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Yeah, there was that one time you managed to gain 22lbs. Gujju went on to compete wherever and whenever he could but it took him seven more years to win his next title — he became Mr Division Gujranwala in The competition is known to involve some of the best bodybuilders in Punjab and has contestants from the districts of Sialkot, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Narowal, Hafizabad and Mandi Bahauddin. The first two of these districts are considered to be the hub of bodybuilding and traditional wrestling in Punjab.
Two years later, Gujju secured the highest title of his career — he became Mr Punjab, beating competitors from all over the province. Gujju competed multiple times for the title of Mr Pakistan and that of Mr South Asia but managed to secure only runner-up positions.
He lost some of these competitions by a very thin margin, says his brother. A large number of people — including around 28 winners of the Mr Pakistan title — showed up at his funeral. Everyone was in tears and no one could believe that someone as fit and stout as Gujju could die all of a sudden. He has not worked under any other bodybuilder since he started receiving training from Gujju many years ago.
Gujju soon offered the trainee to become the trainer at his gym. Such learning-by-doing under champion bodybuilders is crucial for acquiring credentials to train others in the art of bulding the perfect body.
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The formula for success in the sport is based as much on physical training and workout as it is dependent on maintaining a special dietary regime. His breakfast included a good amount of mutton, whites from a dozen boiled eggs, brown bread and a glass of fresh pomegranate juice. For lunch, Gujju would have one kilogramme of minced beef keema , boiled rice and salad. For dinner, he regularly consumed four chicken leg pieces, roasted without salt and spices.
Also read: Mind your language—The movement for the preservation of Punjabi. The food cost many hundred rupees every day — a price borne by Gujju himself and his family.
Some bodybuilders are lucky to find rich patrons to finance their diet. Gujju also quit oily foods. At least six months before a competition, he would stop eating fried food to keep the flab on his body to the minimum. He would also take medicine to gain weight, increase muscle mass and whet his appetite in order to add to his calorie intake.
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Rizwan denies knowing if his brother was consuming any prohibited and harmful medicine. But he did take protein supplements, acknowledges one of them. His trainer, one Shaukat Ali from Lahore, would prescribe what supplements Gujju needed to take and in what quantity. Shaukat Ali is neither a nutritionist nor a specialist of sports medicine. Gujju took whatever food supplement the trainer recommended without ever consulting a doctor, says Shahbaz. He fully trusted Shaukat because of his vast experience in training bodybuilders. Even if Gujju was consuming only food supplements, he had used them for almost 25 years.
Along with mountains of food that he ate every day, these supplements would have had an impact on his body that Gujju either did not know or did not anticipate. It was the third day of Eidul Fitr this year — a lazy summer day in the first week of July, made lazier by the hectic festivities of the two preceding days. Irfan Butt, a handsome man in his mid-forties with age-defying features, spent the whole of that afternoon and some part of the evening at his in-laws, along with his wife and daughter who live in Norway and had come to visit Pakistan only a few days earlier.
The three came back home — in Bakhtewala neighbourhood of Gujranwala — at around 8pm. Known for being a big eater, Butt immediately demanded food upon returning home. He ate heartily and lay down on a sofa in his room, chatting with his nephews. He remembers peeking through the door and smiling at the people inside. Butt was in the middle of the chatter when he felt he was having trouble breathing. Just as he was telling his wife about it, he fell to the ground, gasping for breath.
Muhammad came rushing to help. Butt had fractured his legs at a very young age in an accident and was unable to walk for several years. During this time, he learned sewing and embroidery and became a successful businessman, exporting most of his products to countries as far away as Germany, Norway and England. For the last many years, he had also taken to working out regularly at a local gym.
Too much testosterone can lead to acne, premature balding, development of breasts in men , impotence, heart disease and liver failure. Reporters in Gujranwala treated his death as another case of a bodybuilder dying of the excessive intake of banned substances such as steroids. The Pakistan Bodybuilding Federation, too, agreed with them.
Rasool is one of the most sought-after trainers in Gujranwala and has trained many known bodybuilders such as Ali Ashraf, a recent winner of the Mr Gujranwala title. Butt was well respected in his own neighbourhood. From the owner of a cold-drink shop to a vegetable-seller in Bakhtewala, everyone praises him for being kind, humble and religious.
Matloob Haider was a year-old bodybuilder from Rahwali, a small town located a few kilometres north of Gujranwala city. He died in April this year in circumstances uncannily similar to those under which Gujju and Butt had died. He was reportedly preparing for his first competition and spent most of his time in a gym near his house. One day he came home, had dinner and was chatting with his mother when he started having problems in breathing, members of his family say. He collapsed and died while he was being rushed to the hospital.
There were rumours that he had taken a strong dose of steroids to win the competition, scheduled to take place only two days after he died. His family denies any knowledge of his drug intake. Health officials in Pakistan do not perform mandatory autopsies in cases like these, in order to ascertain the cause of death. Families of the deceased resist the autopsies in any case. The police also do not maintain a record of deaths other than those resulting from crimes or accidents.
Neither do government hospitals.
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The only source for statistics is the local media — which reported that at least four bodybuilders died in Sialkot and Gujranwala in April alone. The Pakistan Bodybuilding Federation put the number of bodybuilders having suddenly died in the first four months of this year at five — one each in Sialkot and Lahore and three in Gujranwala. Pervaiz, general secretary of the federation, accuses one Sheikh Farooq Iqbal from Lahore of running an illegal bodybuilding network.
Iqbal, according to Pervaiz, enables and, at times, encourages the use of steroids. Iqbal could not be contacted despite several attempts. The board, he says, has instructed various bodybuilding associations under its jurisdiction to investigate the reasons behind the recent deaths of bodybuilders. Ali Ashraf, 33, is one of the emerging bodybuilders in Gujranwala. He first joined a gym in for fitness training and does not remember what exactly motivated him to start the heavy workout meant only for bodybuilders.
He, however, remembers meeting some of the big names in the bodybuilding circuit while training with Malik Faiz Rasool. Sitting in his drawing room in the neighbourhood of Faisal Colony, Ashraf tells his story. I could see my biceps and triceps growing. This motivated me to strive for more. Ashraf started preparing for his first competition in A year later, he won the title of Mr Gujranwala.
He then started preparing for the Mr Punjab contest and is now training to become Mr Pakistan — a competition in which the most eminent bodybuilders from across the country take part. Ashraf estimates that the cost of preparation for each competition is around , rupees — an expense that he pays from his own pocket.
So do most other bodybuilders, if they cannot find sponsors. He takes many supplements in addition to his protein-rich regular diet.