Drug Tested Vs Non Drug Tested Bodybuilding Federations [SHOW NOTES]
I was asked the other day why I, or anyone, would want to compete at a show where it’s not an equal playing field. Meaning, why would anyone who is a drug free athlete choose to compete in a federation where the athletes are not drug tested and are known to be enhanced.
In this episode I am going to share my experiences, reflections, and overall opinions of some of the popular drug tested AND non drug tested federations. I’m going to explain what makes them different from my own first hand experiences. Both good and bad.
I cover the NPC/IFBB, the WBFF, the OCB, and the WNBF federations.
I'm also going to reveal where I plan to compete this year and why.
So grab those head phones and join me on your next cardio sesh or commute as I do another deep dive on all things federations.
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No one wants to hear anything bad about their bodybuilding federation so this might not go over well with some people; however, today I am going to give my experiences, reflections, and overall opinions of some of the popular drug tested AND non drug tested federations. I come from a place of educating. I’m that person that tells you that you had mother-of-the-bride hair on stage and that it needs to GO before your next show because it’s most likely why you stood on the side of the stage like a potted plant.. I’m going to explain what makes four different federations different by sharing my own first hand experiences. Both good and bad.
Just because you compete in one federation over another doesn’t mean you worked any less hard to get to your show. Nor does it mean that if you didn’t take drugs to have an advanced level physique like someone the same age as you in a non drug tested federation means you worked any less hard for the show. A lot of experiences and strategy is relevant no matter where you compete. I know this because I have experience competing very successfully in 6 federations.
So here I am, about 22 weeks out from my next show. Yup, I’ve picked a show which means I’ve narrowed down all of my options and have a goal. It doesn’t matter which federation, because regardless, the particular division I am going to compete in requires me to get lean. Which is pretty much what we all do, right? Get lean?
Of course the level of ACCEPTABLE leanness depends on the federation you are competing in.
What I’ve noticed is that this line is getting blurred in the more muscular divisions of the non drug tested federations. The athletes in all of the divisions are getting bigger and bigger. Especially on the pro stage where these athletes don’t stop training when they go pro, right? They keep training and building. Which means they are getting bigger.
In fact, the stakes are so much higher even on the amateur level of non drug tested federations that, for example, I was just at NPC Nationals and the overall winner in the women’s physique division of that show also won her pro card in Figure. She was the clear cut winner in the Physique division which calls for more rounded delts, more overall size, and more conditioning. I remember when she walked out for her individual introduction before the group comparison round I turned to my husband and said, “lights out.” She was an absolute stand out. In the physique division. But to take that same person and for her win the Figure division shows that the gap between these divisions has closed significantly. You can argue that the scores are based on what’s on stage, but let me tell you, the amount of quality physiques on that stage was incredible. Choosing someone with excellent symmetry, stage presence, and an appropriate level of muscle for the figure category would not have been difficult. And yes, on the amateur stage she outsized everyone, and on the pro stage she might not. My point is, she won both divisions. You wouldn’t see a bikini competitor win Figure, would you? Nope, nowhere near as much muscle. The difference between Figure and Physique, yup you had someone win both.
As for the men, the level of size in the bodybuilding division was out of this world. The overall winner of the men’s bodybuilding was the super heavy weight class winner with quads that had muscle growing muscle. And then there are other guys we are seeing who are putting on so much muscle in a short period, like only TWO years or so, that they look barely recognizable from their original physique.
You do not see this level of size and conditioning in the natural federations. Especially for the women.
Size and conditioning are definitely clear differences between drug tested and non drug tested federations. But there is more than one non drug tested federation and more than on drug tested federation. There are different nuances between them that I am going to talk about today. I’m also going to talk about why today I’m getting ready for a show in a particular federation where, in some people’s opinions, the odds are stacked against me that I will do well.
The other day I was having a conversation with a friend who asked me about my show prep plans. I explained that I plan to compete in 6 months in the NPC/IFBB federation. She goes on to ask me … well, why? Why would I want to compete somewhere where it’s not an equal playing field? What she meant by this for those who aren’t picking this up, is that I am a drug free athlete and I am going to compete in a non drug tested federation, which means, I will be on stage with competitors who will have a competitive advantage over me with their physique with the substances they take to get them leaner, harder, and more muscular for the show.
I was stuck for a minute because I had never had someone put it to me like that. Like why bother when it’s not fair play? To me it was never about being unfair because I know going into the show that there are people using PEDs. To me it’s unfair if I’m going into a show that is a drug tested show and you have an a-hole liar who wants to win a plastic trophy so much that they show up with an enhanced physique and lie through their teeth at the polygraph test that they are not using PEDs. What baffles me is that sometimes these people are caught too when there is a urine test that comes back with PEDs in their system. Like, what the hell people. To me that’s unfair. Unfair is going into something with certain expectations and finding out it’s all a line of Bull. Like that very first fitness modeling competition I told you about in the first episode.
