Many natural bodybuilders are outraged that the NBC Sports Group is broadcasting the 50th IFBB Mr.Olympia on September 18 – the first time that the event has been televised since 1984. They believe that publicizing this contest only promotes the use of illegal steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs to the mostly younger audience expected to watch it and further denigrates the sport of bodybuilding which has become – perhaps more than any other sport – almost singularly associated with extreme drug abuse.
Other natural bodybuilders are delighted that that NBC is televising the event because they look forward to watching their synthetically-enhanced contemporaries who, even though they have destroyed the integrity of the sport by their blatant drug use, have simply made a different “choice.”
Both sides are disappointed that natural bodybuilding doesn’t merit the same kind of media coverage.So, why did NBC decide to bring the Mr. Olympia out of mothballs after so long and why was natural bodybuilding not included in their decision to promote bodybuilding? It’s a no-brainer.
In the first place, NBC is in the entertainment business, and they recognize that bodybuilding still has a niche audience of devoted fans who, collectively, might actually turn out some pretty good numbers for a one-time special such as a 50th anniversary. A steady diet of bodybuilding probably would not make the grade – too boring for most folks – but a special broadcast showing the current crop of muscle monsters in all their enhanced grotesqueness, sweating and grimacing on stage, flexing their muscles and swollen veins, might represent a nice payday for the network. At least it’s worth the risk once every 30 years.
The second reason for NBC televising the Mr. Olympia is because they did not have a better option. For the Mr. Olympia they only had to negotiate with the IFBB and its media agent American Media, Inc. to make it happen. If NBC really cared about the negative image that the Mr. Olympia will portray to viewers (which they don’t) and decided, instead, to promote a natural bodybuilding event instead, which natural organization would they negotiate with? The WNBF, PNBA, ANBF, NGA, Muscle Mania, DFAC, IFPA, NPA, ANB, BNBF, SNBF, FAME World Tour, UNBA,IDFA, USBF, USNBF, UKDBA or any number of other organizations promoting drug-free bodybuilding? See the problem?
For more than 30 years, natural bodybuilding has been in a state of total disarray because the honest and well-meaning people who lead these organizations simply can’t find a way to work together. They don’t trust each other – some of them do not even like each other – and they all insist that their drug testing is better, their athletes are better, their judges are better, their venues are better, their awards are better – they can’t even agree on a common banned substance list! In short, they disagree about almost everything.
This lack of unity, this lack of willingness to work together for the benefit of the sport, has resulted in a sport with virtually no identity other than as the poor stepchild of its drug-enhanced counterpart. Of course, there will always be a following of die-hard, loyal supporters of the natural movement with dreams of what might have been but, in the meantime, the sport will continue to lose some of its top athletes to the other side, the number and financial impact of current sponsors will continue to be diluted, and the media exposure will continue to be virtually non-existent. Worse, the “other side” will continue to grow stronger BECAUSE they are unified even though they represent everything that is illegal and unethical about the sport.
How long will this travesty continue, and when will the natural organizations step up to the plate and do what is necessary to unify the sport!?! Which organization(s) will set aside the petty differences and extend the hand of conciliation and cooperation to make unification a reality? Not someday. Now.
Why is NBC televising the Mr. Olympia? Because natural bodybuilding can’t get its act together. For shame.