by Christian Duque
Whenever someone asks if someone is natty or not, I’m to the point where I don’t even look up anymore. It’s just such a stupid question. And yes folks, there are plenty of stupid questions – and stupid people, too. I mean, who cares if someone uses gear or not? Does their use of PED’s (performance enhancement drugs) affect you in any way, shape, or form? No. But what if you compete against someone who’s using, then you have a leg to stand on, right?
Well, in that limited situation, possibly, but more likely it falls on the contest. If you’re competing in an untested event, that’s your own fault if you compete against enhanced athletes. If you’re in a tested show, then finding cheaters falls on the promoters and the people they hired to handle and test samples. The big take home message here is that it’s none of your business, one way or another.
Also, I think social media has really removed what little tact was in this industry to begin with. Fans used to be a lot more mindful and respectful; 10-15 years ago the topic of gear was off limits. It didn’t matter if you met a competitor at a contest, an expo, or even if you dropped serious money to be involved in a daylong training camp or seminar – some questions were never asked. If you look on Youtube, there’s a seminar where Ronnie was asked about gear. He deflected the question with some humor and the fan who asked the question was socially ostracized. No one clapped for him, no one asked any follow-up questions along the lines of his, and at least a few audience members (I’m sure) may have wanted to lay hands on the guy. The truth is fans back then showed a lot more restraint. I also think they probably knew better; why ask a competitor to state the obvious? The only reason I could think of, would be to troll, maybe to put the competitor in an awkward spot.
Trolling, I’m afraid to say, is alive and well. When I hear questions like the aforementioned, that’s the first thing that comes to mind. No matter how you break it down, it’s trolling.
That being said, the situation with Mike O’Hearn is a little different. He invites a lot of this trolling because he makes it a point to let the world know he’s natural. That’s both good and bad. I love the guy, I’m a loyal fan, and I think he’s had one of the most interesting careers in the fitness industry. He’s ageless, he’s always relevant, and he’s constantly reinventing himself. That’s the recipe for success. Many try it, but few can hang for as long as O’Hearn. He’s been on top since his American Gladiator days and never looked back.
Broadcasting your nattiness is bad simply because it invites trolls to test the veracity of the statement. A lot of times the main trolls will be “influencers” looking for clout. Does anyone remember how Luimarco first made it to fame? He’d make call-out videos and as his following got bigger, the guys he targeted started feeling the brunt of his schtick all the more. Lui’s reach became so powerful, that he started to ruffle the feathers of the thinnest skinned bodybuilding champion of all time. There’s an Olympia where one of the first things Phil “The Gift” Heath did after winning, was heckle Luimarco, basically telling him “I told you so.” I’m surprised anyone on Phil’s level would care about what some guy said into his webcam thousands of miles away, but that’s the power of social media. Just by mentioning the guy, Phil gave him far more power, emboldening his efforts and that of his armies of trolls. That being said, if Phil had looked at the bigger picture, he could have used the negativity to further propel himself.
If you let these people get under your skin and merely lash out, then only they win. O’Hearn has been in the game long enough to turn haters into fans by not giving into them, he never loses his cool, he just makes them hate him more by always preaching his natty gospel, even in the face of the biggest non-believers and critics. That being said he’s not a punk. Just because he’s always cool, no one in their right mind would step up to him, face to face, with any kind of foolishness, either.
Now if I were to tell you that all the haters in question would be bums with internet connections, that would only describe the tip of the iceberg. Unfortunately, some of the biggest haters are natural athletes who, for whatever reason, just couldn’t duplicate Mike’s strength, physique, or match his lifelong commitment to powerbuilding, training at 4AM, and/or never giving up. There’s guys who maybe lacked the genetics or quite frankly, lacked the will to win. These guys usually don’t speak out publicly, but they talk smack behind his back, oftentimes speaking off the record to fitness networks.
These are the dopes who require interviewers to guard their anonymity at all costs. Sometimes their faces will be blurred, they’ll talk from a shadow, or their voices will be changed. If only I were kidding, but I’m not! There’s some real drama queens with big mouths that write big checks their asses can’t cash. It’s one thing to be a bum who’s never achieved anything, never competed, and talking smack, but it’s quite another to have broken bread with someone, competed side by side with them, and to know, firsthand that they are telling the truth, but to troll nonetheless. That’s called sour grapes and a lot of guys have them in the fitness industry. This is a realm of vanity, after all, so a guy like Mike, who is ageless and only getting better with time, will certainly have quite a few contemporaries that hate him just for that. Welcome to reality.
The good thing about broadcasting nattiness, however, is that it gives a lot of people who don’t want to use gear, a lot of inspiration. It used to be that natty guys couldn’t break 200lbs on stage, but that threshold has long been surpassed. Look at RD Caldwell Jr., for example, talk about a lifelong natural bodybuilder who can lift with the strongest, get ultra-ripped, and win pro shows, without ever taking gear, diuretics, growth or sli. Does it take longer? Hell Yes! Does it require a lot better nutrition? Of course. Natural titans like Caldwell, O’Hearn, Willet and LaCour put in so many years and earned top honors and big titles all off their diet and training.
While some might argue against bragging, wouldn’t you want the world to know that you did it all on your own? The guys who have to pin morning, noon, and night rely on those compounds to get them to that next level. These guys take their creatine, some aminos, and they’re off to the races. It takes them considerably longer, but what they’ve achieved, is all theirs.
I’ll be honest with you, I don’t care if a competitor is natty or enhanced, I love physique-based sports and at the end of the day, what impresses me is symmetry, balance, and condition. That being said, I have no issue saying that if a person truly is natural and they look as good (that’s key) as the enhanced athlete(s), then yes, I do respect that on a different level. It just is what it is; it’s a lot harder and most guys who embark on the natty path, fail. They will likely end up taking gear, but some, like Caldwell and O’Hearn don’t.
Look at Keone Pearson and everything he accomplished drug free. It was quite mind boggling. But even as Keone looked to take his physique to the next level with gear and tried to convince R.D. on an episode of Iron Debate that it was necessary, R.D. was unwilling to give in. If Keone talked about muscle density, R.D. pushed training. If Keone raised issues related to hardness, R.D. responded with diet. At no point in time does a guy like R.D. or Mike O’Hearn say drugs will do it for them. Jeff Willet was the same way. He competed naturally – in bodybuilding – at the USA’s – and was battling for Top 3. Can you imagine competing drug free and taking 4th at the USA’s? In Bodybuilding? That’s pretty insane but totally doable!!
Mike O’Hearn won the Natural Universe 4x in one of the strictest natural organizations in the world. If that’s not proof positive he’s a lifelong natty, I don’t know what it is.
So there you have it. There’s good and bad that comes from broadcasting nattiness. This new video from Generation Iron will surely not disappoint. These guys live for making great productions. I have yet to watch one of their movies and not be thoroughly impressed!