The fitness industry, and bodybuilding and physique competitions in particular, are growing at a rapid rate year by year. More and more people are becoming interested in weight training and good nutrition in order to improve their physiques. As a result of this growth more and more “experts” are springing up on social media, proclaiming to have built their physiques naturally and spreading advice to a large amount of eager followers. As a rule, I never doubt someone’s natural status, but I also believe if someone is truly a proud natural then they should put their money where their mouth is and step on stage in a natural, drug tested competition. Not only because they want to prove their natural status but also because they want to advance the natural side of our sport and the many great natural federations promoting it.
Social media has created a whole new form of physique “athlete”. Undoubtedly they work hard to achieve their physique but they don’t do so in order to step on stage and be judged in competition but rather to accumulate more followers in the world of social media. Quite often claiming to be natural athletes is advantageous to these goals. They do this even though sometimes these men and women have used performance enhancing drugs to achieve their physique. Furthermore these people often use photo-shop to even further enhance the appearance of their physique. Because there is no true way of identifying whether someone on social media is genuinely natural they accumulate a large amount of followers by claiming to be so, whilst also having their fair share of “haters”. These people often focus on discrediting their haters and “proving” their natural status but they never actually take the step of competing in a drug tested federation which would surely silence many of their doubters.
Also there are competitive athletes that claim to be natural but only ever compete in un-tested federations. They may or may not be natural, but again, unless they step on stage in a natural, drug tested competition any doubts over their natural status can be justifiable. If they are truly proud natural athletes, and they want to remove doubt about their natural status than, as is the case with the social media “athletes”, they will take the step of competing with a natural federation.
In Australia the IFBB Arnold Classic has only recently come on the scene and many natural athletes have switched over to the IFBB in order to step on stage in the prestigious Arnold Classic competition. Of course the Arnold Classic is an un-tested competition and therefore drug use is common place. What this has meant is that many of the top natural athletes in Australia have been lost to the natural federations, the INBA, ANB and AWNBS. This is unfortunate as it means that many quality athletes are no longer stepping on the natural stage and inspiring the general public to stay natural in the pursuit of improved physiques. On top of that many of these natural athletes are beginning to realise that to be successful in the IFBB will require the use of performance enhancing drugs. Therefore their natural status can now be doubted, because they are no longer subject to drug testing as they would be in natural competitions.
With the exception of obviously unnatural physiques (eg. Ronnie Coleman, Jay Cutler, Phil Heath etc.) I never really believe it is fair to doubt anyone’s natural status. I have seen a wide range of physiques up close at actual natural bodybuilding competitions. This is much different to what is presented on social media. Understandably someone is only going to present the most optimal of photos on their social media pages in order to boost their following, and often these photos lead people to believe these athletes aren’t natural. However, how they appear in person is often quite different to what is shown on the internet. Furthermore I have also met a lot of people who have the genetic ability to build unbelievable physiques but haven’t ever even lifted a weight. Having grown up playing Rugby League there were plenty of kids who you could tell had the ability to build really impressive musculature. So I’ve always said that if someone claims they are natural and they compete in drug tested competitions than I have no reason to believe they are lying.
I strongly believe that anyone that claims they are a proudly natural athlete should compete with natural bodybuilding federations. By competing in a natural, drug tested competition an athlete is removing doubt about their natural status and “putting their money where their mouth is” so to speak. But on top of this anyone that is natural and strongly believes in natural bodybuilding and physique competitions will choose to compete with natural competitions because they will want the natural side of the sport to grow. More competitors of a high quality will lead to greater recognition of the drug free side of our sport. With the fitness industry growing in popularity it is only a matter of time before large companies and media outlets get on board with bodybuilding, and they will naturally want to associate themselves with drug free federations and competitors. It is up to natural athletes to continue to build the profile of the sport, leading to these greater opportunities for recognition, sponsorship and much more.
As the fitness industry and bodybuilding and physique competitions continue to grow there will be more athletes, non-competitive and competitive on the various social media platforms claiming to be natural athletes. Whether these athletes are natural or not will always be a subject of contention, but by competing in natural federations these athletes remove a large element of doubt about their natural status. Athletes who are truly natural should put their money where their mouth is and step on stage in drug tested competitions. Furthermore, as truly proud naturals they should want to do so in order to advance the natural side of our sport and inspire the next generation of natural competitors.