The AAU, IFBB and NPC
In 1939, the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) introduced the United States to competitive bodybuilding with an event titled “America’s Best Built Man”. The following year, the event name was changed to the “Mr. America” competition, which remains the top level of bodybuilding recognition in the AAU.
In 1946, Canadian brothers Ben and Joe Weider launched the International Federation of Body Builders (IFBB) out of concern that the AAU was switching its emphasis to Olympic type sports. The Weider’s felt that an organization which focused specifically on physique athletes was needed to both protect and promote the integrity of the sport. Ben Weider was already a promoter and Joe Weider had a magazine publishing business. The Weider’s used their magazine empire to promote “The Weider Philosophy” of training and fitness. In 1949, the IFBB held its own Mr. America contest which caused a protest on the part of it’s now rival organization the AAU. As a result, the AAU banned anyone from competing in their sanctioned events if they had previously competed for the IFBB. These two sanctioning bodies of competitive physique events remained in contention until 1965 when the IFBB launched the “Mr. Olympia” competition. The Olympia quickly became the dominant professional bodybuilding event as it drew top level athletes away from other organizations, including the Mr. America competition of the AAU.
Riding on the momentum of the Mr. Olympia competition, the IFBB quickly grew to become the seventh largest amateur sports federation, and the largest professional bodybuilding federation in the world. Athletes who rose through the ranks of the IFBB to become contenders for the Mr. Olympia title became the featured celebrities in Weider’s magazine “Muscle & Fitness”. While the monetary rewards of winning a professional bodybuilding title would be considered meager by most standards, endorsements can become very lucrative.
As if to back a winning horse, a third association known as the National Physique Committee (NPC), severed all ties with the AAU to become an affiliate of the IFBB. As such, the only route to an IFBB pro card is through the NPC. “The IFBB recognizes only one amateur physique federation per country, and in the United States, the NPC is the amateur arm of the IFBB. All bodybuilders - must win a qualifying NPC show before they can become IFBB professionals" (www.npcnewsonline.com).
The NPC is unquestionably the largest amateur physique organization in the world. The NPC website brags of more than 20,000 members and between 800 to 1000 NPC sanctioned events held annually. The NPC also claims to be serious about the use of performance enhancing drugs and boast of drug testing competitions. Regarding the drug issue, current NPC President Jim Manion states on the NPC website, “We all want drugs to be eliminated from sports, and that means all sports," (www.npcnewsonline.com). Adding further to the NPC stance on the drug issue, Manion further boast "In the past three years, the NPC has produced steroid tested shows, and this year, we'll promote nearly 150 of them”.
The above information was taken from the same page of the NPC website and has not been misrepresented in any form. The NPC claims to be serious regarding the use of anabolic steroids in the sport of bodybuilding stating that they want drugs to be eliminated from all sports. The site further states that the NPC sanctions between 800 to 1,000 competitive events annually. Finally however, we see that of the nearly 1,000 competitions, less than 150 of them will be drug tested events. This roughly equates to 15%. A rational person would immediately question the integrity of a sanctioning organization which claims to take a serious stance on the drug issue and yet offers drug test at only 15% of its events.
The lack of drug testing at the amateur level of bodybuilding in the NPC is further compounded as one approaches the professional ranks. As stated further on the NPC website, “For amateur bodybuilding in the USA, the NPC is the big kahuna. If you want to make it as a pro and take advantage of all the publicity and money making opportunities, you must come up through the NPC”. Attempting to mask the severity of the drug problem and simultaneously gain legitimacy for the sport of bodybuilding, the IFBB has instituted International Olympic Committee (IOC) drug testing standards which are publicized on its official web site, (www.ifbb.com). This has gained the IFBB recognition by over 90 National Olympic Committees which is in keeping with an IFBB goal of achieving the recognition of bodybuilding as an Olympic event. While this is a laudable step in the right direction, a deeper look into the IFBB web site reveals that these drug testing standards are only applicable to amateur level events. This is referenced in a page titled “More about the IFBB” and is thus stated, “Today, all IFBB international amateur events, at the Area, Continental, and World levels, in both bodybuilding and fitness, are drug tested”. No where in the document can references to the Olympia, or other professional events be found.