Mike Mentzer speaking on Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ben Weider, and the 1980 Mr. Olympia Contest:
I remember most clearly speaking with Joshua Marshall the day before the show at Paul Graham’s gym. He was very concerned. He was concerned that his friend Arnold was going to destroy his legend. He was very, very concerned, as a friend’s concern. He told me that, in fact, Arnold told him he was going to go on the show and how he tried to talk him out of it. So, it didn’t bother me to hear that he was going to go into the show, especially in lesser condition. But even if he had been in good condition, it wouldn’t have bothered me.
The morning of the show, the atmosphere was much different. There was a tension there. There was a hostility, a negativity that skewed everyone’s normal perception and, of course, prevented anyone from deriving the pleasure they might have had otherwise. Everything was askew at this point. It was not a normal contest. No one was talking or acting the way they usually do. There was a strain and tension in the air all the way through.
Then, the issue of the weight classes came up. There was a lot of arguing going on between Arnold and a few of the guys. I wasn’t even concerned about that. I didn’t care one way or the other. I thought I could win. It was a very large room. There must have been maybe 50 or 60 people in there. Arnold, as usual, wanted to be the center of attention. So, he had said something to denigrate Samir Bannout in front of everyone. Something that was uncalled for.
He was making a fool out of himself but at that time I wasn’t concerned. I thought if Samir Bannout wanted to defend himself, that was his business. So, he was going through his antics. At one point, Boyer Coe stood up as a gentleman and said “Look, why don’t we just let Arnold explain to all of us right here, right now, what his reasons are for wanting to have two weight classes. Maybe we can get to the bottom of this instead of arguing aimlessly.” And he did say it in a very gentlemanly fashion. There was no hint to malice or anything negative in his voice. And Arnold snapped back, “Oh Boyer, why don’t you stop acting like a baby. Grow up and be a man”, which I thought was uncalled for.
So I said, “Look, Boyer Coe said that as a gentleman”. Something to that effect. He doesn’t deserve that, and that pissed him off. He turned around very rapidly to face me and he literally had his upper lip was furled around like he’s snarling like an animal. He said, “Oh, come on, man, so we all know that you lost last year because of your big belly.” And I allowed that to irritate me, perhaps too much, and, on impulse, I ran over towards him. I was surprised! Arnold Schwarzenegger sat down! I scared him!
He went over and sat in the corner and, when he went to sit down, I continued at him. I was wagging my finger at him telling him that his his behavior was reprehensible, that it was not Boyer Coe who needed to grow up, but him, and he couldn’t look me in the eye. He literally went from being a frantic hysterical adolescent to shrinking away like an injured child, and that’s really gives you some indication, some clues, to his character.
Only once I stood up at free judging meeting, did that thing come to at least a partial halt. That irritated Ben Weider. He stood in between Arnold and I and tried to assert himself. I just remember thinking how out of control he was. And, equally as interesting, with how out of control Ben Weider and the hierarchy of the IFBB were. I thought these were supposed to be the guys that ran the show but here you had this big Prussian son of a [ __ ] standing up acting like a nazi and Ben Weider, who had previously always seemed to pride himself on being in control of things, after all he never lets us forget “he’s the president of the IFBB”, all of a sudden he was letting this nazi walk all over him. He sat there quietly. I realized then that Arnold was the IFBB, to a very significant degree.
I lost a lot of respect for Ben Weider and a lot of the people associated. They’re the ones that were responsible. They let him run wild. He was wild. Joe Weider told me later that Arnold was on cocaine that day and in looking at some of the photographs later on I believe it. He had an unusually stressed look on his face. The veins on his forehead were distended, all symptoms of being on cocaine. Most likely he was.
Then it became very clear, especially later on, as they proceeded, that things weren’t the way they should be. In 1980, I placed fifth at the Mr Olympia, a contest that I, and almost everyone else who witnessed it, was convinced was fixed.
Well, my immediate gut level reaction was, paradoxical as it might sound, was laughter. I just started laughing. It was ludicrous to me. It was so obviously an incorrect decision that my first response was just to laugh. It’s interesting, at the 1980 Olympia, the only people who saw Arnold as the winner were the seven judges and his closest friends. None of the other competitors saw him as the winner. None of the audience, or very few. Only those that were his friends. If it was just me saying this of course it could be chalked up to sour grapes, although that’s not true. I’ve lost contests before. I never raised a fuss. But that particular contest was so clearly fixed that every other competitor and many of the fans in the audience raised a fuss. And, of course, in the aftermath, all the magazines carried articles pertaining to the fact that it was fixed and, as a result, I decided to drop out of competitive bodybuilding.
In some ways, I’m glad the 80 Olympia turned out the way it did. It brought into clear focus for me really what the political establishment in bodybuilding is really all about. For years, I was walking around in a fool’s paradise. I thought everyone was as nice a guy as I was. I thought that evil was something you just read about in novels and newspapers. In fact, evil is something that’s around all of us. This brought it all into focus and I didn’t want to be involved or associated with people like that and decided to drop out.
There was a rift after the 80 Olympia. Actually, it wasn’t so much Joe, as Ben. There was one time when I was in the office and a phone call came in from Ben Weider for me. During the course of the conversation, I can remember yelling at Ben. He was not appreciating some of the things that I was saying about the IFBB with regard to the 1980 Olympia. And I remember Joe picking up the phone and saying “Why do you yell at my brother like that”. And Joe took the phone and talked to Ben. I can only surmise what Ben said but, whatever it was, Joe’s response, as I was standing there, was, “What do you want me to do, Ben? Put a muzzle on the guy?” I was talking a lot. I was saying a lot of things that Ben didn’t like. I suspect at one point Ben got very irritated and told Joe to “cool it with Mike Mentzer”. And there was cooling after a while.