It was Schwarzenegger’s seventh and final Olympia title, but it was also a win mired in controversy. For starters, Arnold’s involvement was a secret from most until the day before the show, which agitated the other competitors. And when the Austrian Oak finally revealed his physique, most were shocked to see him lagging behind contemporaries on stage like Frank Zane and Mike Mentzer.
None of that mattered because, in the end, Arnold claimed victory. As the most popular bodybuilder in the world at the time, many fans and competitors believed Schwarzenegger’s fame won him the title, not his physique. Bodybuilder Samir Bannout, who competed at that 1980 show, recently gave his thoughts on the controversy during an episode of The Muscle Maturity Podcast (see the video above).
Bannout On Arnold’s Victory
Though Bannout says he was — and still is — a big fan of Schwarzenegger, he’s definitive in what he saw on the night of the show.
“Arnold really didn’t deserve to win,” Bannout says. He described Schwarzenegger as “flat” throughout the contest and that “he did not bounce like the real Arnold” while on stage. And he wasn’t alone in those thoughts.
The win earned immediate scorn from those in attendance: Fans booed, competitors left the stage in disgust, and some even retired from the sport afterward.
For many, what they saw on stage was 80%-90% of peak Arnold — the biceps and chest were there, but he had ”slender thighs, underdeveloped triceps and deltoids, and a mediocre midsection,” according to bodybuilding reporter Jack Neary.
View this post on Instagram
But Bannout says that there might have been a reason for some of Arnold’s issues: In the lead-up to the show, he says that Schwarzenegger was dealing with a rotator cuff issue that required cortisone injections, a claim that Schwarzenegger substantiated in his book, The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding.
“People don’t know about this,” Bannout continues. “Arnold wasn’t really Arnold. He didn’t peak properly, and part of that was the cortisone shot that he ended up taking in his shoulder. That affected his chemistry somewhat […] It made him retain water more than usual.”
Rumors and Conspiracy Theories
Since the 1980 Olympia, a number of theories have cropped up explaining Arnold’s victory. Most notable is the fact that Schwarzenegger was friends with Paul Graham, the promoter of the Olympia that year.
Former bodybuilder John Hansen, who joined Bannout on the podcast, says there were rumors that Graham “fixed” the show by employing judges who were Arnold’s friends.
Following the decision, Zane, who came in third, decided to skip the 1981 Olympia, while Mentzer, the fifth-place competitor, never returned to the stage, according to a story published on The Barbell, originally written by the late bodybuilding journalist Peter McGough.
Bannout, who competed in his first Olympia in 1980, came in 15th that year. Three years later, he won the whole thing.
Featured Image: @mrolympiallc on Instagram