Since the advent of the Mr. Olympia contest there have been some controversial winners, but none so much as the 1980 contest. That year Arnold came back out of retirement to attempt a (then) record 7th Olympia title.
What made the attempt so controversial is that Arnold was nowhere near his top shape. He only trained eight weeks for the show, and he was nowhere near the size he usually carried into contests. In previous Mr. Olympia contests Arnold had not only won, but he also dominated the field. Not so in this contest as his legs were even sub-par.
Arnold often used guile as much as muscle to win contests, and this was no different in that area. Although most people thought Arnold was gong to Sydney Australia to report on the show or guest pose, it turned out he secretly entered the contest, and most competitors didn’t know until he showed up at the prejudging prep session.
Arnold’s struggles didn’t end with his undersized physique. It was also bloated – at least in the ankle area. Turned out in addition to the steroids, he had taken a cortisone shot for a shoulder injury that in turn caused him to retain water in unwanted areas. Franco Columbu helped him shed the water and get ready for the contest.
Interestingly, this controversial contest was a turning point for Mike Mentzer, who came into the show in top condition and felt he should have won. He never competed again, believing that politics ran the IFBB organization and colored the judges decisions. There were several who could have legitimately won the contest over Arnold – Mike, Frank Zane, Boyer Coe, Roger Walker, and Chris Dickerson. Indeed, famed bodybuilder Bill Pearl indicated he felt Arnold should have come in 5th.
Arnold was given first place, and the boos erupted in the crowd. Arnold was jubilant, but no one else found anything uplifting about this down (under) Mr. Olympia.