Lee Priest fearlessly speaks his mind, and this unapologetic honesty extends to his commitment to protecting the well-being of bodybuilders. Following the 2023 Mr. Olympia, Priest revealed that he was asked on several occasions why bodybuilders weren’t looking their best, and in a recent YouTube video, explained his take on the situation.
Despite being the biggest event in bodybuilding, the production for the Mr. Olympia has been put into question over the last few years. In 2022, Samson Dauda and James Hollingshead spoke out on the cramped conditions they faced backstage. Being packed in a small and dimly lit room for hours led to a lot of unhappy bodybuilders.
This year, the 2023 Mr. Olympia took place November 2-5 and although show times ran earlier than the previous year, bodybuilders were still expected to wait around until it was their time on stage. Also, some divisions, such as the Men’s Open, perform on Friday and Saturday, which creates a unique set of challenges for athletes aiming to perfect their preparations.
Lee Priest Speaks Up For BodyBuilders And Calls For A Change In How Shows Are Handled
Bodybuilding veteran Lee Priest is familiar with the behind-the-scenes that comes with gracing the Olympia stage. Having been questioned about the performances of bodybuilders as of late, Lee Priest reveals in a YouTube video that the fault shouldn’t fall on the athletes, but rather on how the production has been managed.
“I’ve been asked this a lot since the Olympia been on, ‘Why are a lot of guys off?’ ‘Why are they not coming in shape how they used to?’ The sad thing is it’s only what we see cause we see it on the computer screen or even if you’re there live you might see it, but among the reasons why these guys are off is not because they are off it’s because of the lighting.”
“I’ve brought it up for years and years, you’ve gotta light the stage for bodies. You are not lighting it for a car. You are not lighting it for fashion. You are not lighting it for like a magician show or talent show. You are lighting it for the bodies and the lighting hitting the body from the wrong angles can make somebody in shape look smooth and then put oil on top of that and you’ve got the wrong lighting with oil it just reflects back and you look smooth cause the oil just acts like a mirror. There are so many factors but the light is a big one.”
Lee Priest specifically calls out the producers of Olympia, stating that they should listen to the athletes.
“All you people that are running the Olympia, you’ve been around bodybuilding for how long? Years, so you know how critical lighting is for bodybuilders on stage so why can’t you listen to the athletes?
I know some of the ones don’t want to say anything because they are scared they will get in trouble but you need to listen to the athletes and get the lighting right” Lee Priest urges.
In addition to the lighting being problematic for the athletes, Priest also highlights the downside of competitors having to hold their conditioning for two days.
“Go back to one day judging for the big guys, for the Open. Prejudging around lunchtime, finals at night. For guys to hold their shape for up to 24 hours I don’t agree with cause somebody who is out of shape can make up time the next day and move up when they shouldn’t have. You got one day to get it right.”
“One day judging for the Open men. You are still going to sell the same amount of tickets. People are coming from all over the world, across America to see this show. They are gonna watch this show no matter what you do so you gotta think of the athletes. The athletes are the draw card, just give them some respect.”
“Whatever’s happened, your brain, you know stress, anything even just thinking about the show coming up. You have to sit around all day and go ‘Oh what time is it now? Lunchtime. Oh, we still not going to get on till 10 pm tonight. I gotta another 10 hours to fill.’ This sort of shit fucks with you and the body chemistry, the biorhythms are all thrown off so think of the athletes.”
Priest discusses the importance of timing an event properly. In addition, he laid out why these issues would have never occurred if bodybuilders were part of a union.
“Going on late at night is not conducive to the athletes when their body is winding down you want them to suddenly turn it on and pick it up and pump up and look their best. It’s wrong. The athletes have the power, why they don’t use or are scared to rock the boat is beyond me.”
“Other sports have unions and this bullshit wouldn’t go on. So stop thinking the bodybuilders are dumb and do what we say because it’s going to bite you in the ass one day to the people running this sport.”
“Healthwise even, you don’t want to hold your peak for that long and have to do all that hocus pocus stuff with drugs, chemicals, diuretics, or whatever. You know I don’t see why we should be having to do that but the people are running it aren’t listening. I hope they listen.”
After the IFBB Pro League suspended Mazin Salim AlRahbi for guest posing at a rival league, Lee Priest called them out for ‘only thinking of themselves.’ Priest certainly has experience regarding this topic, considering he earned a one-year suspension for competing in a show outside the league during his respective tenure. When Priest fought the suspension the IFBB banned him for life, though it seems today he is back in good standing.
Lee Priest continues to be an advocate for bodybuilders and the sport. In addition to never holding back on what he believes, Priest also shares his knowledge of fitness and health with workout secrets and tips.