Web Based Communities:
A Feasibility Study for the Natural Bodybuilding Community
DATA ANALYSIS - Continued - 3
Why Natural Athletes cannot succeed in the IFBB
Now that we have established the dominance of the IFBB as the largest professional bodybuilding organization in the world, as well the monopoly of the NPC as the only amateur route to professional ranking in the IFBB, we can understand why Natural Bodybuilding is so poorly understood as well as its lack of representation. Based on the previous data, a natural athlete simply cannot rise through the ranks of the NPC and receive professional status in the IFBB.
There is no question that steroids enhance athletic performance. Tom Fordyce, sports writer for the BBC describes the effect of steroids as follows, “Anabolic steroids can improve the body's capacity to train and compete at the highest level. They reduce the fatigue associated with training and the time required to recover after physical exertion. They also promote the development of muscle tissue in the body, with an associated increase in strength and power” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/, the THG scandal explained).
The Olympics have been tainted with multiple allegations and scandals plague virtually all levels of professional and amateur sports. The highest levels of competition attract not only the best, but the most determined; people who intend to succeed at any cost. Sports Illustrated magazine ran an article titled “Easily obtained steroids focus of debate” (Sports Illustrated – Nov-26-2003), in which purported steroid expert Bob Goldman spoke of an informal survey that he had conducted with professional and Olympic athletes regarding the use of performance enhancing drugs. Goldman states in the article “I made up a hypothetical magic pill. I told them they'd win every competition for five years, but then die from it". According to the article, each time that Goldman takes the survey, over 50% of the questioned athletes respond that they would take the pill. The story of this survey, repeated and often magnified to the status of an urban legend throughout the athletic community, is a sad indictment against a culture that glorifies winners only while those who finish second and beyond receive faint accolade and are quickly forgotten.
The media’s lavish attention to sporting hero’s, elevating them to celebrity status, has not been without its trickle down effect. The win at any cost mentality is now prevalent at the high school level and beyond. The annual “Monitoring the Future” survey conducted by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research suggest that the use of steroids among high school students increased throughout the 1990’s before dropping slightly in 2003 (University of Michigan, Monitoring the Future – 2004 Drug Trends). It should be noted that the slight drop was evidenced in eight and tenth grades only with a marked increase in steroid use among twelfth graders. The study further stated that 45% of 12th graders did not believe that steroid use posed a serious health risk. A Newsweek analysis of the 2003 data suggests that over 300,000 high school students have used anabolic steroids (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6700913/site/newsweek/).
Addressing the efficacy of steroids to elevate athletic performance, physician Michel Karsten, who claims to have prescribed steroids to hundreds of world class athletes, has stated "There may be some sportsmen who can win gold medals without taking drugs, but they are very few. If you are especially gifted, you may win once, but from my experience you can’t continue to win without drugs, the field is just too filled with drug users".
Compounding the epidemic of drug use among athletes is the difficulty of accurate detection. Because sport contracts and winning teams can translate to tens of millions of dollars, the market for drug masking agents, as well as new and altered drugs that as of yet cannot be detected, is enormous and lucrative. Recent headlines have drawn attention to the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative (Balco) for its distribution of THG, a drug which had been chemically altered to avoid detection. Numerous athletes, including baseball star Barry Bonds, were implicated. THG is only one of many designer drugs however, for which adequate testing methods are yet to develop. According to steroid researcher William Llewellyn, "There are thousands and thousands of ways you could modify a steroid to change its structure and avoid detection. It's not tremendously difficult to create something like THG” (Sports Illustrated – Nov-26-2003). Llewellyn further states, "I think athletes are constantly looking for the next thing they can use before it becomes banned or becomes detectable. Ever since there's been testing, there's always been a search for ways to beat the tests."
Summarizing the above, we see that steroid use is rampant in all levels of amateur and professional sports, that detection methods are not always capable or accurate, and that in spite of the potential health risk, athletes are willing to use them to gain a competitive advantage. It should come as no surprise therefore, that in the sport of bodybuilding in which athletes are rewarded in relationship to their muscle mass, definition and presentation, to find steroid abuse of epidemic proportions. In is book, “Little Big Men, Bodybuilding Subculture and Gender Construction”, Northeastern University Professor Alan Klein states “Professional bodybuilding is perhaps the only sport in which steroid use is unavoidable” (Klein, 1993). Klein, who considers bodybuilders to be extremist who are obsessed with body image, further states, “You'd have to be a fool to go up on stage without steroids". This situation is further compounded when considering that the largest sanctioning body at the amateur level only drug test 15% of its competitive events. This scenario inevitably allows for enhanced athletes to filter to the top of competitive ladder, from which they then make the leap to professional recognition in the IFBB. A Natural athlete simply cannot compete in this environment. Perpetuating the problem is the fact that only upper level NCP and IFBB athletes are featured in major publications, thus skewing public perception of bodybuilders and bodybuilding. The Weider organization, which founded the IFBB and of which Ben Weider is still acting President, is also the largest health and fitness publishing and nutritional supplement company in the world (www.factbites.com / Ben Weider). The IFBB therefore not only pulls the strings in the world of professional bodybuilding, but also the medium by which professional bodybuilding is presented to the public.
Natural Bodybuilding Organizations
In response to the above, several Natural Bodybuilding organizations have been created by conscientious individuals or groups in an attempt to provide a level playing field for natural athletes. These organizations sanction drug tested competitions at the regional level. While some claim to hold national and international levels of competition, none as of yet is sufficiently attended to merit such a title. These organizations draw little attention because the public does not view Natural Bodybuilders as bodybuilders. The public image of bodybuilders is that which is presented in the media, IFBB professionals and Olympia contenders. Natural athletes are diminutive by comparison, the best of which would look out of place on the Olympian stage. Therefore, with limited resources and little exposure, these small organizations remain small or fail within a few years. Additionally, while these small organizations have a web presence, few have invested the capital to offer web based community services to their visitors. Of the few that have attempted, most are using free services that are unprofessional in appearance and are accompanied by pop up advertising. The big boys, in both literal and figurative terms, are using premium web based community software that is both professional in appearance and easy to navigate.
The purpose of this study is to examine Web Based Communities with regard to the interest of Natural Bodybuilding. The literature has shown that Natural Bodybuilding is a distinct and separate community from that of Bodybuilding as it is popularly understood through dominant media. The data has also shown that the overwhelming imbalance in online community membership is testimony of the extent to which steroids have influenced bodybuilding as we know it today.
Reasons for Choosing Google to determine Online Community Presence
Google is the current leader in search engine popularity handling 46.2% of all search engine quires with its closest rival Yahoo, coming in at only 22.5% (www.searchenginewatch.com, Nelson Ratings). These statistics are reflected in the writers’ personal experience as a webmaster noting that Google is responsible for 70% of search engine traffic directed to the Lift for Life.com web site.