The Top 10 Most Controversial Olympia Wins of All Time
The Mr. Olympia is the world’s ultimate bodybuilding competition. If you win it, you’re automatically considered a legend of the sport.
Like any other professional discipline; competitive bodybuilding has been home to its fair share of controversies and speculation.
For years, fans have believed that some competitions have been the subject of favoritism and politics.
These accusations have fueled countless debates and have sparked a great deal of interest among fans that are newer to the sport.
Whether these accusations are true or not, they definitely give passionate followers something to talk about.
Join us as we revisit the top 10 most controversial Olympia wins of all time.
1972 Mr. Olympia
The 1972 Mr. Olympia is home to bodybuilding’s first controversial decision.
After being banned for competing in an opposing federation, Sergio Oliva looked to regain the Olympia crown that was taken from him by Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1970.
Oliva managed to transform his already impressive physique with the help of Arthur Jones and was ready to take back bodybuilding’s ultimate title.
When judgment day finally came, Oliva displayed a massive physique with tremendous proportions and fullness.
Schwarzenegger wasn’t at his biggest but his imposing frame and flawless lines coupled with his trademark muscularity earned him the win.
Sergio was definitely at his best but his conditioning wasn’t the greatest and Arnold was just too good.
Although the contest was close, we agree with the final decision and believe that Arnold Schwarzenegger deserved to win.
1980 Mr. Olympia
The 1980 Mr. Olympia is widely considered by many as the most controversial bodybuilding contest in the history of the sport.
After being retired for five years, Arnold Schwarzenegger did a last-minute surprise comeback at the 1980 Mr. Olympia in Australia.
When it was time to hit the stage, it was clear that the bodybuilding icon was nowhere near his best.
Although smaller than usual, Arnold managed to win his last Olympia title in a very unpopular fashion.
The contest was originally set to air on television but the project was scrapped due to the wide controversy that surrounded the final outcome.
Schwarzenegger would take first, Dickerson second, and Zane third.
Boyer Coe would finish in fourth and Mike Mentzer would end up taking fifth place.
Schwarzenegger’s placing wasn’t the only one that was questioned as spectators thought that Mentzer’s fifth-place finish was unwarranted and he deserved better.
We firmly believe that although he wasn’t at his best, Arnold was still good enough to take the win.
It just goes to show how good he truly was in his prime and how difficult it must have been to compete against him back in the day.
1981 Mr. Olympia
After the controversial 1980 Mr. Olympia, bodybuilding fans and competitors were both extremely upset and unmotivated by what they had just witnessed.
After Arnold’s win in 1980, Mike Mentzer would retire permanently from the sport and Frank Zane would decide to skip the 1981 Olympia.
This meant that Tom Platz and Chris Dickerson were undoubtedly the favorites going into the show.
Franco Columbu announced a comeback following a career-ending injury at the 1977 World’s Strongest Man.
While competing at the contest, the “Sardinian Strongman” fell while carrying a refrigerator on his back; tearing a series of tendons and ligaments in his left knee.
It goes without saying that coming back from an injury of such magnitude is extremely difficult; especially in bodybuilding.
Against all odds, Franco competed at the 1981 Mr. Olympia in Columbus and earned back his Olympia title.
Sadly, the physique that Columbu presented was nowhere near as good as it was before the injury.
His legs were down in size, he suffered from gyno, his waist was thick – and his conditioning wasn’t what it used to be.
The general consensus seems to be that Dickerson, Platz, and Padilla should’ve all placed better than Franco.
We completely agree and believe that his win that year was undeserved.
1997 Mr. Olympia
Dorian Yates won his sixth Sandow at the 1997 Mr. Olympia and stirred up quite a bit of controversy while doing so.
When Dorian won his first title in 1992, it was clear that he was going to be tough to beat. He would soon become the first (successful) mass monster in bodybuilding history.
Although some of his previous wins were also controversial, his final appearance in 1997 was –by far- the most debated one of them all.
Yates showed up with an injured physique that lacked his trademark conditioning and hardness. His stomach was distended and he was just simply outclassed by the competition.
Some people believed that Shawn Ray should’ve won while others thought that the title should’ve gone to Nasser El Sonbaty.
We believe that the judges didn’t get it right and that Dorian Yates shouldn’t have won that year’s competition.
2001 Mr. Olympia
In 2001, a young Jay Cutler came out of nowhere and controversially placed second to the legendary Ronnie Coleman.
Ronnie had decided to compete early in the year at the 2001 Arnold Classic, and his decision would ultimately almost cost him to lose his Olympia reign.
Although his 2001 Arnold Classic physique is widely regarded as (possibly) the best that he ever presented on a competitive stage – the same couldn’t be said for his Olympia appearance.
Tired from competing a few months prior, Ronnie showed up looking smaller and flatter (than usual) while Jay Cutler came in looking at his all-time best.
