by Christian Duque
My answer to Nick’s Strength And Power’s question about where we draw the line to SEO use in bodybuilding is that we don’t draw the line. We – don’t do shit. We’re the audience and we should know better. We’re not talking about a major league sport. We’re talking about a sport – which some don’t even consider as such – that’s all about looking your best. How an athlete looks trumps everything else.
The purists will argue that it’s all about the illusion and aesthetics. Others will point to the artistic and entertainment value of posing. Some will say it’s about fan engagement and working the audience. In the end however it’s all about bringing the best size coupled with the best condition and symmetry. That can’t be easily achieved for most.
One of the most accurate analogies from Pumping Iron is that the bodybuilder is like a sculptor. He/she starts out with the same body as everyone else but has to create something truly breathtaking. This might be achieved through reasonable means – provided time isn’t an issue and if everyone’s approach consisted of whole foods and training – but that’s just not how bodybuilding works.
This is a sport that I largely consider the physique-version of NASCAR. Everyone wants to run on 100 octane top fuel. Every athlete is like a race car – testing out new equipment (in this case drugs). We can sit here and kid ourselves but let’s not. There’s even some top Olympians who have the nerve to go on the record as saying they run TRT-like levels and that that’s the extent of their PED use. The fact is we can’t turn a blind eye to gear and diuretics but then condemn those who use SEO’s.
About ten years ago my buddy PJ Braun gave me a quote for an article on site enhancing oils. At the time he was a part of IML and Blackstone hadn’t even been thought of. This was when he was tearing it up on the national scene and his coaching business was skyrocketing. When I wrote the story I polled several top tier bodybuilders and influencers (this was pre-IG). I asked these guys how prevalent they thought SEO’s were in bodybuilding and PJ’s response was probably the most on the money to this day. He said he believed 95% of top national level competitors and pro bodybuilders used it on some level!!
To date, the vast majority of bodybuilders who I personally know deny using it. They consider SEO-use almost an insult to be asked; however, that in and of itself is very telling. We know they are used. We know Dave Palumbo has sold Synthol for years on his personal page and we know Nick Trigili was doing crazy business with his water-based site enhancement product. NS&P’s question of “where do we draw the line” doesn’t fit with where bodybuilding is. There is no line to be drawn and if the judges don’t seem to care why on Earth should we?
In the end it’s just a little oil.
People use oil with their gear as well. Oil is everywhere. This isn’t natural bodybuilding and you know why we’re not reading an article about natural bodybuilding? Because natural bodybuilding while very noble and cool doesn’t sell out the Mandalay Bay, The Orleans, or The Zappos Theater this December in Las Vegas, NV. And if you think MLB baseball, hockey, football or basketball are nothing but vitamins and Gatorade then I have a bridge to sell you in New Jersey. The only difference between bodybuilding and those sports is that in bodybuilding it’s more of a don’t ask, don’t tell model and over there it’s wholly a cat and mouse game.
I think the main reason NS&P covered this story is because the gentleman involved is Brazilian. I think that got his radar going on overload. To even suggest that the competitor at this past weekend’s Musclecontest Brazil looked like the clowns from that country who appear with 24” arms full of cooking oil and rubbing alcohol is beyond inaccurate. That said, anytime you put “synthol” and “brazil” in a video description that’s bound to get you a boatload of hits.
The fact is the guy in question probably went a little overboard but that can be attributed to a variety of factors – from his physique to where he pinned. Sometimes oil moves around and sometimes it doesn’t settle correctly. It’s not like there’s a lot of information out there anyways. These guys will stop at nothing to look the best. And I mean that quite literally. After all, we’ve seen the health complications so many of them deal with. We’ve seen the psychological turmoil many of them wind up struggling through – sometimes with therapy and sometimes all alone. We know this to be true from all the deaths in recent years. A lot of top bodybuilders just don’t give a fuck. And if anyone thinks I’m celebrating this reckless behavior please know that I am unequivocally not!
It’s a real shame that that’s what’s going on, but I’m not going to sit here and pen some bullshit OpEd about “where do we draw the line.” You can’t be a bodybuilding fan who’s in denial about what your favorite champions are doing. We love the freaks and they motivate us to hit the gym and pose in the mirror. If our heroes looked like gifted natty bodybuilders there wouldn’t be that magic. No one goes hard in the gym thinking they’ll look like the guy that works at the tire shop down the street. People want to look like Ronnie, Markus, and Jay in 2006, 2009!!
Let’s recognize bodybuilding for what it is. It’s an extreme sport for extreme people. We as fans love the training, watching the competitors meal prep and eat, and we love seeing the training, the mandatory poses, and the posedowns. We love EVERYTHING about Bodybuilding but there’s a lot we don’t see. I believe we don’t see it for a reason. For starters, it’s not glamorous, it probably involves doing things most people don’t want to recognize are required to be competitive, and therefore no matter what changes legally with gear it’s just not something that will ever be marketable. How many top, active pro’s talk about what they ACTUALLY take or HOW MUCH? Who today from that pack could hold a candle to the honesty and transparency of the late great Bostin Loyd? I’d say no one. It’s just not something that’s discussed with that level of honesty – not today, not ever!
So while Nick Miller can play moral crusader and ask “where do we draw the line,” the hardcore bodybuilding readers of Iron Magazine know exactly where he can draw it.
As always I hope you enjoyed reading my article and i look forward to your feedback in the comments. I understand Miller’s question and I do agree that it’s a good topic for discussion. And I also agree that the fans’ opinions have a direct effect on public opinion and the federations do listen; however, SEO’s are just one part of a whole other side of the sport that most fans don’t really know about. Most of the people who take offense at the questions of SEO use and swear they’ve never used it probably have oil in their traps, their delts, or their arms. Who’s going to do an ultrasound to find out for sure? Who has the time for that? This is bodybuilding folks – anything goes.