Randy Roach has done it yet again. In his new book, “Comebacks,” which is the first book in Volume III of his “Muscle, Smoke & Mirrors” saga, he has achieved a minor bodybuilding masterpiece.

The book follows the 1980 and 1981 Mr. Olympia contests, or more precisely, the firestorm that surrounded the returns to competition of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Franco Columbu and their controversial, unpopular wins.

To those that remember these contests and the events that surrounded them, they’ll recall the highly emotionally charged times they were. Everybody had their favorite alternative winners: Dickerson, Mentzer, Coe, Platz, etc. While most bodybuilders, fans and observers of the sport have a variety of opinions as to what and why things happened, most felt it was one of the darkest times in the sport. Simply put, the bodybuilding world by and large thought the two contest verdicts were outrageous; the popular belief was that the outcomes were pre-determined. Yes, that means fixed.

As with all of his work, though, Randy Roach invites us to take a deeper look into things. He shines light on this darkness. The hallmark of his work, which shines all the way through the rest of Muscle, Smoke & Mirrors, is that he never accepts the superficial interpretation, the easy answer, as there is usually more to things. One of Roach’s greatest skills is uncovering that “more,” whether it’s in the development of bodybuilding nutrition or the personal history of bodybuilders, trainers, or the rulers of the cultic world of muscle such as the Weiders, the Hoffmans, et al.

What readers will find out is that while there is plenty of blame to go around for both Olympia debacles, it’s not so clear who the villains are. There were legitimate differences of opinion as to who really had the best physique. As it turns out, there were many procedural and structural errors within the IFBB’s way of running contests, and many if not most of the judges attempted to arrive at a fair contest verdict. That they didn’t, by most accounts, leads to Roach’s fascinating many-sided investigation and explanation of why this happened. Most honest readers, despite what they may have felt initially, will come to see the complexity of events and interaction of the players in the dramas. Roach doesn’t excuse the darkness, but he shows how the contests and the judging happened.

Roach lays it all out, leaving the reader to his own conclusions. Randy Roach’s thoroughness and depth of investigating is unparalleled in the small amount of journalism that is done in the sport.

Randy Roach continues to shine his brilliance on the sport he loves, illuminating it brightly for those who care about it.

Again, a brilliant book by a brilliant writer.

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