The man pointed to an aged black-and-white photo of a young man with a buffed chest, broad shoulders and strong jaw line.
In the photo, the younger man stood on stage in a line of men that appeared to take bodybuilding seriously.
“That was me in 1985,” said Bill Long, now in his early 60’s. “I looked really good back then.”
He still looks good.
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A bit older and with a few more wrinkles, Long, who stands about 5-foot-9 and weighs about 180 pounds, would put many 20-year-olds to shame. He’s been bodybuilding for more than 30 years and remembers when the sport was adored in this area.
He remembers when meets would be so packed with contestants that they would almost have to turn bodybuilders away.
He remembers when there would be a standing room only crowd in the Van Wezel for bodybuilding shows.
Of course, his view would be from the stage. But he wasn’t just entering tournaments, he was winning them. In Long’s younger days he was his normal 180 pounds but bench pressed 400.
And he’s still winning.
The 16 trophies (nine first-place titles) stacked on the shelves in his home gym are from last year. He’s won six over-60 tournaments this season, including his most recent title in the NPC Southeastern USA Championship in Orlando.
Long, the owner of Ocean-aire Conditioning Inc., travels to Georgia and Alabama competing in meets.
He said about half his tournaments are drug tested, and the other half are not.
In some tournaments, bodybuilders give urine samples and take polygraph tests to prove they are steroid-free.
There’s no secret that steroids are part of bodybuilding. Because if they weren’t, all tournaments would have drug testing.
Long knows this all too well. He dabbled in steroids.
Remember the picture from 1985? He was juicing then.
Long said he injected steroids for three years through doctor’s prescriptions. Long stopped because he realized he didn’t want to be a bulging block of flesh like we see on the cover of bodybuilding magazines.
More importantly, he wanted to be in good health.
Some bodybuilders spend thousands of dollars on steroids, or their sponsors pay for them, Long said.
Besides, he didn’t need them to do well.
The 16 trophies from last year prove that some 23 years later. At 63, Long works 60 hours a week and trains twice a day.
Long said his goal is to win nine tournaments this season, and he implores others to live a healthy lifestyle.
Next week, he’s performing in Fort Lauderdale.
“I like to encourage most of the people that are over 60 to work out,” he said. “It’s good for them, and it’s good for their body. It’s good for their hearts. It’s just a workout, but work out smart. I’m not the best yet, but one day I hope to be.”
Ryan T. Boyd, sports writer, can be reached at (941) 526-3240.