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Tales From Columbus

Behind-the-scenes stories from the Arnold Classic

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Chapter Three: PAUL’S FALL

NOT A DRY THIGH IN THE HOUSE

In the hours preceding the 1994 Arnold Classic, massive Paul Dillett — in pursuit of being drier than a Jon Stewart monologue — was experiencing severe bouts of cramping.

The 270-pounder’s outward confidence as he walked onstage for the prejudging at 11:55 AM belied the acute discomfort he was undergoing. At 12:29 PM, during the last callout of the symmetry round (the other two protagonists being Vince Taylor and Kevin Levrone), Dillett, with his back to the judging panel,

tried to hit an impromptu double-biceps pose. He raised his left arm and then locked it above his head as the oblique muscles on his left side went into a horrendous spasm. Unable to flex or lower his arm, Dillett lurched from the stage and slumped onto his back on a table in the recesses of the theater. Very soon, the stricken athlete was surrounded by a well-meaning group, among them a noncompeting Flex Wheeler who advised instant fluid intake. Dillett assured everyone that he was all right. “I’m not delirious or anything, you know,” he said. “It’s just a muscle spasm.”

A full 25 minutes elapsed before Dillett walked onstage again to execute his individual compulsories. His reappearance was greeted by tremendous applause and all hoped the crisis point had passed. With some difficulty, he completed his front double biceps, front-lat and side-chest poses. Then, as he went into a back double-biceps pose, the 4,000 attendees gasped in horror as the distressing scene they had witnesses 25 minutes earlier was repeated. Dillett grimaced and half screamed, “Oh, God!” — more in despair than pain — as a backstage marshal rushed to his aid. He still had his back to the audience as the marshal positioned himself to face Canada’s biggest export since John Candy went Hollywood.

Paul took

this as his cue to slump forward into the arms of the marshal, who was about six or seven inches shorter than the man he now fought to support. Three more marshals poured onstage and each grabbed a mighty Dillett limb and lifted him up. Unfortunately, he was facing downward, marooned in an ugly tableau of head-to-toe cramps that rendered him rigidly immobile. In this ungainly mode, Dillett’s 270-pound physique was awkwardly lugged offstage. As an exit, the scene lacked the grace and poise of the Pope being carried around St. Peter’s Square in a sedan chair.

Stretched out

behind the stage curtain, Paul was attended to by paramedics, who, with great difficulty, found a vein (Dillett was so dehydrated, all his surface veins had collapsed) in which to insert an IV drip. Throughout the trauma, Paul was completely coherent, and at no time did he display false heroics by talking of going on with the contest. It was his decision to be taken to the local hospital, to which he was ferried to at 1:25 PM (with the prejudging in progress). He was released after three hours, and later appeared at the night show to tell the audience how disappointed he was that he couldn’t finish the contest.

In my original report of the incident, I wrote: “It can be argued that whatever torment Paul Dillett had endured, he inflicted it upon himself. (As well as his physical discomfort, there is the fiscal pain of the potential $90,000 winner’s check that could well have been his.) But during the last two years, there has been a succession of bodybuilding casualties of varying degrees due to the demon of excessive water depletion. In the hunger for glory, competitors are willing to up the ante to any level in pursuit of first place.

“Is the fault

solely that of the athlete? A personal view is that, directly or indirectly, we all must share some responsibility for what happened to Paul Dillett at the 1994 Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic. Magazine personnel, judges, fans and competitors have all contributed to encouraging the ripped look that now so dominates success or failure. In the past Mike Matarazzo and Edgar Fletcher nearly killed themselves for that look; Mohamed Benaziza did!

“Would we rather see Paul Dillett compete at 280 full pounds or 270 ripped pounds? Would we rather see Dorian Yates compete at the 269 pounds he carried seven weeks prior to last year’s Olympia (the photos of which caused a sensation in the December ’93 FLEX) or the shredded 257 pounds with which he earned his second Sandow? The thought arises that the term ‘ripped’ doesn’t equate in a literal sense to the phrase bodybuilding, and perhaps it’s time that paradoxical situation was re-evaluated.”

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