Bodybuilding or fitness is a new-old sport. Strength training was carried out in ancient times, but current bodybuilding and fitness are the result of 150 years of development. In the modern period, bodybuilding was originally closely linked with various sorts of strength events. Gradually, however, it became a sport of its own. Bodybuilding became particularly popular in the 1950s and 1970s, and it has grown and evolved ever since. Fitness as a sport could be considered a continuum of bodybuilding, although this is a crude simplification.
The fitness boom started in the early 1980s. Fitness became popular first in the United States and later in the rest of the world. This also contributed to the development of various fitness events as a vast amount of enthusiasts entered gyms. When bodybuilding and fitness evolved sports of their own, there was, naturally, a need to become organized and to harmonize the rules - just like in other sports. The International Federationof bodybuilding and fitness (formerly known as The International Federation of Body Builders), founded in 1946 by the Canadian brothers Joe and Ben Weider, became the most famous international organization. The National Amateur Body-Builders' Association (NABBA) is also one of the earliest sports associations. Today, the headquarters of the IFBB is located in Madrid, Spain. IFBB has now a profile of a doping-tested bodybuilding and fitness sports federation.
There was, however, a disagreement regarding IFBB few years ago which has confused many inside the sport. Especially for new fitness athletes, it's hard to discern the IFBB from other fitness and bodybuilding organizations. Actually, this post sprang from a personal need to clarify the difference between various organizations.
To perceive the difference between IFBB and various organizations, it´s good to start with IFBB's recent history. In 2005 this organization was divided into two parts:
1. The international federation of various national amateur sports organizations: IFBB;
2. IFBB´s professional association: IFBB Pro League.
IFBB Pro League was the successor to IFBB's professional division IFBB Pro Division from which qualifying competitions and based on the qualifying criteria competitors were selected for the main event of the sport, the Mr. Olympia competition. Arnold Schwarzenegger, for example, won Mr. Olympia seven times in his career. IFBB, which focused on the amateur sport, instead started to promote doping-tests and adopted WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) rules.
In 2017, however, The National Physique Committee (NPC), which is US`s amateur association, had expanded its activity to Australia, Japan, South Korea and a few other countries and was creating its own organization inside IFBB. This, of course, was not acceptable for IFBB, because one country can only control its own activity - not the activity of the whole international federation.
This situation escalated in 2017 a few days before the Olympia Weekend. At that time, Jim Manion was the director of IFBB Pro League, and he held a meeting with the representatives of IFBB. This meeting resulted in divergent views and to the refusal of IFBB's representatives to act as judges at the Amateur Olympia. The reason for this refusal was that the representatives of NPC demanded that their judges take over the Olympia-event instead of IFBB´s judges, although this event was sanctioned by IFBB and had more international competitors than participants from US. Jim Manion, on the other hand, in YouTube-interviews spoke about changes he wanted to make without going into the details.
As a result, however, IFBB's representatives withdrew from the whole event. It is also worth noting that Jim Manion acted also as the director of NPC. Prior to that decisive meeting, NPC had been practically an amateur association of IFBB in the US. It was, however, much more autonomous than the other countries' associations operating under IFBB at the time. Consequently, IFBB excluded NPC and IFBB Pro League mainly because they had divergent views with Jim Manion on doping testing. Thus, the last ties between NPC and IFBB were broken. Because NPC had never acted in accordance with the WADA Doping Code approved by IFBB, the head of NPC Jim Manion was punished by WADA for four years and was blacklisted (see number 87; see also IFBB adjudication).
In addition, IFBB owns IFBB Pro League as a brand in patents all around the world. Similarly, it is worth noting that IFBB Pro League and NPC are currently legally organizations (cf. companies) and not federations like IFBB. In other words, IFBB Pro League and NPC are private companies and not democratically elected alliances.
Immediately after the separation, IFBB developed its own new professional organization, IFBB ElitePro, where the Finns have also achieved success. For the same reason, IFBB is of course no longer involved in the Olympia Weekend.
The Olympia Weekend now works in cooperation with the IFBB Pro League. The history of the Olympia Weekend goes back to the year 1965, when Joe and Ben Weider founded their own top competition for the professionals: Mr. Olympia. In 2002, this event was sold to an American media house called American MediaIncorporated (AMI), whose CEO is David Pecker. Pecker, however, sold the Olympia Weekend to an American businessman Luke Wood in February 2020.
It is also worth noting that the IFBB Pro League recognized NPC as the only amateur league to obtain an IFBB Pro League professional card. NPC is currently also organizing qualifying competitions in different countries. From these competitions you can win a professional card of the IFBB Pro League.In other words, since the separation, IFBB has not been affiliated in any way with the IFBB Pro Leagueor its competitions.
Arnold Classic events are now divided into two groups with the consent of their organizers, Jim and Bob Lorimer. Those in favor of IFBB and Elite Pro organizes Arnold Classic in Spain and South Africa. Those in favor of NPC and IFBB Pro League organize Arnold Classic in the United States, Australia and Brazil.
As a result of this process, becoming a professional also varies depending on whether athlete competes under IFBB or IFBB Pro League/NPC. IFBB's Elite Pro pro-cards can be won from IFBB Amateur Games around the world. In Finland, for example, you can win a professional card from the international competition IFBB Jan Tana Classic (formerly Nordic Cup) at Nordic Fitness Expo (NFE). NFE is now also accompanied by the IFBB Elite Pro competition.
