Klein has also contended that the roles of Joe and Ben in the business and sport of bodybuilding overlap and thus create a conflict of interest. "Joe Weider can make or break a career," Klein maintains. He argues that a star bodybuilder who appears in Flex or wins an IFBB meet can't promote a competitor's product because if he does, the iFBB will shun him.
"Klein is completely prejudiced, or he lacks the facts," Ben says bluntly. "There is no way the IFBB allows its sport to be involved with business. Bodybuilding is a sport, and we keep it as one." Take the example of Lee Haney, Ben notes, who once endorsed Weider products, but then signed a contract with a competitor. "Because Haney endorsed someone else's products," Ben says, "they said he would never win another Mr. Olympia contest. P.S.: Haney won."
"There are new stars coming up all the time and no reason why people shouldn't progress in the sport," notes competing publisher Kennedy. Kennedy says that since he often oversees articles written about up and coming champions, he knows firsthand that success in the sport is not controlled by the Weiders. He adds that bodybuilders who work for Weider are on contracts that allow them to run their own seminars, sell their own merchandise or endorse clothing lines from other companies.
Klein also charges that the Weiders "indirectly influence the outcomes" of competitions through judging that "can be manipulated to fit a standard the Weiders want by selecting judges who agree with the Weider philosophy of bodybuilding." This is allegedly done in order to ensure that highly marketable athletes will win, which will allow them to sell more magazines and merchandise for the company. But again, Klein has apparently failed to research the reality: There are hundreds of qualified judges within the IFBB who are selected by a panel of IFBB officials.
"There is only one way to face a contest," Ben says. "You approach the nine judges and say, 'I am president of the IFBB, and if you guys want to continue being judges, you're going to vote my way. I don't want Lee Haney to win, you vote for my new man.' How long do you think that is going to stay a secret? How quickly do you think my life's work, 50 years of work, would be destroyed?"
Klein's speculation does not define the 'standard' or 'philosophy' the Weiders supposedly use to 'influence' competitions. Such a definition would be impossible anyway. Consider the significant physical differences between former Mr. Olympias. Three time winner Frank Zane is white, 5'7" and relatively muscular; eight time champion Lee Haney is African American, 6' and extremely massive.
Like any other federation, the IFBB does have a set of guidelines; bodybuilders must possess muscularity, definition, size and symmetry. Ben suggests that the Weider philosophy literally mean the 'Weider lifestyle' or 'total fitness,' not a standard by which judges can base decisions. Every IFBB judges, Ben asserts, votes according to his or her conscience.
Klein contradicts his statements that the Weiders "indirectly influence" the outcomes of competitions in his argument concerning women. He reports that Ben is "really opposed to overly muscular women," yet in the next breath he observes that the overwhelming number of female champions "keep pushing the edges of that envelope." Using logic, if Ben 'indirectly influences' judges, why do 'overly muscular women' continue to win? In the end, judges must select winners based on their own interpretations of muscularity, proportion and symmetry.
Several policies ensure the credibility of the IFBB judicial process. First, to eliminate bias, the highest and the lowest score of each competitor is dropped. Second, Ben instructs judges to 'look at an athlete from his neck down'. Forget about who he is. Judge him by his physique'. Ben never attends prejudging because judges usually narrow down the field at that time. If a tie between two or more athletes exists, then the judges make a final decision during the evening presentation.
"I have never, ever, ever expressed my preferences to any judges as to who should win and who shouldn't," Ben states. Leaders within the sport back up Ben's assertions. "Anyone can win," says former Mr. Universe Mohamed Makkaway. "Bodybuilding is like gymnastics or figure skating, not everyone agrees with the results." Adds Frank Zane, "The only person who doesn't disagree with the judges is the winner."
To the Future
Criticism aside, the Weiders are the undisputed pioneers of bodybuilding, whose guiding missionary zeal has turned a once marginalized activity into a competitive and mainstream sport, one that may well number among the Olympic competitions one day. In 1995, for example, bodybuilding moved one step closer towards IOC recognition when it was one of the events participating officially at the Pan American Games in Argentina. But perhaps most important has been the Weiders' impact on the health and well being of millions on nonathletes: "Ours is not simply a sport, it is a lifestyle," Ben explains. "This is our contribution, our life and our dedication."