Freeport vs. Nassau
A rift between the governing body of bodybuilding and fitness worldwide, and one of its major factions over the years, has stifled the growth and progress of the sport internationally, and it has spilled over into the local arena.
Last year, the International Federation of BodyBuilding & Fitness (IFBB) took a stance to suspend and cut off all ties with the National Physique Committee (NPC) for what was termed as gross negligence of rules and regulations.
According to former Bahamas BodyBuilding and Fitness Federation (BBFF) President Danny Sumner, who was just re-elected as the vice president of the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) BodyBuilding and Fitness Federation (CACBBFF) at the CAC Championships this year, any athlete who goes forward under the NPC umbrella will be “banned for life” by the IFBB, as stated by IFBB President Dr. Rafael Santonja, of Spain, during the CAC Congress.
However, thousands of athletes worldwide compete in NPC events, including quite a number of Bahamians.
As for the Bahamians, Sumner is encouraging those athletes to switch over so as to avoid stiff penalties thus jeopardizing their careers.
“The NPC has been operating for a very long time, and a lot of Bahamians have competed in NPC events with the Southern States Championships right there in South Florida and other shows. The entire NPC body has been suspended including president Jim Manion, but when you look at it, the NPC has a lot of competing athletes. It’s a bold move by the IFBB, but this is coming from the top. If the athletes continue to compete for the NPC, they will automatically be disqualified from the IFBB and not become eligible for IFBB pro status or even Olympic status in the future, because the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has endorsed the IFBB.”
The issue has even had an effect on the sport nationally, as the majority of athletes in the nation’s second city compete in NPC events. One in particular, Charnice Bain, just attained professional status at an NPC event. Also, Grand Bahamian athletes in general boycotted the BBFF National Championships this year, choosing to support the NPC. The BBFF falls under the umbrella of the IFBB.
“About 90 percent of Freeport athletes used to compete in NPC events every year, sometimes twice per year, and that relationship developed because the NPC President was in Freeport and appealed to them. The NPC was made attractive to Grand Bahamian athletes. The NPC is now offering pro status, and the NPC also has a pro league,” said Sumner. “When you look at Charnice Bain, she gained pro status from the NPC this year, and because of that, she cannot compete in any IFBB event. Judges will also be disqualified if they officiate NPC events.
“The NPC is on a mission to discredit and take as much IFBB amateur and pro athletes as possible. I’m just hoping that Bahamian athletes stay focused, stay with the IFBB and progress through the sport that way. I believe that the athletes still have an option, and that is why Joel went down there and met with them.”
BBFF President ‘Big’ Joel Stubbs, himself a former professional athlete who eventually ventured into the NPC, said that he is in the business of saving careers. He said that until he is given a mandate by the IFBB on what actions to take and how long to suspend athletes for, he will continue to encourage athletes to stay with the IFBB and pursue a professional career that way.
“I will just hold the peace and hold firm,” said Stubbs. “I am not of the view that we could carry on with the mindset of banning people for life or long periods of time. Pretty much all of the athletes right now are competing in NPC events. I told Gio (CACBBFF President Giovanni Arendsz) that what the federations should be doing is giving these persons an opportunity to compete left or to compete right.
“The IFBB amateur league wants them to stay on their side, pay their monies for membership and collect monies for shows. It’s a money thing at the end of the day. I want to allow them to come back and gradually build our league back up. I don’t want to hold these athletes back. They are trying hard to get their careers to the highest level, and I don’t want to hold them back from that.”
Stubbs said that one suspension that they had to levy was on an athlete from Freeport, Grand Bahama, for staging a bodybuilding and fitness show without the support and sanction of the BBFF. It was no big secret that bodybuilding and fitness athletes in Grand Bahama were at odds with local federation, and as a result, boycotted this year’s nationals. Stubbs said that the meeting in Freeport was all about clearing the air, and finding some way for the athletes to return to the federation and compete in BBFF events.
