In the first place, it’s a stretch for most people to even consider bodybuilding as a sport since there is no “athletic” competition, per se. The intense training required of bodybuilding is certainly worthy of any sport – and probably more difficult than most – but the results of that training cannot realistically be considered a “sport” since the contestants are judged solely on their appearance and not by how hard they worked out to get there. Wrestlers work out hard too, and their diet is probably more extreme than any sport, but they are judged by their performance on the mat – not how good they look in their tights.
Moreover, appearance itself is not an objective criterion anyway since judges will always have their own preferences for certain body types despite established standards. Some readers will argue that sports such as figure skating, gymnastics, and synchronized swimming, for example, are not always judged objectively either, and it’s true. The difference is that athletes in these sports – like wrestling – are ultimately judged on how well they perform certain skills inherent to their sport – NOT their looks. In other words, posing doesn’t count because it only serves to emphasize physical development and not a physical skill.
However, the principal reason why bodybuilding will never be in the Olympics is because of the stigma of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). Bodybuilding is one of only two sports (powerlifting is the other) in the world that openly functions as two separate divisions – natural (drug-free) and “otherwise.” Strangely, many natural bodybuilders condone this separation under the misguided justification of “choice” rather than accepting it for the illegal and unethical toxin that it is – a toxin that continues to define bodybuilding and destroy any chance of its legitimacy on the Olympic stage.
Countless magazine covers openly promote bodybuilding with images of juiced physique celebrities grossly lacking any semblance of normalcy or aesthetic physical development with their exaggerated muscularity and bulging vascularity. This is bodybuilding? These are the potential “Olympic” athletes who would represent bodybuilding in the image of the classic Greek sculptures? Even the mighty Farnese Hercules did not resemble anything like these caricatures of the human physique.
These same magazines openly flaunt how PEDs work, where to purchase them, how to cycle them, and even advertise where to obtain legal counsel if you are caught with them. Readers have become so desensitized to PEDs by the constant stream of visual images and articles rationalizing their use that they are no longer aware – or even seem to care – about how it is destroying the integrity of bodybuilding and insidiously influencing an entire future generation of would-be bodybuilders.
Oddly, most natural bodybuilders perpetuate the very problem they profess to be against by purchasing – and even subscribing to – these publications and by their careless association with their drug-enhanced counterparts rather than disassociating themselves from anything or anybody related to performance enhancing drugs. They further support the PED culture by attending untested contests which helps to finance this same culture and, worse, by crossing over to compete in untested events to prove to everyone that they can hold their own against the druggies. They can’t.
Oh, they might win a lower level event or even qualify for a pro card in their weight class, but that’s as far as it goes. What do they prove? Nothing. Even if they win – which is rarely – they will be forever tainted – however unfairly – by the suspicion that they have used PEDs because the public has been conditioned to believe that bodybuilders cannot achieve a certain level physical development without them. That suspicion also carries over to any future competition in drug-tested events for these natural bodybuilders because people will only assume that they have found a way to circumvent the testing and cheat the system.
Even the media have become part of the bodybuilding drug culture (it’s all about the money anyway) with their almost exclusive promotion of bodybuilders who use PEDs in their ads rather than natural bodybuilders. In the process of promoting their products, they are indirectly promoting the use of PEDs at the same time, and everybody knows it.
There might be an argument that could someday support bodybuilding as a “sport,” but ultimately bodybuilding must become totally drug-free or will never have any chance of even being considered for the Olympics.
Bodybuilding is not the only sport associated with PEDs, of course – there are cheaters in every sport – but in bodybuilding it is considered the norm. That’s the problem, and it is not going to be resolved by a few well-meaning natural bodybuilders trying to set a better example by their own individual “choice.” There are not enough natural bodybuilders to turn the tide without a change in their own attitude about PEDs because they are ultimately part of the problem.