybuilding's racial barriers. They heavily promoted black bodybuilders like Leroy Colbert in the '50s, and Harold Poole won the IFBB Mr. America in 1964 (the year Oliva finished seventh in the AAU version).
3 SALLY McNEIL CHARGED WITH RAY McNEIL'S MURDER
Ray McNeil was a pro bodybuilder, and his wife Sally was an amateur competitor. On Valentine's Day 1995, four days before Ray was scheduled to enter the South Beach Pro Invitational, Sally fatally shot her husband in the abdomen and face with a shotgun at their home in the Southern California community of Oceanside. She alleged that she was the victim of domestic abuse, although police reports indicate that she had initiated previous violent episodes. On March 19,1996, Sally McNeil was convicted of second-degree murder. Subsequently sentenced to 19 years to life in prison, she is currently serving that term.
2 MOHAMED BENAZIZA DIES
After winning the 1992 Dutch Grand Prix (his eighth pro win in three years), Mohamed Benaziza collapsed backstage. Seven hours later, on October 4, 1992, he was dead of a heart attack at age 33. Diuretics Momo ingested drained his body of the magnesium and potassium his heart needed to beat. His was the most tragic diuretic-related casualty, but others--including Mike Matarazzo, Paul Dillett, Flex Wheeler, Tom Prince and Mustafa Mohammad--have gone from stages to hospitals as the result of extreme dehydration.
1 ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER RETURNS TO WIN 1980 MR. O
The one contest still debated more than any other is the 1980 Mr. Olympia. As a surprise entrant, Arnold Schwarzenegger returned after a five-year retirement and, smaller yet leaner than in the early '70s, won his seventh Sandow. At the athletes meeting prior to the show, a verbal (and nearly physical) confrontation erupted between Schwarzenegger and Mike Mentzer. Mentzer--then 28 and seemingly on the fast track to megasuccess--finished a baffling fifth and never competed again. Fans still speculate that the contest was fixed in favor of the sport's most popular pro; that Mentzer, Chris Dickerson or Frank Zane should have won; or that the Oak, although not at his best, was still good enough to deserve the victory.
Very interesting read. Thanks Steve.
Poor old Kal, blessed with great looks and the physique of a god. He must have wondered what hit him.
I have never heard of Kal Szkalak either, which surprises me given how much I read about bodybuilding during the 80s.
I found this comment from Shawn Ray:
Seems like he is a biker now. He is on the left in this photo:
His physique had its flaws, but his side chest and biceps are distinctly Arnold-esque.
Good read. I find it all very interesting because though I love the sport of lifting, and am all about getting bigger/stronger/better, I've never cared for the sport of bodybuilding. These days I would probably not be interested, but I enjoy seeing pictures of lifters from the pre-steroid era.
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