Jose I. Almeida, MD
June 22, 2005
Ben Weider, C.M., C.Q., SBStJ, Ph. D.
International Federation of BodyBuilders (IFBB)
2875 Bates Road
Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3S 1B7
Dear Dr. Weider:
This letter is in response to the recent changes made for the 2005 Ms. Olympia contest. This year the Ms. Olympia bodybuilding finals, traditionally the Friday night before the men's finals, will be replaced by a magazine sponsored "Model Search." Not surprisingly, this has created anger amongst the female athletes and their fans who are seeing an erosion of the sport. It seems that for some time now, the bodybuilding community has had difficulty positioning female bodybuilders in their proper place within the sport.
I have been a fan of bodybuilding for the past 30 years. We saw a small subculture back in the early 1970's galvanize into a vibrant sport called Professional Men's Bodybuilding. Arnold's charisma, marketed by the Weider machine, fueled the sport to its present day status; a multimillion dollar industry. Female bodybuilding, although in existence since the early 1980's, has not enjoyed the same prosperity as male bodybuilding. It has never been promoted with the same vigilance as the men. Instead, bodybuilding organizers created fitness and figure contests to become more attractive to the general public and draw in a larger fan base. Female bodybuilding has just received another slap in the face by contest organizers who have demoted these athletes to the Expo hall for the Olympia finals.
Fitness/figure athletes appeal to a mainstream audience, bodybuilding appeals to a bodybuilding audience. Bodybuilding fans want to see big muscles, fitness/figure fans want to see softer physiques. Attempting to "dilute" female bodybuilders into fitness and figure physiques is a mistake. Jim Manion of the IFBB issued an advisory "for aesthetics and health reasons, the IFBB Professional Division requests that female athletes in Bodybuilding, Fitness and Figure decrease the amount of muscularity by a factor of 20%." This is bogus. By creating a 20% less muscularity rule, female bodybuilders do not become more attractive to the mainstream. If the IFBB were truly interested in the welfare of female athletes, they would enforce mandatory testing for anabolic steroids, which do pose a health risk to the athletes.
When anabolic steroid use is allowed, the natural evolution of the sport is bigger, freakier muscles. This is obvious, men's bodybuilding is a perfect example. Sports were created to allow athletes to develop to their maximum potential. Bodybuilders are no different. Whether or not performance enhancing drugs should be allowed is beyond the scope of this letter. Female bodybuilders are competitors who view themselves as athletes, and view their chosen profession as a sport. Athletes, by their very nature, strive to take their chosen sport to the next level. They want to break the records of their predecessors. This is what athletes do. This 20% less muscularity rule goes against the very nature of the sport, and is a disservice to the athletes.
When the "powers that be" of bodybuilding federations are the same people who control ticket sales, magazine sales, and exert influence over the supplement industry, the interests of the athlete will not be well served- there is an inherent conflict of interest. If female bodybuilding is to survive, there will need to be some changes at the governance level of bodybuilding federations. The existing federations will need to reorganize with people who are free from conflicts of interest and can provide objective judging.
I encourage the Olympia organizing committee to give female bodybuilders the respect they have earned. These athletes work hard to develop themselves to Olympia caliber. They should have their own dedicated time on Friday: prejudging in the morning at the Expo hall and finals Friday night at the Orleans arena. If not, the athletes eventually will organize and control their own destiny. They will proceed to divest themselves of outside control (IFBB, NPC) and form their own federation. Ms. Olympia will become defunct. This is the nature of the human spirit, especially when livelihoods are at stake.
Jose I. Almeida, MD