Dying to Be Arnie


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ANDREAS MUNZER


THE OBSERVER
Andreas Munzer dreamed of emulating his hero, fellow Austrian and bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger. In this special report, Jon Hotten traces two careers - one of riches and fame that may yet lead to the White House, and another that ended in drugs and disaster.
He went to the stage as hard as a bag full of nails. He looked like the eighth wonder of the world up there: 17 stone of muscle and bone and not much else. He was huge and dense and cut. He had 21-inch arms, a 58-inch chest and enough junk in his bloodstream to kill a horse. It was certainly killing him. He lived in agony. If he had still had the will to turn his head to the left, he would have seen other men like him, Godzilla's of the iron game. To his right, the same. They looked barely human.


They looked like a sub-strain, a spin-off, a genetic joke.
He was so dry that his lips kept sticking together. His body was arid. The last of his sweat rolled slowly down him, streamed by his deep striations. It left light streaks in his tinned tan. Andreas Munzer fixed his feet harder into the floor and squeezed his unsteady muscle one more time.
The other guys still had some zap and heft and zing left in them. Kevin Levrone, 'The Maryland Muscle Machine', was ripped and zipped; Kenny 'Flex' Wheeler was as austere and beautiful as a Greek statue; Paul Dillett had a chest by Jackson Pollock, splattered with fat chunks of vein; Vince Taylor brought out his galactic shoulders; Shawn Ray ran as thick as a bull, front to back. It was a war of the strangest kind. Huge men in spangly thongs shoved each other aside so they could hit muscleman poses. There were 4,000 people watching them do it and they were going off while they did. The Veterans' Memorial Arena was a mushroom farm of jumping muscle. Most of the crowd were bodybuilders of a sort themselves - there were women who could have beaten the living crap out of you.

Andreas Munzer already knew that the game was up. This was the final round of competition, the pose down - a concocted crowd-pleaser. It existed mainly to allow the judge's time to verify the scores. Levrone, Ray and Dillett jumped from the stage and walked into the stalls so the fans could see them close up. They posed for photos. They gripped and grinned. Munzer held on at the edge of the platform. There, perhaps one more judge might catch the final nuances of his development. Perhaps one more judge might move him up by one more place. Perhaps Arnold Schwarzenegger himself would look up from his seat in row two and understand that Andi's head had blazed with his name for 20 years. Perhaps then he would finally get his due and perhaps it would tip the balance of his life. His name was Andreas Munzer. For a decade, he had been the greatest bodybuilder in the German-speaking world.

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Head judge Wayne DeMilia called the last six competitors into line. Schwarzenegger now stood in the wings ready to present the prizes. He had not been a bodybuilder for a long time; it had been 16 years since he was Mr. Olympia 1980. But he remained the talisman of muscle. The Arnold Classic contest was named after him, promoted by him and dedicated to his glory.
In professional bodybuilding events, results were announced in reverse order. Andi would die soon, but he wouldn't die wondering. DeMilia said: 'Sixth place ... winning five thousand dollars ... from Austria ... Andreas Munzer...'


Andreas Munzer picked up a slim check and a joke trophy. The applause was thin and slow. The crowd already had Munzer sixth. This was how things often were at the top shows. The consensus of years informed results. The judges had muscle memory, too.
There was a truism in bodybuilding: be born black or German. These were the favored genetic lines. Through them, muscle thrummed down generations. Andreas people were farmers, 'simple with weather-tanned faces' as the press would later describe them. They lived a mile or so from the Modriacher Stausee reservoir near a village called Pack in the rural Austrian region of Styria. They ran a dairy business that just about kept them afloat. Andreas Munzer absorbed their ethic of stoic self-improvement. He was a quiet boy and a hard worker. Munzer paid his dues in the fields. He liked to play the trumpet in a local band, a Musikkapelle. During the summer, he played football. During winter, he skied.

Andreas Munzer was hired as a toolmaker in Flach, a town 10 kilometres from the farm. He didn't have a car so he took the bus. Between finishing work and catching the bus home, Andreas had a two-hour wait. 'To loaf about and drink beer was not his thing,' his father Killian said. Andreas joined a gym instead. Passing time waiting for a bus home, he connected with his strange fate. Andreas Munzer got big quick. The weight hooked up with those juiced-up Germanic genes. Ethics of work and sacrifice ran deep in Andreas , too. His muscles began to haul him out of obscurity.
Andreas Munzer God was Schwarzenegger. Arnold was Austrian. Moreover, Arnold was Styrian. Arnold came from Thal, Andreas from Pack. Arnold took up bodybuilding after seeing a muscleman working out by a mountain reservoir. Andreas grew up by one. Arnold became the greatest bodybuilder in the German-speaking world. Andreas Munzer was striving towards that end. Arnold was a seven-time Mr. Olympia. Now he was a movie star, perhaps the planet's most driven man.