“We had to suspend one member because he just had his own show and didn’t want to be sanctioned by the federation. He just wanted to put some money in his pocket and not pay sanction fees,” said Stubbs. “Well, that show turned out to be a fluke with hardly any athletes competing and with little support from the public. There was this general consensus over there in Freeport that the federation in Nassau wasn’t checking for them.
“We are not against Freeport. We are still one. There was no Northern Bahamas Championships this year simply because we didn’t have the money. We get money from the government in July/August, and the Northern Bahamas goes down in late June. There was simply no money in the kitty.
“We are mandated to have nationals so we did that, and we’ll have a show afterwards. We would have brought them into Nassau for the nationals and handle accommodations and all of that, but no one budged. The Freeport athletes sat out and wanted to do their own thing.
“The thing is, when you participate in shows not sanctioned by the federation, you are subject to penalties and things like that. Now a lot of them want to come back and I told them that we are moving on together. I told them that we are all still one, and we will move forward together.”
To further complicate the process, the NPC has announced plans to stage a Caribbean Grand Prix Show in The Bahamas later this year. Sumner said that he has received direct communication from IFBB President Dr. Santonja to educate the athletes and coaches about the danger of supporting this proposed show. He said that there will be ramifications should athletes, coaches and judges decide to go forth and support the NPC Caribbean Grand Prix Show. The show is set to be held at the Atlantis Resort in early December.
“The IFBB president was very concerned when he heard that,” said Sumner. “They are trying to lure Bahamian athletes, and the IFBB is not taking that lightly. They want me to inform the government that this NPC body is not a legal entity of the IFBB and should not be supported. As a matter of fact, the IFBB intends to send a direct communication to the Government of The Bahamas about the danger of supporting this show.
“More than likely, athletes from Freeport will attempt to compete in that show, but the IFBB is the route to take. The IFBB is being recognized by the IOC. I could see about 8-10 disciplines of bodybuilding and fitness being introduced gradually into the Olympic calendar, so athletes need to stick with the IFBB if they dream of competing in the Olympics.
“The IFBB has been invited by the IOC to take part in the Pan Am Games next year, which could open the door for the sport to be included into the Olympic calendar in the near future. That is the next level,” he added.
In addition to being re-elected as vice president of the CACBBFF, Sumner was also appointed patron for the region and the area – an executive member of high honor that the federation looks up to. He will serve under Giovanni Arendsz who was re-elected as president of the CACBBFF. The elections took place at the CAC Congress during the CAC Bodybuilding and Fitness Championships in Mexico City, Mexico, at the end of July.
Despite all of the turmoil, particularly locally, BBFF President Stubbs said that he is satisfied with the direction the sport is headed in, in the country.
“Bodybuilding and fitness has taken a huge platform in the country. There are about eight to nine active pro members, and that is huge for such a small country,” said Stubbs. “We only have about 60 athletes competing and about nine of them are professionals. Additionally, there are about two to three more who are right at the doorstep of getting their pro cards. It’s only a matter of finding the proper shows and making it happen. We will see all of that in short order. Also, we carried a small 12-member team to CAC and finished fourth. That’s a remarkable accomplishment,” he added.
Attaining pro status for The Bahamas in recent times are Lakeisha Miller, Jameil Hamilton, Charnice Bain, Endierich Rahming, Lorraine Lafleur, Jimmy Norius, Tanya Moxey-Cleare and Angelika Wallace-Whitfield. They have joined Bahamians Gena Mackey, James ‘Jay’ Darling, Dominique Wilkinson and Natasha Brown who achieved pro status previously.
BBFF President Stubbs also attained pro status, and competed in a number of shows, but has retired. Miller, Hamilton and Bain obtained their pro cards at NPC shows.
“Despite what is going on with the IPBB and the NPC, at the end of the day, they are still representing The Bahamas and we support them. All we could do is encourage them,” said Stubbs.
The NPC, the largest amateur bodybuilding and fitness organization in the United States, continues to operate independently of the IFBB. Both Sumner and Stubbs said that they support amateur athletes coming back to the IFBB and attaining professional status that way.