It seems that the Mr. Olympia contest has to end with at least one controversy each year. Last year, everyone thought Big Ramy would continue his dominant run. Instead, the Egyptian bodybuilder fell to fifth place. The Persian Wolf, Hadi Choopan, took his place and won the 2022 Mr. Olympia. This year, many fans and experts expected Choopan to win again. While he faced tough competition from the likes of Derek Lunsford, Samson Dauda, and others, people expected the Iranian to improve on his strengths. Although the 2022 title winner did just that, he failed to make it twice in a row.

Last year, 212 Olympia winner Derek Lunsford made his Mr. Olympia debut. Despite moving to the open weight class, Lunsford impressed everyone as he finished as the runner-up. While he gave stiff competition to the Iranian bodybuilder, Lunsford lacked the size and conditioning to beat Choopan. However, after a year of training under Hany Rambod, who also coaches the Persian Wolf, Lunsford won this year’s Mr. Olympia, becoming the first two-division champion in the sport’s history. However, controversy erupted in a split second after Hadi Choopan stormed off the stage before the competitors finished their ceremonial post-contest posing. Choopan’s actions mirrored that of Mike Mentzer in 1980, but did this reaction make the 2023 Mr. Olympia just as controversial?

How did things come to this?


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Before we dive into the moments after the results were announced, let’s take a look at what transpired. The bodybuilders first took to the stage during the pre-judging. Fans waited with bated breath as their favorite bodybuilders stepped on stage to show the improvements they’ve made. Many competitors like Andrew Jacked, Michael Krizo, and others showed off noticeable changes. However, after the group and the individual posing, the favorites emerged. Judges narrowed the field to the top five bodybuilders in the first callout. As expected, the top three bodybuilders were Derek Lunsford, the defending champion, and the 2023 Arnold Classic Champion, Samson Dauda.

The competition among the three bodybuilders was fierce. After the callouts, the Olympia judges called three bodybuilders again and compared them side-by-side. They shuffled around each competitor, and all three got the chance to stand in the center to show off their strengths. While it felt like a tough contest during pre-judging, it was even harder to choose a winner during the finals. Everyone, including the top three, further tightened up their physique for the finals. Even NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, who was in attendance, said the judges had their work cut out for them.

Former Mr. Olympia walks off

When the dust settled, Bob Cicherillo announced that Samson Duada had earned the bronze medal. With Duada out of the equation, Cicherillo built up the suspense with long pauses before announcing that Lunsford had dethroned Hadi Choopan. While the Iranian bodybuilding icon seemed to take the judges’ decision in his stride, he soon took off his medal and stormed off the stage after hitting a single pose with the victors. Although Cicherillo urged the Iranian to stay and take a few more pictures, Choopan didn’t hang around.

READ MORE | “Shameful Robbery”: Bodybuilding World Feels Sorry as Hadi Choopan Storms Off the Stage After Losing 2023 Mr. Olympia to Derek Lunsford

While this year’s Mr. Olympia had its fair share of mishaps, like Nick Walker tearing his hamstring two days before the show or Brandon Curry having to visit the hospital a day before pre-judging, no controversy was in sight leading up to the contest or the finals. However, no one expected Hadi Choopan to dramatically lose his cool on stage. His reaction gave flashbacks to how Mentzer and others reacted after Arnold Schwarzenegger won the title in 1980. 

Is 2023 Mr. Olympia a mirror of what happened during the 1980 event?

While controversy erupted in the final moments of the 2023 Mr. Olympia, the 1980 edition had been controversial since the start. Arnie announced he would compete at the last moment. The five-time Mr. Universe got into an argument with Boyer Coe and Mike Mentzer during the pre-contest meeting. He also attempted a last-minute rule change. While fans cheered when Arnie stepped on stage, many thought he was a shadow of his former self after a five-year break.

Defending champion Frank Zane, 1979 runner-up Mentzer, and others were confident Schwarzenegger wouldn’t win. So when the results were announced, and the Austrian Oak won, the other competitors found themselves disappointed and angry. Mike Mentzer was so incensed he walked off the stage and retired from competitive bodybuilding. Zane smashed his trophy backstage. Compared to this, Choopan’s reaction was tame.

Hadi Choopan cannot measure up to the 1980s event – even by a long shot


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Hadi Choopan walking off the stage has stirred up quite a storm. Fans have taken sides and social media posts’ comment sections are buzzing with arguments. Bodybuilding fans from the Middle East and Choopan’s fans worldwide have proclaimed that the result was a robbery. Meanwhile, Lunsford’s fans are busy arguing why their favorite presented a better overall package. But despite the controversy among fans, the result is far from being the most controversial after Arnie’s 1980 Olympia victory.

In fact, the 1981 Mr. Olympia was no less controversial. Schwarzenegger’s friend and training partner Franco Columbu won the 1981 despite being off form. In 2007, scores of fans cried bias when Victor Martinez lost to Jay Cutler. The 1997 Mr. Olympia, where Dorian Yates claimed his sixth and final Sandow trophy, remains infamous. However, all these editions have one thing in common. Unlike this year’s Mr. Olympia, the competition wasn’t neck-and-neck. This year, the margin was so narrow that each dedicate fan believed their idol had it in the bag.


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In all the other examples, the winners were not in their best shape. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Franco Columbu didn’t display their prime physique. Similarly, Jay Cutler looked diminished compared to 2006, when he defeated Ronnie Coleman. This is further backed up by the fact that Cutler lost his title to Dexter Jackson in 2008. Again, in 1997, Dorian Yates stepped on stage after tearing his triceps before the competition. While he had retained his size, fans still point out that Nasser El Sonbaty outdid The Shadow in every aspect. Hence, Hadi Choopan’s actions might be uncalled for, but the 2023 Mr. Olympia isn’t the most controversial Mr. Olympia since 1980 – not by a long shot.

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