The Dark Side to Arnold Schwarzenegger

The famous actor and face of bodybuilding may not be who you think he is.
Throughout the 17 years he competed, Arnold Schwarzenegger won 19 gold medals. Photo via under Creative Commons License.
Throughout the 17 years he competed, Arnold Schwarzenegger won 19 gold medals. Photo via under Creative Commons License.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is known around the world for his life accomplishments and awards like The Golden Globe Award, Kid’s Choice Award, and his seven Mr. Olympia gold medals. 

Widely known for starring in movies such as “Terminator” and his own film “Pumping Iron,” Schwarzenegger originally rose to fame in the sport of bodybuilding. 

The majority of the population sees Schwarzenegger’s successes and admires him, putting him on a pedestal. In reality, the media doesn’t highlight his scandals throughout his career.

Schwarzenegger, from Austria, was the first well-known bodybuilder and brought attention and many fans to the sport. He stood out from his competition for the size and definition he presented on stage.

He competed from 1963 to 1980, a time before anabolic steroids were as widespread as the present day. He was only taking testosterone and Dianabol, unlike the more intense steroids such as Trenbolone acetate which is taken by all of today’s gold medalists. This makes Schwarzenegger’s physique and success more impressive for his time period.

For six years, he competed in classic physique with no significant competition. As he got older, many young, equally impressive competitors such as Mike Mentzer, Tom Platz, and Boyer Coe were a threat to Schwarzenegger’s success. 

When the competition began to increase, he went to all measures necessary to come out on top.

Arnold Schwarzenegger backstage before winning his 5th Mr. Olympia title. He was most well known for his bicep peak, which none of his competitors seemed to be able to match. Training arms twice a week allowed him to reach 22-inch biceps. (Photo by Madison Square Garden Center)

Schwarzenegger announced he would be retiring, but continued training behind closed doors. He kept his plans to compete again a secret until the day before the 1980 Olympia.

He announced he would be competing at the press conference the day before the competition and the reactions were mixed. Many thought that he would tarnish his legacy since he wasn’t in shape to win another gold. On the other hand, Mike Mentzer was infuriated and even tried to attack Schwarzenegger at the press conference. 

Schwarzenegger was announced the winner despite his lack of size and muscle definition compared to years past. It was obvious that the results were based on the popularity and clout surrounding him.

When his name was announced, the crowd booed and screamed. The runner-up was awarded to Chris Dickerson, who after accepting his award jumped off stage shouting “I can’t believe it.” and profanity-filled phrases. 

Frank Zane reportedly threw his trophy against the wall backstage, however, he told the public it was an accident.

Schwarzenegger told the press,  “I have to be very honest, that this was the highest level of competition that I have ever faced in any competition in my life”

His disregard to the drama in his press conference further enraged his fellow competitors.

Minutes after he was handed the gold, social media exploded with accusations of Arnold rigging the Olympia. As more information was released by other competitors, it became clear the competition wasn’t handled fairly.

Tom Platz was weeks out from competing in the 1982 Olympia when he tore his bicep off the bone. He went to the doctor and was told not only to pull out of the competition, but stop training as well.

Against the doctor’s orders, Platz continued to train and perfect his posing to best mask his injury.

“I can’t use my bicep at all. Went to the 82 Olympia in London. I can hide it perfectly; nobody knew it happened but I made the mistake of telling someone. I told Arnold.” stated Platz.

After returning to the stage, the judges instantly told Platz to step forward and show his left (torn) bicep. They moved Platz out of center stage and he ultimately lost the 1982 Olympia.

This severed the friendship between the two training partners although Platz has shared he’s thankful for Schwarzenegger’s mentorship in the past.

Throughout his career in bodybuilding and acting, Arnold has also faced many allegations facing sexual assault and harassment. In 2003, the Los Angeles Times published an article claiming Schwarzenegger sexually assaulted 6 different women. 

He was accused of touching and grabbing women in both the gym and backstage. He was able to get away with his actions because society views him as superior. The women didn’t speak up originally due to Schwarzenegger’s fame but decided to speak out when he was elected as governor of California.

This specifically didn’t turn his fans against him, but due to him not addressing the situation for 20 years, he lost the respect of millions.

Schwarzenegger spoke out in 2023 sharing he admits to having “behaved badly” on film sets. 

“It is true that I was on rowdy movie sets and I have done things that were not right which I thought then was playful,” said Schwarzenegger. 

Since then, many of his followers have forgiven him and the majority of the public has forgotten about the incident. 

Due to the lack of knowledge and his success, Schwarzenegger’s dark past is hidden behind the recognizable face.

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