Mr. Olympia is one of the biggest bodybuilding competitions worldwide and draws competitors from every corner of the earth. Unfortunately, due to the need to travel, some bodybuilders will have to forgo their chance to take the stage as a result of visa complications. The IFBB Pro League released a statement on Instagram relaying that even with their support, international travel can be tricky and ultimately comes down to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The 2023 Mr. Olympia competition is right around the corner and bodybuilders have begun their final preparations. For some, this includes making their way to the US. With the need to cross international borders, the requirement for a visa is an obstacle that has held many back from reaching their true potential.
In previous years, some bodybuilding fan favorites were forced to sit out due to being unable to obtain the proper documentation needed to legally travel. Behrooz Tabani was one of the athletes to face this issue. Although he had already qualified for Olympia in 2022, regretfully he was forced to pull out because he was denied a visa.
This year, Tabani fears that the nightmare will repeat after revealing that just seven weeks from the competition he still hadn’t had an appointment for his visa. While the future remains unclear for Tabani, other athletes have been faced with the hard reality of being turned away at the border.
After placing first at the 2023 Flex Weekend Pro and Sheru Classic France Pro, Nathan De Asha was disappointed to announce that he would be forced to pull out of Olympia due to being denied his visa. This news came with just under two weeks till the 2023 Mr. Olympia. In his Instagram post, De Asha stated that Mr. Olympia needed to do more to help bodybuilders who have to travel internationally in order to compete.
Mr. Olympia Makes Announcement Following Athlete’s Struggling With Visa Difficulties
Following his announcement, the IFBB Pro League took to social media to address their involvement in providing support for athletes struggling with visa problems.
“We’ve been monitoring some of the challenges certain athletes have faced in their efforts to travel to the United States to compete in this year’s Olympia. Matters relating to immigration can be extremely complicated. Each situation brings unique circumstances, depending on their resident country, overall political climate, and personal history” The IFBB Pro League wrote.
“As part of our athlete support process we provide “invitation letters” to any Olympia competitor who submits a request for one. These letters are often required in the immigration process, enabling the athlete to validate their reason for entering the country.”
Although they do provide documents giving a legitimate reason for entering the U.S., there is extensive criteria required to be approved. Each case is different and comes down to the representative handling the individual.
“Unfortunately many of these matters are far beyond our control, as they are under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the immigration personnel assigned to the individual case. We appreciate the work of everyone involved.”
“The sport of bodybuilding stands tall as one of the world’s most culturally diverse sports and we are proud of the diversity of those who have been crowned Olympia champions. We recently held our Masters Olympia in Eastern Europe and we continue to explore opportunities to bring the Olympia experience to new regions, connecting with new fans.”
“We are extremely grateful to everyone who has helped make the Olympia the most globally diverse World Championship event in the world, even during the most challenging times.”
Just a few hours following the IFBB Pro League statement, Mr. Olympia saw yet another competitor withdraw due to visa issues. The Syrian native, Hassan Alibrahim was denied entry into the U.S. upon arrival for unclear reasons.
While obtaining a visa continues to be an obstacle, the IFBB Pro League is looking to make the competition more readily accessible by hosting in other countries as they did with their Masters Olympia that took place in Europe. This would relieve strain from many bodybuilders and allow those who previously struggled, a chance on the sport’s prestigious stage.
Even with the last-minute dropouts, the 2023 Mr. Olympia still has a stacked roster filled with impressive names. Fans can look forward to seeing their favorites go head to head this November 2-5 in Orlando, Florida.