In the gyms, everyone was juicing. To succeed in professional bodybuilding, you had to. But you had to do many other things too. If winning pro shows was as easy as taking steroids, every loser iron-junkie, every tragic muscle rat, would be Mr. Olympia.
Somehow, somewhere, at some point, Andreas Munzer joined in. He had no choice. In chess, there is a position called zugzwang, where you must make a move, even though that move will cause you to lose. Drugs were Andreas zugzwang. Drugs were bodybuilding's zugzwang.
As he became more successful, Andreas Munzer moved to Munich, where he was known as one of the nicest men in a sport mostly populated by meatheads, narcissists, egoists, attention-seekers, over compensators and the terminally aggrieved. It was a sport that demanded extremity, so it attracted extremists. Andreas was no such thing.

But he had made the deal. The Munich Andreas would play the zugzwang. He hit some heavy cycles: he injected two ampoules of testosterone a day; he took the oral steroids Halotestin and Anabol; he combined them with Masteron and Parabolan; he used between four and 24 units of the growth hormone STH. Steroids aided muscle repair and general recovery; they allowed him to train with greater intensity. He combined different steroid types to maximum effect. He found that STH, the synthetic growth hormone, mimicked human growth hormone; it made everything grow - muscles, bones, organs, tissues. He ate 6-8,000 calories a day to nourish his muscles. He used insulin to stimulate his metabolism and churn the calories more quickly; he used at least five aspirin tablets each morning to thin his blood and help with the pain of training; he used ephedrine and Captagon to increase his intensity on the weights.
Fifteen weeks or so from competition, he would begin a rigorous diet designed to reduce his body fat. He would come down to 2,000 calories a day. In the days and hours before a show he used Aldactone and Lasix, both diuretics, to rid himself of the last of his water. Most pros would get close to competition shape once or twice a year. Anything else demanded too much; Andreas maintained a reputation for always being in shape, or close to it.

The stomach pains had begun some months before Andreas Munzer went to Columbus, Ohio, for the 1996 Arnold Classic. At first it was just more pain, and pain was the currency of muscle. Andi paid it little heed. It dug in and nestled down with all the other pain: the agonies of training, the banal deprivations of dieting down, the pulls, nicks, strains, jags and twists of the gym. But it kept coming back and its payload was different. A connoisseur of pain like Andreas would soon have been able to tell. He would have been able to recognize it and rank it as something special in the pain game, something more exotic than the stuff he usually bore. He began to mention it to friends at the gym. He tried some health cures that would strengthen his stomach lining. Perhaps if Andreas Munzer had quit training then, if he had turned away from the withering deprivations of another round of competition and stopped juicing he might have survived. Instead, the boy from Pack made himself ready to compete in front of the boy from Thal, in front of his hero.

After his sixth place at the Arnold Classic on 2 March 1996, Andi's mood remained low. 'Man, why don't you laugh?' a German official had said. 'You're the best white guy behind five Negroes.' Andreas Munzer was never going to laugh at that. Best white guy. Best German speaker. All of the pain and deprivation, all of the gym seminars and pain-filled nights for those worthless epithets.
On the morning of 13 March, Andreas stomach pains became intense. His gut was swollen and hard. His bill had come in. He was fairly sure that this time he couldn't meet it. The debt was too big. The agony grew.

He was taken to hospital. Doctors there diagnosed the bleed, but could not prevent it continuing. He was transferred to the University Clinic. At 7pm, surgeons decided to operate to stop the bleeding inside Andreas stomach. Andreas Munzer came through the operation, but his problems had multiplied catastrophically. His blood was viscous and slow-moving. His potassium levels were excessively high. He had been dehydrated by the diuretics he used in the days before his last competitions. His liver was melting. A post-mortem would find that it had dissolved almost completely. Andreas body went into shock. After his liver failed, his kidneys did too. He was offered a blood transfusion, but it was too late. Andreas heart held out for a while - he had always had a big heart - but by morning Munzer had joined the ranks of the bodybuilding dead.

Arnold Schwarzenegger sent a wreath from Hollywood to Andreas Munzer's grave in Styria. The message was simple. It read: 'A last greeting to a friend.'

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