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Bodybuilding’s Cold War

Bodybuilding’s Cold War

Every year as citizens of earth we become increasingly connected via social media etc. Access to technology has grown and so has the internet; with this internet boom, bodybuilding has become increasingly ubiquitous around the globe as well. While more people join this online network every day, they are made aware of the industry and given access to the basic tools they need for success that’d otherwise be unavailable, growing both the industry as well as quality of competitors. As both the sport and access to it grow, it is shifting the dynamic of power which is scary to those who are content with their position; but if we continue to be forward thinking aggregators / innovators, leading the charge, these changes can be utilized for long-term good, continuing to develop both the organization and sport of bodybuilding as a whole.

Robert Greene’s 18th law of power: “Do Not Build Fortresses to Protect Yourself – Isolation is Dangerous”

Though isolationism is maintainable for the short term due to pre-established American strength, it’s not long term without some type of organizational implosion. Every year seems to be bursting at the seams with increased pressure, marked by micro-aggressions such as the IFBB Pro League taking over judging for many events following a very euro biased (or lacking American favoritism) professional contest. While many are distracted by the ‘new’ ‘NPC’ (Inspire) and it’s potential, perhaps we should look at what’s directly in front of us, and the real threat the IFBB could face from the… IFBB.

It’s important to remember there’re two organizations under the IFBB moniker, that are separate from each other, but work alongside one another as well. This gives a unique balance to the sport and international draw that many others lack; as by having the two organizations they can better focus on their select tasks, and come together creating the best ultimate product. To those who know this, it seems like common knowledge but is often a point of confusion for anyone relatively new to the sport. The IFBB Pro League (Left) is the parent organization to the National Physique Committee which serves as its American amateur branch. The IFBB (Right) however is a largely independent international federation, some of it’s members include smaller regional organizations as well.

IFBB Logos

While formally the IFBB doesn’t promote Professional events, you can often tell which ones they are behind or have influence on, typically demonstrated by the appearance of its president, Dr. Rafael Santonja. Pictured below (far right) alongside IFBB Pro League President Jim Manion, and the late Ben Weider.

Rafael Santonja_Ben Weider_Jim Manion_IFBB

Unlike previous failures such as the WBF & PDI, as well as the ‘new NPC,’ the IFBB already has the pieces in place for both a successful and established amateur as well as professional organization; as it already has the preexisting shows it promotes, that could easily operate without the aid of the IFBB Pro League. It appears Arnold has increased interest in the international federation as well, and if the IFBB decided to ever separate itself from the IFBB Pro League, it is his events that would fill the void left by the absence of the Olympia; something that debatably could have already happened if not restricted by dated policy that keeps all other contests from having larger prize money than the Olympia, a restriction the IFBB chooses to abide by, for now.

In the US, there appears to be a growing sense of nationalistic isolationism as well. Seemingly both the individual competitors and collective of people that run the organizations have developed this mentality. Consequently, as we’ve become increasingly connected it appears this has yet to translate (if not get worse) in our industry. The repercussions of which can already be seen, as fewer Americans participate at international events, such as the Arnold Classic.

In the last decade, almost all major US professional qualifying events have received more qualifying slots, while the international scene remained relatively stagnant. This lack of growth includes the IFBB North Americans, a combination show of sorts between the IFBB and NPC, but even this contest only received one additional qualifying slot, an addition that is significantly smaller in comparison to NPC national events such as USAs, which under these recent expansions received a card for each class winner, as well as NPC Nationals qualifying two professionals per a class.

It would appear in response to this US expansion, some of the most competitive IFBB amateur events that come with the prestige of turning pro, have been moved to nations in the middle of very real diplomatic crisis with the US. Such as Iran (1) and Russia (2) which make it even harder for American athletes to compete. A passive hostility, that isn’t outright but has an impact, reminiscent of the cold war.

Amateur Olympia_Russia_2015

While the IFBB international was considered by many a ‘little brother’ of sorts to the IFBB Pro League, it’s made strategic moves to increase its own strength  and demonstrate its independence, such as IFBB collaborating with regional Olympic committees. Unlike its American counterpart, the IFBB is still making a genuine effort to meet the qualifications of becoming a sport as recognized by the Olympics. For example, in a sport known for it’s ‘supplementation’ the Asian region of the IFBB has the WADA logo on their page (3) as they are active members. As a result of these efforts, bodybuilding is a sanctioned event at regional Olympic events, such as the Asia games. Yet to most Americans, participation and recognition by the Olympics seems nothing more than a dream, when the reality is it’s already happening at some level.

With the death of Ben Weider so went any efforts to get bodybuilding recognized by the Olympics on this hemisphere. The reasoning for this is likely because the Olympics too are an organization, that often attempts to supersede the sports organizations it partners with from nations that participate in the games. Toying with Wrestling’s status and challenging FILAs legitimacy is just a small example of the Olympic power, but they can’t do the same to well-established sports such as the NBA or Soccer, as titles from the event are prestigious but don’t compare to those within that organization already. None the less, this recognition gives the international IFBB a unique social leverage, that the Pro League lacks.

There’re plenty of reasons the Weider brothers were so willing to trade the snow of Canada for the beaches of California, and it wasn’t just the weather. For years, US bodybuilding much like the nation itself has been a leader around the globe; at the forefront largely due to it’s genuine objective and a type of organizational transparency, as you’d expect from a sport-oriented around men in speedos. It seems this organizational transparency has been lost, but in its place has come competition, which as we know is a good thing when it motivates positive self-development. While the IFBB Pro League may sometimes take less than honorable means to maintain the system as it is, it can usually be justified by the quality of life and or competition that it provides. Reflecting one most fundamental aspects of the sport, the organization needs to take an objective look at what needs to be done for it’s best self-interest, beyond the short-term. When an honest and respectable vision is established, only then can we maintain a role as leaders who take charge by example, instead of a boss who maintains with temporary fear.

boss vs leader

For More:

IFBB Amateur, Continues to Embrace ‘Anti-Doping’ Policy



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