So let me explain something… Just because someone does PEDs to enhance their physique doesn’t mean they are going to beat me or beat you. Just because you are on PEDs doesn’t mean you are unbeatable. The question becomes whether I am competing in a DIVISION where my un-enhanced physique COULD be competitive no matter if I am next to someone on PEDs or not. And where I am today with 20 years of lifting weights under my belt plus years of athleticism behind me, I do think it’s worth the try to see if I am competitive. So THAT’s the real question you should ask before considering non drug tested shows if you are someone un-enhanced is whether your physique is competitive in the division you are going after.
But there is a lot more to consider when it comes to choosing a drug tested versus a non drug tested federation that actually has nothing to do with the PED use.
I think a lot of people focus on the drugs and not what else the federation has to offer. So let me give you a run down on what it’s like to compete in a few of the drug tested and non drug tested federations.
Let’s start with non drug tested and talk about NPC/IFBB. We already spoke about the level of muscle and conditioning being superior to other federations. But let’s talk about the EXPERIENCE of competing in this federation. First off, the shows are generally well run. There is adequate help so despite the volume of competitors, the show doesn’t take forever and a half. The judging is pretty quick too. Another noteworthy thing about this federation is their media presence. They dominate social media with their coverage of the athletes and the shows. Plus there are a lot of spectators at these shows taking pictures and videos and posting about it so there is often a lot of traction and excitement on the social media posts on show day. So if you win a big show, you will receive a huge amount of exposure from even just one post. The biggest show of the year which is like the super bowl of bodybuilding is the Olympia contest where the best of the best pros compete for the ultimate title. The appeal of this contest is so big that you will often see celebrities in the audience at the show. No other federation has this broad of a reach as the NPC/IFBB.
Onto another non drug tested federation. The WBFF. Some people have incorrectly said this federation is drug tested and I can tell you from experience competing in this federation that it is NOT drug tested. So don’t go into this show thinking everyone is drug free. People might think it’s drug tested because the overall look of the competitors differs greatly than other federations, with the exception of the figure division, but this might be because the athletes in the figure division get very little media coverage so people don’t really know much about it. Go ahead and try to look the figure category up. In the early days of this federation you would see a lot more coverage. Back when Emily Stirling was winning.
Today the bikini and the fitness model categories dominate this federation. The goal of this federation is not to be like other bodybuilding shows. They actually removed the world bodybuilding completely from their name and replaced it with the word beauty. In this federation you will not see the winner of the bikini division win the fitness model division, And you will not see a fitness model win the figure title. Same with the men….you won’t see a guy win the male model category and win the male muscle model category. They have clear lines between the categories to protect the integrity of the look. The key with this federation is they are looking for a model look, no matter which category. Same as with all federations, the level of muscle differs between these categories, but they also have one more main difference. They care about your appearance, your beauty, that is, for both men and women. It is in fact a beauty contest as much as it is a fitness contest. Your facial aesthetics matter.
Another big difference with them is their media coverage. WBFF wants to own all coverage of their shows and with the exception of going live on some of the social media accounts, coverage of even their biggest show of the year is sometimes hard to find. Just this past World Championships, which is their super bowl of competitions, it took me days and some instagram stalking to find out who won the show. The biggest show! They do not allow spectators to film or take photos. ALL coverage is with their media group. They do promote their athletes on their social media pages but do not provide the level of coverage of the shows on social media that other federations do. You will never see any audience shots of the show while it’s going on or ever. The only way to see the show, the line ups of competitors next to each other, is to buy the pay per view, and of course your stage shots if you are a competitor.
Everything about the show is grand. The lights, the stage, the pre-show, everything. They spend a lot on production and you will never compete at a college or a high school auditorium in this federation. In addition, you are not allowed to use any outside hair, tan, or makeup person. You are required to purchase packages from their approved vendors. Their goal with this is to ensure the quality of the tan, makeup, hair, etc of all the athletes.
Oh and one more thing…don’t show up to a competitor meeting in your flip flops and pajamas with your first coat of spray tan on. This is a modeling federation. You need to show up in your best clothes with hair and makeup on point. Both men and women. This is definitely a federation where you need to be put together both on and off the stage. The WBFF is a unique entity, really.
Moving on to two drug tested federations let me start with the OCB.
The OCB drug tests with an initial polygraph test for all the competitors prior to show day. In addition they urine test the winners and will often do surprise urine tests of their athletes in the off season. So you could be sitting in the audience as a spectator at a show and get tapped on the shoulder to do a quick urine test to make sure that you are drug free. OCB doesn’t just believe everyone is drug free. They take it a step further. Just this past year they banned all of their pro competitors from competing in any bodybuilding show that does NOT drug test. Like, bam, you’re out. So even if you are lifetime drug free like me, if you want to try a federation that doesn’t drug test, you literally can’t if you want to compete as a pro in the OCB.