IFBB Pro League pro-cards, instead, can only be obtained from NPC´s competitions. It is also important to note that there are also other organizations around the world that are fully business-based in the corporate sector. Some of these organizations are concentrated on the so-called natural bodybuilding with their own doping tests. These tests include, for example, a polygraph prior to the competition and/or other laboratory tests that are not approved by WADA. The organizers of these competitions, for example, may have paid for the tests and therefore test results cannot be accepted by WADA or considered neutral.
The majority of Finnish fitness athletes compete under Suomen fitnessurheilu ry (abr. SFU, Engl. Finnish Fitness Sports Association; see https://suomenfitnessurheilu.fi). SFU is IFBB´s official representative in Finland. SFU has also been subject to national doping supervision Suomen urheilun eettinen keskus (abr. SUEK; engl. Finnish Centre for Integrity, FINADA) since 1995. Fitness athletes are among the most tested athletes in Finland. The SFU is also a national member organization of the Finnish Olympic Committee. In addition, IFBB is seeking full membership of The International Olympic Commitee (IOC). This membership would establish IFBB's status as an official sport organization.
IFBB differs, therefore, from other international bodybuilding and fitness organizations, because it complies with WADA's anti-doping program and is the only bodybuilding and fitness association to conduct WADA-approved doping tests. In addition, it is also part of SportAccord, which is an umbrella organization for Olympic and non-Olympic sports federations. Thus, IFBB and SFU have been profiled in the fitness and bodybuilding world as sport federations which organize doping testing during the training and competition period in exactly the same way as in other sports.
So how does this affect Finnish fitness athletes? A lot. I have noticed that the differences between various associations or organizations cause a lot of confusion. Especially for a new fitness athlete, it's a good idea to have some sort of idea about the organization in which they are affiliated. Actually, I wrote this blog entry mainly for this reason. So, when choosing a sports federation to compete, consider the following:
1. What is your long-term plan? If you want to compete in non-tested competitions, it is very difficult to succeed without doping especially at the professional level. If you decide to step into "the dark side", it is important to take into account that there are inevitable consequences:
Firstly, in Finland, for example, it´s illegal to sell many products which can be defined as doping. Secondly, various doping products have a detrimental effect on your health especially in the long-term and they can shorten your life (e.g. heart and kidney diseases and various other serious diseases such as strokes). Thirdly, the use of doping substances is expensive. Why to spend your money on something detrimental? Fourthly, as a user of doping substances, you cannot compete in IFBB´s or SFU´s competitions. Fifthly, you may need to prevent the side effects of doping with various medicines or substances. For these reasons, for example, I cannot recommend to anyone the use of doping substances.
2. If you want to compete, for example, in Finland under doping control, your best option is the SFU and IFBB. Competitions under SFU are well-organized. In addition, SFU and its competitions have an excellent visibility in Finnish media. As a tested athlete your best chance to win, for example a respected Amateur World Championship, is IFBB and in Finland SFU. Instead, if your dream is to become Mr. Olympia, there's no other choice at the moment than the US´s IFBB Pro League. US, therefore, differs to some extent from many other countries in bodybuilding and fitness especially regarding sport associations.
3. What kind of coaching are you looking for? It is difficult for me to evaluate the level of coaching, especially outside IFBB and SFU. I know, however, that there are well-qualified and excellent coaches and researchers around the world (such as Jeff Nippard, Layne Norton and Brad Schoenfeld, among others).
In Finland, SFU´s coaches have undergone science-based coaching training or trainings (see more: https://suomenfitnessurheilu.fi/valmennus/). I myself have graduated as a level I and II fitness coach. My current title according to IFBB standards is Advanced Bodybuilding & Fitness Trainer Specialist. In addition, internationally significant research on fitness sports is done in Finland especially in the University of Jyväskylä. So, if you want some kind of guarantee of quality in Finland for coaching, SFU´s coaches have a science-based training.
I have tried to write this blog entry objectively, but of course you can also find subjective elements from it (e.g. what I´m telling about SFU). It´s, therefore, worth noting that I compete in SFU´s and IFBB´s competitions and I am an official coach of SFU and IFBB. In addition, I am a strong advocate for clean sport.
- https://milliondollarbabyfitness.com/the-ifbb-split-what-happened-and-what-it-means-for-competitors/; read May 25th 2020.
- www.ifbb.com; read May 25th 2020.
- https://www.arnoldsportsfestival.com/visitor-info/media/20-summary-release/; read May 25th 2020.
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Federation_of_BodyBuilding_%26_Fitness; read May 25th 2020.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4VlsIYXi10o; watched May 25th 2020.
- https://suomenfitnessurheilu.fi; read May 25th 2020.
- Discussions (and feedback) with Ville Isola May and June 2020.
- Discussions (and feedback) with KP Ourama May and June 2020.
- https://www.nabba.co.uk; read May 29th 2020.
- https://www.ifbbpro.com; read May 29th 2020.
- https://npcnewsonline.com; read May 29th .2020.
- https://ifbb.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/FINAL-ADJUDICATION-ABOUT-THE-CASE-OF-MR.-JIM-MANION-FROM-U.S.A..pdf, read July 13th 2020.
Ps. I have updated this blog e.g. July 13th 2020