KAL SZKALAK CRUCIFIED
Kal Szkalak was a bodybuilding phenom who burst onto the scene in 1976, winning the AAU Mr. America at age 23. The following year, he won the heavyweight Mr. Universe (defeating Mike Mentzer). His legs were lacking, but his upper body ranked among the best of the disco years. In 1978, Szkalak tried to organize a pro bodybuilders union; he failed. That same year, he placed fifth in the Mr. Olympia, and he promptly struck a martyred pose--arms outstretched, head to one side--saying later he was "crucified by the bodybuilding hierarchy of the day." Szkalak never competed again in the IFBB after his first and last IFBB pro contest; he was 25.
JAY CUTLER ALMOST DEFEATS RONNIE COLEMAN AT 2001 MR. O
The three previous years Ronnie Coleman had seemed unbeatable, but in 2001, after the first two rounds, he was beat. Sporting new mass and striations, Jay Cutler took a seemingly insurmountable six-point lead after the prejudging. The buzz spread; a new Mr. O would be crowned.
That fateful evening, Coleman won both the posing round and the posedown with straight firsts, barely relegating Cutler to second at the O for the first of four times. Boos and cheers thundered, debates raged and another epic rivalry was born.
NEW PRO DIVISION FIZZLES
At the athletes meeting before the Florida Pro Xtreme Challenge on May 1, 2004, then-Mr. Olympia promoter and IFBB Pro Division Vice President Wayne DeMilia made his move, announcing that he was breaking the "Pro Division" free from the IFBB. DeMilia would lead this new organization, and he anticipated pro bodybuilders, promoters and officials following his lead.
The house of cards collapsed within days. Although expediters at the final Night Of Champions three weeks later wore "Pro Division" T-shirts, DeMilia had already effectively slashed his own throat, losing his IFBB position and that of promoter. His new organization never materialized, although rumors continue to swirl.
In the early years of the 20th century, pioneering bodybuilding promoter and publisher Bernarr Macfadden was arrested twice. The first bust, for lewdness, was in 1905 for one of the earliest bodybuilding shows, this one at Madison Square Garden featuring men and women. The women exposed little more than arms and legs, but that was enough to close the show.
The second bust was in 1907 for a medical story about venereal disease in Macfadden's Physical Culture magazine. Macfadden was convicted of obscenity and sentenced to two years of hard labor, but he appealed and, when the case caused a national uproar, was pardoned by President William Howard Taft in 1909.
JOE VS. BOB
The fiercest bodybuilding feuds have been fought not by men in posing suits but by men in business suits. The longest running war of words and lawsuits was waged by the Weider organization/IFBB against the Hoffman organization/AAU. Bob Hoffman resorted to printed insults at the height of the strife in the '50s that alleged everything and anything nefarious, including treasonous complicity with Communists. By the '60s, the Weiders won the war, securing the biggest names in the sport with the promise of impartial results and a focus on physiques over Olympic weightlifting.
FLEX WHEELER ATTACKED BY NINJAS?
Coming into the 1997 Mr. Olympia, most observers thought reigning Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic champ Flex Wheeler had the best chance of defeating an injury-riddled Dorian Yates. Then, 48 hours before the event, the number-one contender arrived at the host hotel with his left forearm and hand bandaged, claiming that six days prior he had been the victim of an unsuccessful carjacking.
He supposedly knocked out a gun-wielding assailant, and a second foe came at him brandishing nunchakus. Wheeler, a martial artist, said he overwhelmed that man, too, but not before suffering wounds that would keep him out of the Mr. O. Few in the bodybuilding community bought what came to be known as the "ninja story," with most believing Wheeler had concocted it in order to avoid competing out of shape. Tellingly, Wheeler left the incident out of his 2003 autobiography. Yates won the 1997 Mr. O, his sixth and final Olympia victory.
TONYA KNIGHT STRIPPED OF 1989 MS. INTERNATIONAL TITLE
During periods when the IFBB has tested for performance-enhancing drugs, numerous competitors have failed. Shawn Ray had to forfeit his 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic title when he was one of four whose drug test came back positive for steroids. Nasser El Sonbaty failed a diuretic test at the 1996 Mr. Olympia and lost his third-place finish. Jay Cutler was informed he had failed a diuretic test after his second-place finish in the 2001 Mr. O, but that result was thrown out when it was revealed the testing didn't follow correct procedure.
Perhaps the most shocking result was the disqualification of Tonya Knight, when it was learned that someone other than Knight herself supplied her test-passing pee. As reported in the March 1990 issue of FLEX, after IFBB officials presented strong evidence against her, Knight admitted that she sent a surrogate to take a mandatory drug test administered before the 1988 Ms. Olympia, where she finished fourth. (In another strange twist to the tale, the surrogate was a former girlfriend of IFBB pro Mike Quinn.)
In a ruling handed down in November 1989, Knight was suspended, stripped of her 1989 Ms. International title (which went to runner-up Jackie Paisley) and asked to return her '89 Ms. International and 1988 Ms. Olympia prize money, totaling $12,000. After the scandal, she returned to the stage in triumph in 1991, winning the Ms. International title, this time without incident. Knight went on to compete in only two more pro contests, the last in 1993.
RESULTS QUESTIONED AT 1981 MR. O
The year after Arnold Schwarzenegger's seventh victory, the Olympia was immersed in controversy again (see controversy #1 on this list). This time, it was 1976 Mr. O Franco Columbu who returned from retirement to win another Sandow--in a Mr. O contest run by longtime friend and previous year's winner Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Columbu's thighs were notably downsized, the result of a strongman injury years prior. The winner was not at his best, but Chris Dickerson (second), Roy Callendar (fourth) and Danny Padilla (fifth) were. And to say Tom Platz (third) was "at his best" would be an understatement. He shocked the bodybuilding world with new upper-body sinew and legs--already the world's best--that even today have not been equaled.