From the end of 2022 to the start of 2023, various notable figures in and around bodybuilding have had frank thoughts about the state of the sport. There was the iconic Arnold Schwarzenegger expressing his fandom of reigning four-time Classic Physique Olympia champion Chris Bumstead while noting the division should be the Olympia weekend’s main event. There was 1983 Mr. Olympia Samir Bannout lamenting that the Olympia qualification isn’t rigid enough and allows too many competitors. Now, Iain Valliere, an active bodybuilder, shared some recent strong thoughts on a prominent modern competitive category.
On Feb. 2, 2023, Valliere appeared in a podcast episode with Fouad Abiad Media, discussing some of the latest pertinent bodybuilding topics like the 2023 Arnold Classic. Among the more notable revelations was that the 2022 Vancouver Pro champion believes the 212 division should no longer be a viable professional division.
As standards for training and quality nutrition continue to grow, Valliere professed that he doesn’t see a place for 212 bodybuilders in the long run. He maintained that recent successful examples of 212 competitors like Derek Lunsford and Shaun Clarida, who have transitioned to and competed well in the Men’s Open, demonstrate that there isn’t much of a need for the 212 anymore.
As such, the athlete said the division’s existence is redundant and that it should be absorbed into the Men’s Open.
“If a 175 or 180-pound Shaun [Clarida] comes in and is beating 290-pound, 6-feet guys, you really have no [expletive] case for keeping the 212 [division], to be honest.” Valliere said. “Because I still think the guys that are really [expletive] driven to be the best, would stick out a few years of getting [expletive] on if they believed in their heart. Like the Derek’s (Lunsford] of the world, would have stuck that [expletive] out and been in the Men’s Open and would have ended up where they are.”
After receiving pushback and counterarguments from his fellow podcasters, including retired 212 bodybuilder Guy Cisternio and retired Men’s Open competitor Fouad Abiad, Valliere made a reasonable analogy between basketball and bodybuilding, pointing out how the cream usually rises to the top without accommodations.
“That’s the same thing as saying guys that are, like, 5-foot-10 shouldn’t pursue basketball and that we should make a shorter net for the guys that are shorter. It’s stupid.” Valliere explained. “With 212, I just think a lot of those guys could end up in the [Men’s] Open just like it used to be, and be fine.”
Ultimately, to Valliere, nixing the 212 division is about the more talented athletes winning out and allowing them to compete in the most elite circumstances.
“No matter how much I train, I’m not going to be as big as Ramy [Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Elssbiay] or as fast as Usain Bolt,” Valliere said. “Some guys won’t be as good as Derek [Lunsford], some guys won’t be as tall as Yao Ming, it’s just the [expletive] reality. People are not all created equally and just because they aren’t, it doesn’t mean we should fill the gap.”
Valliere might have a right to possess his strong opinion on the future of the 212, but, at the time of this writing, competitive organizers don’t appear to have any meaningful plans toward falling in lockstep with his idea.
As for Valliere’s individual exploits, the Men’s Open bodybuilder is coming off an 11th-place finish at the 2022 Mr. Olympia. According to NPC News Online, the result was the second-lowest of his career, with a 14th-place finish at the 2018 iteration standing as his worst. To this day, Valliere’s best Mr. Olympia output was back-to-back placings in seventh in 2020 and 2021.
With the 2023 competitive season still in its early stages, if he qualifies for the contest, he’ll undoubtedly be seeking a rebound during the 2023 edition, November 3-5 in Orlando, FL.
Featured image: @iainvalliere on Instagram