There’s more to what meets the eye at a bodybuilding contest. Sure it’s all about brawny greased men who pose for a panel of judges after an intense workout, but it’s also a very lucrative business for those running the show.
It explains the existence of as many as four national federations in bodybuilding. What is more intriguing, each one of them claims to be genuine and affiliated to separate international federations. In early 2000, says Bobby Singh, a former Mr India, there was only one federation with a single window to showcase talent. “But these days the country is churning out at least four Mr India winners because there are as many as four active national federations,” he told HT over phone from Guwahati.
According to Bobby, things were fine till 2003. Thereafter, the national body sprouted with different sets of officials ruling events. What went wrong? According to Bobby, who hails from Manipur, bodybuilding stands divided due to the vested interests of some of the officials. “From outside those chiseled bodies look very attractive. But behind the curtain it’s very dirty. Some officials have deep pockets. And that has spelt trouble for all,” said Bobby.
Of four national federations, at least two --- Indian Body Building and Fitness Federation (IBBFF) and Indian Body Builders Federation (IBBF) — are more dominant. Incidentally, India’s former Mr Universe Premchand Degra has also become ad-hoc president of IBBF. “We are genuine and others are bogus,” was Degra’s first reaction when asked about the bodybuilding administration at the national level.
And there is no end to allegations and counter-allegations. Part-time gym owner Anil Sharma, who is also president of the Haryana unit of IBBFF, took little time to trash Degra’s association. “We are doing a better job,” said Sharma, who is also a full time priest.
The business angle
If Degra is to be believed, chances of a united front look bleak. “It’s the business that matters not the discipline. There is huge market of dietary supplements. Each faction wants to conquer more territory to sell its products to the bodybuilders,” said Degra.
When asked whether he is also into the business of selling supplements, Degra said he has always preached against the use of dietary supplements but added that ‘youngsters looking for overnight success are potential buyers.’
Amarjeet Malik, an official of the Delhi unit of IBBFF, also runs a supplements business. He however refused to comment. “Have you been sponsored to do a story,” was Malik’s curt reply when asked about his role in the state unit.
Why take up bodybuilding which is riddled with so many controversies? Degra feels the lure is in the prize money riding on so many events. “It’s the main attraction. We are conducting a national meet next month. The overall prize money is more than Rs 30 lakh,” he said.
If the situation at the national level is precarious, it isn’t any better at the continental level. There are two or three factions in Asia, according to Subhash Badana, an official of the Delhi state unit affiliated to IBBF. Badana had recently accompanied the national team that participated in an Asian level competition in Bangkok. Despite lack of financial support, all national federations field their teams in the international meets. “Players have learnt to manage their trips,” said Degra.