The state of powerlifting
Randy asked me to post my opinion on the state of powerlifting, so here goes:
I don't think that powerlifting will be unified anytime soon, as there is just too much division and too many feds. The only way I see powerlifting united would be if one fed put all forms of powerlifting under one umbrella. Another words a division for drug tested raw, drug tested single ply and a non-tested double ply division. This is the only way to unify powerlifting. Back in the 80's, which was probably the golden age in powerlifting, you had the USPF and the APF who basically controlled powerlifting. One was the gateway to the IPF and the other a bad boys fed where everyone was welcome. Since then things have gotten out of control. Powerlifting is a mess now. I still compete and love powerlifting as much now as ever but things are not what they were in the 80's and early 90's.
I first began to compete in powerlifting in 1985. I loved the sport and I loved competing. There were many things to love about the sport, and other things that were not so nice. Sadly, today, there is very little to like. I may have lost count, but I think there are something like two dozen organizations in the USA? The equipment issue is another hot topic. Single ply, double ply, triple ply.....are you kidding? Throw in the issue of drugs, which was covered in a previous thread, and you can easily see why the sport is a grotesque joke. And to think, twenty some years ago, there was talk of trying to get powerlifting into the olympics. It's pretty sad when synchronized swimming and skateboarding garner more respect in international competition than powerlifting. The last meet I attended was about a year ago. A local APF meet. About two dozen lifters. The judging was an absolute travesty. Guys who weren't anywhere near parallel were getting three white lights. The benches were even more laughable. Non-existent pauses, uneven lockouts ( despite the super, double-ply bench shirts). When the rules are basically thrown out the window, then the result is usually a free-for-all. Nobody benefits when you throw away the rule book, and this contest ( if you could call it that) is an example of what has ruined what was once a great sport. As far as unifying the sport, I think you would have a better chance of hitting the lottery. As long as there is a chance for someone to make money, powerlifting will be a fragmented sport. But the persons running the various organizations will not strive to improve the sport, or make things better for the lifters. They will look only at the bottom line- how to make more money for themselves.
I hate to sound like the guy who yearns for the good old days, but I remember contests where the judging was strict, but fair. Everybody wore a simple suit- I guess it would be considered a single-ply. I remember them as supersuits. Plus knee wraps. Then along came the bench shirts, then the deadlift shirts, then the briefs, denim shirts, and so on...... Then somewhere along the line, the judging went out the window.
I'll mention one other thing that turned me off about the sport. Several years ago, while working out at the gym, I witnessed a guy training for a bench meet. This was on a Tuesday, his last workout before the contest, which was on Saturday. He attempted to do 365 Lbs., and was absolutely buried. I mean the bar didn't budge off his chest. He gave it two tries, then pulled the plug. This workout was done without a bench shirt. Four days later, at the contest, he had three of his buddies get him into a super-duper double denim bench shirt and guess what--he opened with 501, and drove it up like a rocket being launched. His second attempt was 521, and he narrowly missed a third with five-thirty-something. Quite an improvement over four days. And, this seems to be the norm for powerlifting.
Jim, Nice post. I agree whole heartly. In the early 90's we had champion and Z suits, and blast shirts and knee wraps, and that is where it should have stopped. I like the safety the old shirts provided, but they added little to your bench. (30 lbs in my case) I would love to see us go back as well, but sadly I think those days are gone forever. I ran a local invitational here in Reno back in January, and it was big fun. Maybe that's what's got to happen is for us to boycott this mess and return to the old days. I still compete in the WABDL and I love Gus and the guys very much, so I'll stay with them and maybe do a three lift meet with one of the other feds, but I wish things were they way they were. Hey, isn't that a song. LOL!
The idea of 1 fed with both drug tested and non tested is a pipe dream and will never happen. There's no way to get WADA approval for some contests to be drug tested and others not, and it makes a mockery of sanctions for cheaters if they can simply swap to a different division once they get caught.
