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Steve Reeves and Natural Bodybuilding

An Open Letter to Arnold Schwarzenegger From Steve Reeves

Dear Arnold:

As you are well aware, the state of bodybuilding is in crisis. Competitors are killing themselves taking drugs that they believe they need to win shows that ultimately count for nothing in either their careers or their lives.

I know that you love the sport of bodybuilding as much as I do, because you grew up in an era when being a bodybuilding champion meant something. It stirred heroic and noble images in your young mind of how a man could and should look and how vibrant and virile such a man could be. I know because these were the same images that first caused me to pick up a barbell and to seek to better not only my physique, but my life through physical culture (healthful living and bodybuilding).

Bodybuilding--real bodybuilding--is what I've just described. It can, and has, proven to work wonders in creating real men of substance, as opposed to what it's now become--a creator of men of real substance-abuse. It can and has opened doors--particularly to you and me. We both went on to enjoy successful careers in film and made substantial sums of money, directly as a result of the physical benefits that our bodybuilding training provided.

And that is why I am now appealing to you to join forces with me and provide a voice that will be heard by the governing authorities in bodybuilding. The steroids and drug use has to stop and it will not stop as long as we condone its use by turning a blind eye to it. I was out of the game for over 40 years; I turned my back on competitive bodybuilding because I couldn't bear to watch it become overrun by drug pushers, publishers and promoters who don't give a damn about the welfare of either the sport or the athletes who participate in it, and whose sole concern lies in selling fraudulent nutritional supplements, inferior equipment, and dispensing bogus training advice and selling tickets to bodybuilding events.

I wish to appeal to the young, star-struck youth within you that first became enraptured by the real bodybuilding experience. You've mentioned that both myself and, more importantly for you, Reg Park, were your heroes while you were growing up in Austria. Reg Park was a great champion, just as you were. But where are the great role models for today's youth? What do you see in today's "champions" that personifies the attributes of a champion? Where is the grace under pressure? Where is the giving back to the community? Where is the one current bodybuilding champion that you would want to instruct your children?

And this isn't the fault of the athletes, they're simply trying to achieve and maintain a highly artificial standard of muscle development that is not natural and definitely not enduring. And, if the muscle you build only stays with you as long as you're getting your synthetic hormone shots, what good is it?

As the promoter, along with your long time friend, Jim Lorimer, of what is generally considered the best bodybuilding contest in existence, the Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic, you have the power to lead by example. Despite what you read in the Weider magazines, your show is the king of the hill--not the Olympia. You know it, Jim Lorimer knows it, the bulk of the competitors know it and, more importantly, the IFBB knows it.

The reason I know that you are still as enthusiastic about bodybuilding as I am is simple: you could have turned your back on your roots the minute you became one of Hollywood's highest paid actors, but you didn't do that. After all, you've earned the right after years and years of gut-busting workouts to walk into the sunset with your seven Mr. Olympia trophies and retire from the sport altogether, content in the knowledge that your inspiration would serve to fuel the workouts of several generations of new bodybuilders the world over. Instead, you continued to support, promote and herald the benefits of bodybuilding for all people. The cynics will say that you did it to make a buck, but the wise know better; one film would yield you the equivalent of promoting 40 years worth of these contests, and yet you still continue to promote them. That can only be explained by one thing--a genuine interest in the sport. I salute you for that, so don't let these fanatics trample underfoot the sport that you've been an integral part of and helped to sustain all these years. They've ridden on your coattails long enough, now it's up to you to take control of the future of this sport.

What am I suggesting? Simply this: Insist that the IFBB mandate drug testing (and real drug testing for real bodybuilding drugs, not the joke of "cocaine" and "nubane" they tried to pass off as bodybuilding "drug testing" at last year's Mr. Olympia) in all of their shows. At the very least, you can insist that your show is drug tested. The IFBB will listen to you; not only do you put substantial money in their pockets in sanctioning fees, but without question you have been their most eloquent spokesman. Failing this, form your own federation; one that has new, objective, quantifiable standards for building-not the biggest physique or the "freakiest"--but the best proportioned, most inspirational and the healthiest.

Arnold, let's work together to put this derailed train back on the tracks and take this sport back to the glory and prestige it once enjoyed and can enjoy again. It won't help us personally, we're no longer competing, but it can be beneficial to the thousands of bodybuilders yet to compete; those who are just now coming along and who will be competing in the years to come.

Let's give them a sport that has integrity and honor-and a method of training that will not only give them wonderful physiques, but also provide them with a lifetime of health and vitality.

Yours Sincerely,

Steve Reeves

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