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A View From The Judges’ Table, What Politics?

Ok, let me start out by saying that if you’re a competitor, this piece is probably going to upset you a bit. Maybe even bruise your ego a tad. But, be that as it may, I’m going to write it anyway. Call it a rant, call it whatever you want to call it, but the time to tell you some of the inner workings of an NPC National judging panel has come. Why? Because after years of listening to competitors bitch and moan about all the reasons that they don’t have a pro card that have absolutely nothing to do with their physiques, somebody’s got to do it.

Tell me if any of this sounds familiar? Joe Blow didn’t win because:

  1. He upset the judges by doing an ad for a supplement company that wasn’t a sponsor;
  2. He broke a trophy 5 years ago at a contest;
  3. He missed the competitors meeting;
  4. The judges were looking for someone else and it was that guy’s show before anyone even weighed in;
  5. There was a rumor that he was busted the week before;
  6. There was a rumor that he was a drug addict;
  7. They never compared him with the top 5 because it would have been impossible to give it to the guy they wanted to win if they had;
  8. He was “too shredded” (I love that one);
  9. He hasn’t paid his dues and everyone knows you have to get screwed a few times before they give you a Pro card;
  10. His time came and went and even though he was an easy winner, the judges are looking for new faces;
  11. Blah, Blah, Blah……………………………………..

Believe it or not, with the exception of #11, I’ve actually heard every one of these excuses.


bodybuilder judges

By BbpicsOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

In the Men’s Division of NPC National shows there are usually anywhere from 100 to 150 competitors. Are you sitting down? Ready for some real ego-bruising news? Most national judges I’ve sat with and talked to couldn’t recognize and name more than 10 or 15 of them if you put a gun to their head. I’ve been judging nationally since 1994 and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been involved in conversations where someone said, “I thought Joe Blow looked great.” The reply was usually “What number was he? Or “What class is he in?” If you’re a competitor you should be thrilled at this news because it destroys the notion that we’re sitting there with a list of who we’re going to deny their pro card to because we wouldn’t know who you were most of the time anyway.

Oh, and before I move on, let me put something else from the list in the reality check section. I’ve never seen a male competitor who was too shredded. I’m not sure that there is such a thing as too shredded!


This is an easy one. Let’s see, smashing trophies denies you a pro card? Better not tell Tevita Aholelie who broke his trophy exiting the stage at the 1999 USA in Santa Monica after losing a narrow one-point decision to Garret Downing. Of course, Tevita came back the very next year and won the Heavies at the 2000 USA and got his pro card. I guess we forgave Tevita in 12 months, but we’re holding 5-year grudges against some other guys. (I’m being sarcastic here.)

But let’s not stop there. How about Craig Titus. Remember when he was going to be the USA winner in New Orleans a few years ago? Show was his. No one else should even bother showing up. Then Craig lost a close one to Phil Hernon. Then, in an emotional moment, Craig got really upset, threw his number on the ground and stormed off stage. That’s it, he’ll never win again. The judges will make him pay for that. He’ll never be a pro. He’s over. Of course, he came back at the next USA, one year later, and got his pro card. Guess we forgot about it by then.


bodybuilder judgesWell, it’s pretty obvious that both of these can’t be true at the same time. Guess what? Neither is true. I knew you’d want some examples, so here you go. Ever hear of a guy named Ken Brown? He came into the USA a few years ago after winning the Junior Nationals probably hoping to place in the top 5. The first time he ever did a pro qualifier. No chance right? Wrong. He won the whole thing and turned pro.

A fluke? Nope. How about the 2000 Women’s USA. Jennifer McIvar won the overall women’s championship and a pro card in her first National contest! Want a more recent example? 2000 NPC Men’s Nationals were held in NY this past year. A friend of mine called me from the show and asked: “Do you know a guy named Victor Martinez?” “No, never heard of him,” I replied. “Well, he just smoked the Heavyweight Class and the Overall.” So much for paying dues onstage. I guess Victor paid his dues where it really counts…the gym, the treadmill and the kitchen table.

Oops, I almost forgot about the flipside of this whole equation…the “I’m not a fresh face” scenario. Guess that didn’t matter at this year’s USA when Bob Cicherillo rolled the dice and walked away with the Superheavyweight class, the overall and a pro card. Given that he won the Junior Nationals about 12 or 13 years before and probably competed for a pro card at least 10 or 15 times, there goes the whole fresh face thing.


Take responsibility for yourself when you don’t win a show! Look at your physique, not the judge’s panel. Are there exceptions? Of course, but they are just that…exceptions. When a competitor convinces him or herself of any of the reasons listed above, what they are really doing is stopping themselves from learning from the experience. Rather than figuring out what they need to do for their physique to improve for next time, they are too busy placing blame elsewhere.

The ones who consistently improve and ultimately turn pro are the ones who use every show to improve and learn as they are on their way to the top. I wonder if Ronnie Coleman went home and pouted for a year after he was 9th at the Olympia and blamed it on politics. I’m guessing against it. He won the O the very next year. You remember, that was the show that everyone who knew anything had already proclaimed that Flex Wheeler would be unbeatable in after Dorian stepped down.

Speaking of Ronnie, I had several people at the Pro Ironman tell me that it was a huge mistake for him to do the Arnold Classic two weeks later because he was a Weider guy now and there was some friction between Arnold and Joe that Ronnie would get screwed for. I guess they forgot to tell the judges…he had all first-place votes in all rounds and walked away with over $200,000 in winnings. The bottom line is that the right person usually wins at the NPC National and IFBB Pro Level. Spend more time becoming the right person and less time blaming the wrong ones and you’ll end up a lot happier. Oh, and you’ll probably have a much better physique!

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Larry Pepe is the author of the new book, The Precontest Bible, which can be viewed online at www.PrecontestBible.com. Larry can be reached by email at Larry@MuscleFlex.com.


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