The same people who whinge about equipment and judging standards in most feds, are also those with an irrational hatred of the IPF.
The IPF has a lot of politics and some people in power more concerned with hotel/equipment licensing rorts than the good of the sport, however probably less so than weightlifting where drug testing and fines seem to be a huge profit centre.
But an IPF comp is recognised worldwide as being legitimate judging standards, and you don't need to see a video to know an IPF record or total was legitimate.
My beef with the IPF is stupid rules like the full butt cheek rule, or if a lifter lifts in a meet in the US where a suppended IPF/USAPL lifter is lifting they'll be suppended, or how about rules so strict that guys could get 100 lbs more on their lifts, but their afraid their lift won't count because they were shaking. I've seen Brian Siders lift way under what he is capable of due to over strict judging. Over strict is just as bad as mile high squats, both are bad for powerlifting.
As an American I could care less what WADA would allow. The simple fact is that powerlifting has always had a drug problem. The good old days with Kaz, Wadington, Moran, Pacifico, Coan, and Reinholdt were drug days. All of them were "gassed" to the 9's. They didn't have the gear of today, but they were on the "sauce" huge. It is no different in Strongman, or Olympic lifting. So, let's stop with the denials and allow the freaks to lift and let the rest of us watch.
I saw a meet recently in Vermont that my friend was lifting in (Deadlift).
The benching was a joke. The peoples shirts were so tight, they couldn't position themselves on the bench. They had friends basically pull them into place under the bar.
They would lie back and grab the bar and lay down. Then one or two people would come over, and pull their body back toward the rear side of the bench because they were too far forward under the bar. really bizarre.
There is an underlying beauty to powerlifting. At it's most basic level it's pure. Man against himself. I like that and continue to keep my eye on the sport.
Funny thing is is that we tend to object to the wild wild west approach with an organization for every promoter and a meet for everyone. Everyone can be a champion. Democratic capitalism at it's best. Then we object to the IPF with actual standards to follow. I notice that United States Athletes are slipping in the IPF standings and I wonder if that is why we see strongman being popular. We don't like being being second best and will just start another sport if our egos get bent. We don't seem to care about international competitions.
The IWF has everything that powerlifting doesn't have. A history, a tradition, standards, local meets, national meets, international champions (who truly are) as well as actually having always been in the modern Olympics. No BS, just get it overhead.
Even one this forum Olympic Lifting doesn't get the attention of the other sports.
I have never had an objection to IPF standards. I believe it is a good thing to have standards, and to not lower them. In athletics as well as in life. That being said, I don't really follow the sport much today, but I always used to get a kick out of the fact that our lifters who competed in the USPF senior nationals would always see their totals drop dramatically when the competed in the IPF world championships---why was that??? Stricter standards? Actual drug testing? Anyway, I always found that interesting.
Also, I am fully aware that the "good old days" weren't always good. Well, maybe they were good, but they weren't drug-free. I am also fully aware that there are very few snow-whites in the world of organized lifting. Again, my feeling has always been, if you are 21-years old and want to take everything from A to Z, then fine. But be a man about it. Admit it. Don't claim to be clean. And compete with other druggies. I have seen too many examples of guys cheating their way into supposedly "natural" contests ( you think drug testing is flawed? It's nothing compared to some of the farcical polygraph tests that used to take place.) Druggies vs. other druggies is fine.
Like I said before, I don't really follow the sport that much anymore, but as for the Americans slipping in the standings, that might just be because of the fact that, like everything else, lifting has become global. More and more people in many different countries are exposed to the sport, and it's just nature's way of equalizing things. Perhaps, also, more and more young strength athletes are moving away from organized lifting and gravitating towards playing college football with the hopes of earning a scholarship with the eventual goal of playing pro football, with the obvious financial rewards that would come. Again, just my own theories. ( I'm not trying to be a social commentator.)