Bodybuilding — for fairly obvious reasons — has been a part of the performance-enhancing drugs debate long before the term was ever coined.
It’s a sport that is governed by various federations, where PED enforcement is only as tough as each federation wants it to be.
John Arnold, who owns Natural Build Fitness with his wife, Becky, has made a career of natural training. That fierce loyalty to drug-free training extends to the bodybuilding shows they promote, such as the 20th Natural Southern States Classic on Friday and Saturday at the Liberty Performing Arts Theatre.
The Natural Southern States Classic is under the umbrella of the North American Natural Bodybuilding Federation. Drug testing for the show is two-pronged: a polygraph and urine sample.
“Every competitor does a polygraph, and we start a week prior to the show. Being an amateur organization, with no money involved, we want to make sure we’re providing an even playing field,” John Arnold said.
One simple question is at the heart of the polygraph: have you used a substance banned by the NANBF in the past seven years?
“We’ll lose people at the polygraph, believe it or not. A lot of organizations are out there, saying they do drug testing, but there’s no precompetition time you have to be drug free,” Arnold said. “We’re not stupid. We’ve been at gyms. People can clear a test in a certain amount of time. It’s tough to pass a polygraph when asked point blank if you’ve done a banned substance in the past seven years.”
The top two bodybuilders in each division have to provide a urine sample immediately following the competition. Arnold said the natural bodybuilding federation can also request a sample from any participant.
“That’s what they sign up for,” Arnold said. “We constantly get people who love the fact that we’re doing this. They feel like it’s fair. What we’re doing is giving people a choice to compete natural.”
April Washinowski is one of those people who appreciates the drug-free nature of the show. She started weight training as a way to get healthy after giving birth to her fifth child. She’ll be competing for the first time.
“I’m always up for a random challenge, so why not try it?,” Washinowski said with a laugh. “When I was pregnant with the kids, I felt sick the whole time. I didn’t do anything. I had to get moving. I picked up lifting and training, and now I’m probably too obsessed with it. But in a good way though, I guess.”
Washinowski met the Arnolds, and their drug-free approach was a main reason why she decided to compete.
“Just the idea of having a fair playing field, and competing with what work you can do and not faking it, it’s nice,” Washinowski said. “Hard work is going to pay off. In a way I am going in a little bit blind, but I’m super-excited.”