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3 Russian Bodybuilders’ Deaths & Phil Heath’s NY Times Article
- Updated: November 4, 2016
The details are murky surrounding the recent deaths of three Russian bodybuilders, but this much we do know: Russian government television station Rossija 24 broadcasted a news story on October 26, 2016 about how the felled trio all came from St. Petersburg and died within a short period of time from one another. The report asked the question “what preparations” did they take and that “bodybuilding is a lost health industry,” as well as “how to avoid becoming a cripple in the pursuit of strong muscles.”
Language barrier/translation notwithstanding, it was a scathing indictment of the sport of bodybuilding and coincidentally enough, the IFBB Moscow Pro show was held two days later (October 28-30), which included IFBB pro categories (men’s physique and bikini), as well as the Olympia Amateur World Showdown, a show where IFBB pro cards are earned.
On that same date (October 28), the New York Times published a feature article with a one-on-one interview with Phil Heath. The long time tabloid known by old school journalists as ‘The Gray Lady’ (perhaps a little tongue-in-cheek, of course) sat down with the six-time Mr. Olympia and covered the entire spectrum of bodybuilding… including steroids.
“Everybody is going to do what they do, but we get tested” Heath said to the scribe, who added that this was the only time during their many hours together that “The Gift” was curt and chose not to elaborate.
Robin Chang, the vice president of events at American Media, Inc. (the publishers of FLEX magazine) and promoter of the Olympia, followed up by telling the Times reporter John Branch that the IFBB follows the same rules as the World Anti-Doping Agency and that all of the competitors are subject to random drug testing… but that testing is NOT done for the Olympia.
Listen, anyone who has to even ask about drug testing in bodybuilding – professional or amateur – is only doing so to put people on the spot.
But it seems awfully ironic that no one in the bodybuilding media (until us right now) is, first of all, reporting about the three dead Russian bodybuilders and secondly, making the connection, albeit a very ironic one, to Heath and Chang’s statements above.
We can speculate about how these three Russians died and won’t know for sure until autopsies are performed and the results are made public. Between the language issue, the way that the media – especially government-controlled media – operates in the former USSR and the reluctance of media outlets elsewhere looking for answers, this may be a story with no definitive ending.
But let’s say hypothetically that they expired due to the use of performance-enhancing drugs and/or diuretics for contest preparation. That would be a black eye on the sport and garner the type of negative press that the Russian news story expressed.
Is there any connection to three bodybuilders dying in the backyard of an IFBB bodybuilding event under the ‘Olympia’ umbrella and the same day an article is published interviewing the current Mr. Olympia who is avoiding drug questions and his ‘boss,’ for all intents and purposes (Heath is also a sponsored Weider/AMI athlete) is quoted as saying that the athletes are subject to random testing except for at the industry’s most prestigious and signature event?
MuscleSport Magazine has requested comments and further details from Rossija 24 and will report any updates.