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JANUARY 29, 2008

Some reflections on bodybuilding, steroids, and journalism…

When I was in high-school journalism class, I learned that a journalist reports facts – and only facts…that could be checked and verified. Even if it goes against common sense…even if the journalist was (hypothetically) standing next to me while I robbed a bank, as I provided 3 forms of identification…when he writes the story about it, he has to call me “John .D, alleged bank robber”.

Of course, this is absurd…but true.

I’ve always found this to be a bit silly. But when I eventually got myself into a position where I was interacting with reporters for various media outlets, it became even weirder. I think there aren’t many reporters who want to report the facts for it’s own sake. I think reporters fall into one of two categories, generally. The first type wants to be the first person to let people know something…a guy with inside contacts and connections, who people will turn to first for their information. Then there’s the other type, who “report” on things that they are actually trying to change.

It would be morally presumptuous of me to pass judgment on news reporters for their motivation and intentions…but I honestly think that they all fall into one of those two categories.

At this point, when I see what the general media says about steroids, I can’t fathom what they’re trying to do; not even on an article by article basis. Articles on bodybuilding (which is only interesting to me by default – as it represents the largest population of steroid users) are even more confusing.

For me, one of the biggest accomplishments (so far) in my professional life was being contacted by the NY Times to talk about steroids. In case you haven’t heard me bragging about it previously, one of their top investigative reporters contacted me to give him some (inside) information about Operation Raw Deal. I was rewarded with a quote and my name in his article – and then I probably bought every issue of the paper that I could.

The crux of that article was that Operation Raw Deal wouldn’t make much of a long-term difference, if I read it correctly. At least that’s what my comment implied. And I’m always grateful to extend my help (and’s resources) to the media at large. Talking to the NY Times, therefore, was a great opportunity for me.

But things would be different if I were a bodybuilder…thank God I’m not a bodybuilder or involved closely with bodybuilding. That’s because when the NY Times mentions a bodybuilder or something about bodybuilding, it’s not good …it’s almost a curse.

I’m not superstitious, but let’s take a look at the facts:

In 1998, the NY Times mentioned female bodybuilding as moving towards a more feminine look – the scales have tipped, they triumphantly proclaimed. Fitness is here! Now, fitness professionals are heavier and more shredded than bodybuilders of the 80’s. Many of the side effects we see in female bodybuilders of the past are becoming more evident in fitness and figure competitors now. I’m not saying that I do – or don’t – find this attractive (nor will I even attempt to define femininity or hold it to any particular standard).  I’m just saying that once the NY Times said it, it almost became immediately invalid – much to the detriment of bodybuilding and female bodybuilders as well as fitness and figure competitors everywhere.

Several years ago, Dave Palumbo was mentioned by the NY Times as being on the cusp of turning professional. He was arrested not long after, and sent to prison for importing and selling counterfeit Growth Hormone.

He never went professional.

He never will.

Arnold Classic winner, Victor Martinez, was mentioned in the NY Times in connection with the Signature Pharmacy bust – the week after he won the Arnold. This year, he will not be able to defend his title, due to an injury. Within a year of being named in the NY Times, he had suffered the most major injury of his career.

[I won’t even get into the fact that he was named as a co-conspirator in the Signature bust, and yet was never formally indicted…even though it was not his first offence.]

Still…it’s a short ride from Arnold Classic winner to playing Xbox on your couch for half a year. I’m sure the IFBB has a great pension plan and adequate health care for their athletes. Once he was mentioned by the NY Times, he had to pull out of the very contest he had just won.

I’m convinced that the NY Times is a curse for bodybuilders.

No, seriously.

Just a couple of days ago, IFBB professional bodybuilder “Art Atwood” was mentioned by that newspaper as co-operating with federal investigators to bring down steroid suppliers in Operation Raw Deal…and more. Of course, this means his career in the IFBB is over, and he’ll never step on a professional (or any other) stage again.

This isn’t just because he’s likely on probation currently, so he can’t take the drugs needed to compete in the IFBB, but because he would likely be “disciplined” by judges at any future contest he entered…and rewarded with last place. That’s if he even stayed on the stage for more than a couple of seconds – because the crowd would likely boo him non-stop.

And to my knowledge, nobody knew about this beforehand, so the mention in the NY Times article was the thing that sealed his fate as a professional bodybuilder. It’s doubtful that he’ll even work in a related field (though not out of the question – there’s more former steroid dealers in the nutritional industry than there are in prison!).

Look…I’m not superstitious…but I think the NY Times is cursed – well, if you’re a bodybuilder, anyway.

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