And probably the most notable about this federation is the choreography seen in some of the stage walks. I’ve been to shows where instead of a bikini competitor doing a stage walk for her introduction to the audience, she starts doing bodybuilding flexing and a mini strip tease with props. This federation is much more adventurous with their stage walks for sure. One more thing about OCB is their social media presence. They do a great job promoting their shows and their athletes. They often do free live stream as well. The amount of people competing in this federation isn’t as large as, say NPC, but they do a good job with their competition coverage.
Last federation I’ll talk about is the WNBF federation, which is also a drug tested federation. The WNBF provides the least amount of social media coverage, and no live streams, but the federation has been around so long and head up by power house and 4x Bodybuilding World Champion Nancy Andrews on the east coast and two bodybuilding pros on the west coast, that the word of mouth of this federation keeps it going. What stands out about a WNBF show is the quality of athletes that show up in all the divisions. The mens bodybuilding division is alive and well in this federation and the quality of drug free pro mens bodybuilders is top notch. In fact, did you know that Kai Greene, an IFBB Pro and Olympian, started in the WNBF? He won the world championships before moving onto the NPC/IFBB.
Unfortunately you won’t get the social media coverage that you will get in the other federations and depending on which promoter is heading up a show, these shows can run forever and a half. I remember judging the world Championships, which is the super bowl of the WNBF, in Los Angeles and we were still judging at 3am. We didn’t leave the venue until after 3:30am when all restaurants were closed.
As for drug testing itself, the WNBF also requires a polygraph test before a show. The will also drug test the winners as well. As of right now they don’t have a rule that if you compete somewhere that is not drug tested that you cannot compete here. Also noteworthy is that some of the high level pro competitors in this federation are so quality that they can easily compete as a drug free athlete in non drug tested federations and hold their own.
Which brings me back to the question that I was asked the other day about WHY I would compete as a drug free athlete in a federation that is not drug tested when it’s not a fair playing field. The truth is, regardless of drugs, you just need time to build muscle. I’ve had conversations with people who want to know what they can do to improve for their next show and I tell them they need to take at least a year off. The look on their face when I tell them that 3 months of “building” isn’t an off season is priceless. Muscle doesn’t grow that fast. Especially if you have been in a caloric deficit for a while you need to bring your body back out of the show and to a healthy level to build. Doing show after show will kill your progress.
Some people just don’t want to wait. I was talking with a bikini competitor aspiring to get her IFBB bikini pro card. She told me that she was not drug free and was taking an anabolic to help her grow. She also shared with me that she took a drug that affected her estrogen so she could get leaner. I asked her why and she said because she wanted to take her physique to that next level to win her pro card. I asked her if she had a before and after of her physique and she goes on to show me what she looked like before the anabolic and after. I said to her that the results weren’t that dramatic and she could easily pass for an athlete that is drug free. In fact, you guys, I carry a lot more muscle than her so I’m telling you that her results were doable naturally. As for getting lean with a drug to affect her estrogen, she could’ve been able to accomplish the level of conditioning required for the bikini division no problem without the drug. I wasn’t a jerk or anything, I was genuinely curious. And she was cool about it. So what this goes to show you is that not everyone using anabolics or PEDs achieves a look that cannot be achieved without PEDs.
When you start getting up into the super muscular divisions with striated glutes, maybe not, but definitely not the categories that require less muscle. Or for men the open category where there is muscle growing muscle everywhere. The figure division and the classic physique divisions are borderline, meaning, you really need to have built a solid amount of muscle before thinking about getting an IFBB pro card if you want to do it without PEDs. Again, where are you with your physique? Do you have the level of muscle to be competitive in a non drug tested federation? If so, don’t let the idea of others using PEDs squash your competition goals. Put the time in and give it a try! If you love competing and stand behind drug free federations for life, awesome. There are some really great choices.
My goal of this show was to share with you the various choices there are out there and some of the differences among them. I think having competed in all four of these federations along with two more that I didn’t mention gave me a perspective on the sport I would never have had. And I love sharing all of it with you.
In fact, I’ll be continuing to share so much more about the sport while at the same time I will be sharing my experience dialing in for another show this year! Despite having pro cards in three different federations, I once again have to start over on the local amateur stage to earn my way up the ranks to get a new pro card. I am a drug free athlete competing in a non drug tested federation again and since my last show the level of muscularity and conditioning in this federation has become greater than ever. But…It’s me versus me. My goal is to hold my own on stage and look like I belong there….and not get blown off the stage. For my previous shows I had tank tops made with different anthems on them. This time around I have done the same thing, and for this show season, I have a new anthem called My Own Motivation. I just ordered shirts and sweatshirts for myself and my husband to wear during this journey to the competition stage. You can grab some too if you go to shop.killitwithdrive.com and check more about what I’ve got for you. They make great gifts too.
Guys, thanks so much for reading! I’ve got some really cool interviews coming up that I think you guys are going to go crazy over. I will be publishing them on my youtube channel @michelewelcome . Don’t forget to rate, subscribe, and share to help reach more people.
Thanks again and I’ll see you on the next one.