Even though Jay’s back wasn’t as good as Coleman’s that year; he arguably had him beat on everything else.
Although Jay Cutler ended up winning four Olympia titles in the future; he should’ve most definitely won the 2001 Mr. Olympia.
2002 Mr. Olympia
The 2002 Olympia would mark Ronnie Coleman’s second controversial win; only this time against Gunter Schlierkamp.
Cutler decided to sit out that year’s contest in order to improve on his physique and would possibly end up making one of the biggest mistakes in his career.
Ronnie came into the contest looking smaller than he did the year before and it was impossible to ignore when he stood next to Gunter who weighed a mind-blowing 300 pounds at 6’1.
Although Gunter clearly deserved to win the 2002 Mr. Olympia; the judges awarded him fifth place behind Dexter Jackson, Chris Cormier, Kevin Levrone – and Ronnie Coleman.
There are a few pictures and videos out there that show just how impressive Gunter was in his prime and that prove that he should’ve defeated Coleman.
After the Olympia concluded, they both faced off at the 2002 GNC Show of Strength where Gunter would defeat Ronnie.
2007 Mr. Olympia
The only Olympia that’s more controversial than the one held in 1980 is the one held in 2007 where Jay Cutler defeated Victor Martinez.
After placing second to Ronnie Coleman on four occasions, Cutler finally won the biggest title in bodybuilding in 2006.
In 2007, he showed up looking off from his best and would lose ground to an impressive Victor Martinez.
Although Jay was a bit bigger than Victor, his conditioning wasn’t as good as it normally was and he was considerably flat.
Victor showed up looking big and full while showcasing his jaw-dropping aesthetics.
Many fans claim that Victor was a lot better than Jay but we don’t quite see it that way.
If you look at pictures and video, it’s clear that Victor’s conditioning wasn’t much better than Cutler’s and that he was also smaller.
We’re probably in the minority here, but we don’t believe that Victor was that much better than Jay.
Sure, Jay wasn’t at his best, but he was still good enough to win. With that being said, we wouldn't have complained if Victor had taken the win.
Dennis Wolf’s fifth-place finish at that same contest would also spark a lot of mixed opinions.
2012 Mr. Olympia
In 2012, the fierce rivalry between the reigning champ Phil Heath and top contender Kai Greene was about to begin.
It’s safe to say that early in the year no one saw Kai challenging Phil for the title until the unthinkable happened.
Usually, an Olympia is controversial when the current title holder comes in looking his worst, but this wasn’t the case – Phil Heath looked amazing and so did Kai Greene.
Although some fans believe that Kai Greene was robbed that year; we don’t share the same opinion.
Phil was bigger, leaner, and it was all clear from the start.
Kai was definitely impressive, but he sacrificed a lot of fullness to get into the condition that he did.
2014 Mr. Olympia
Phil Heath won again against Kai in 2013 in a similar fashion to that of 2012 – he was bigger, leaner, and better overall.
Kai decided to play the size game and lost to Phil because his signature lines and conditioning were masked by his fullness.
The 2014 Olympia proved to be a bit different because this is the year where some fans believed that Kai Greene should've defeated the reigning champ.
Dennis Wolf and Shawn Rhoden also looked incredible and gave the fans a show that they will never forget.
Phil didn't show up looking his best as he displayed stomach distention while appearing to be a bit flat in prejudging.
Finals would be a completely different story as Phil would fill out and fix his stomach issues. Although controversial, fans in attendance believed that he was the best bodybuilder on stage, and deserved the win.
2017 Mr. Olympia
The final controversial Olympia that we’re going to discuss is that of Phil Heath’s win against Big Ramy in 2017.
In a similar fashion to previous years, Heath showed up looking flat and with a noticeable amount of stomach distention – which was later confirmed to be due to a serious hernia.
Big Ramy would prove to be Heath's fiercest rival; although he would come in looking somewhat flat and smaller than usual.
Even though Phil got a lot of criticism due to his stomach issues; his sheer size, roundness, and fullness were hard to ignore.
As the competition progressed, it became clear that Big Ramy had a good shot at winning his first Olympia title and making history.
Sadly -and in a controversial manner- Phil would claim his seventh consecutive title. In my opinion, the contest was very close and could've gone either way.
So, there you have it. In a nutshell, these are the most controversial Mr. Olympia decisions that have ever been made.
Although history is set in stone and there’s no possible way to change these results; it’s still quite interesting to go back and analyze what exactly went down.
The opinions expressed in the article only reflect personal opinions and are not meant to influence the views of our readers.
It’s important to mention that these contests are considered controversial for a reason, and opinions will greatly vary.
With that being said, what do you think about these controversial Olympia results?
We want to hear your opinion so please be sure to drop a comment below and let us know what you think.
Disclaimer: We do not own any of the images used for this informative article. If you are the rightful owner and wish to have your image removed; please let us know through the contact form.