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On March 6, 1996, German-based bodybuilders Andreas Münzer and Günter Schlierkamp visited the Weider offices in Woodland Hills, CA, to be interviewed by yours truly. The previous weekend they had competed at the Arnold Classic in Columbus, OH, where Münzer finished sixth and Schlierkamp ninth, with Kevin Levrone defeating Flex Wheeler for the top spot.
Ever since entering the pro ranks in 1989, the Austria-born Münzer had been renowned for his ultra-shredded condition, competing with a skin texture that was paper-thin. At that time, he hit the scales at around 200 pounds, but by 1996 he had added another 20 pounds of quality muscle while still maintaining that translucent look. Indeed, he was arguably the most conditioned bodybuilder of his or any other era—only Turkey’s Hamdullah Aykutlu (Google him) came close.
Schlierkamp was in his third year as a pro, and he was destined to earn a major contract with Weider Publications and to flash his megawatt smile and classic good looks across covers aplenty. His career highlight was sensationally beating reigning Mr. O Ronnie Coleman at the 2002 Show of Strength, before retiring in 2005 and marrying fitness star Kim Lyons in 2007. You could say he had a good career.
Münzer? Well, Münzer had just eight days left to live. In the time between our meeting and his death, he would finish seventh at the San Jose Pro on March 9, before returning to Munich, Germany, on March 11. Complaining of severe stomach pain, he was admitted to the hospital on the morning of March 12. Bleeding from the stomach, Münzer was prepped for surgery in an attempt to stop the hemorrhaging. His liver and kidneys had failed. On the morning of March 14, 1996, he died, with the official autopsy eventually giving the cause of death as dystrophic multiple organ failure. He was 31 years old.
His death became a major news story in Germany, with the country’s foremost mainstream news magazine, Der Spiegel (similar to the USA’s Time magazine), making it a cover story. In the weeks after Münzer’s passing, more details emerged of how he had come to meet his end, and it made for disquieting reading and analysis. The heavy use of anabolic steroids and diuretics was pinpointed as the cause of the bodybuilder’s death.
It became clear that Münzer had been dealing with severe abdominal pain for months before his demise. Frankly, it was remarkable that he had been able to show up full and super-ripped while going through the travails of pro contest prep in acute pain. Other details reported by Der Spiegel included numerous table-tennis-ball-size tumors in the liver and a heart that had grown to weigh an abnormal 636 grams, well above the typical 300 grams.
That plethora of medical findings was not known on the day I spoke with the Austrian. I had never interviewed him before and found him affable and quietly articulate, with no hint of braggadocio. I asked him whether there was any secret formula for getting so ripped. He answered, “There is no secret. I follow a strict diet year-round, train consistently, and then there is of course the genetics of my muscle fibers. I never go more than 15 pounds above contest weight so that I don’t have to suffer when I reduce.” He added, “I don’t know why some guys get into trouble when they start the reduction process.”
In my final question, I asked him about his future plans. His reply now carries extra poignancy: “I have no real plans for my future. I am a bodybuilder, and I do not know what’s coming.”
A few days later, that closing sentence haunted my thoughts—still does, from time to time.