3 Female Bodybuilders Say League Owner's Son Sexually Exploited Them While Their Careers Hung in the Balance
Inside Edition's Lisa Guerrero sat down with three women who say they were sexually exploited in order to advance their careers, and in some cases they say they felt they were even coerced into taking nude photos.
The sculpted women of the female bodybuilding world monitor every calorie that goes into their bodies and spend hours at the gym, but several women are now saying they had to do something else to be competitive in one league.
Inside Edition's Lisa Guerrero sat down with three women who say they were sexually exploited in order to advance their careers, and in some cases they felt they were even coerced into taking nude photos.
Aly Garcia says that when she began bodybuilding with the National Physique Committee, her coach told her that to win competitions she needed to sign a contract agreeing in part to pose for racy bikini photo shoots.
She says it was not long before she was asked to pose naked. When she refused, she says her contract was not renewed and her career tanked.
"I literally fell to my knees," Aly tells Inside Edition. "I'm like, 'What the heck did I do?'"
Aly says she then realized: "Oh, it's not what I did. It's what I didn't do."
Mandy Henderson says she was once told by a contest judge that if she did not take photos with J.M. Manion, the league's official photographer, her career would suffer.
Manion is the son of Jim Manion, the president of the National Physique Committee.
"My life was this bodybuilding world, and these men ran this this empire," Mandy says. "And I wanted to be a part of it.".
She signed a contract with J.M. Manion agreeing to pose nude in Playboy-style photos, saying she felt it was the only way to advance her career.
"We were in lingerie, and then we ended up in nothing, and then we ended up, like, the three of us girls were in poses that were very sexual in nature," Mandy says of one photo shoot.
She says those racy photos ended up on softcore porn websites, some of which were owned by J.M. Manion.
"It absolutely felt like coercion," Mandy says. "If you wanted to continue doing well or even just competing then you had to play the game."
Ava Cowan was a rising star in the bodybuilding world, often appearing on magazine covers.
She says that she was blacklisted for several years after she spoke out about the Manion family.
Ava says she later felt pressured to apologize publicly to the Manions, and says she also agreed to pose in lingerie in order to win competitions.
"The second you open your mouth, you will suffer the consequences," Ava says. "And I sure did."
Jim Rockell is a former judge who had a falling out with the Manions and parted ways over a decade ago.
He now runs a league that is a competitor of theirs.
"A lot of these women, even after all these years, are still afraid," Jim tells Inside Edition..
Jim says that he saw the system at work while judging competitions.
"The president, Jim Manion, would oftentimes come down the aisle and point up at the person that's on the stage and give a nod or whatever," Rockell says. "Obviously, that person was one of his son's clients."
For competitors like Ava, she says it is a devastating revelation.
"It hurts. I mean the hours," Ava says. "Every moment is accounted for in my life. Every macronutrient, all the sodium, all the water, the bikinis and the tans because I loved it."
She adds: "I just wanted a fair shot."
J.M. Manion declined to be interviewed, but in a statement tells Inside Edition he is shocked by the allegations and emphatically denies any wrongdoing.
A spokesperson for the National Physique Committee and the sport's governing body, the IFBB, says all of the allegations are false, and says that they are committed to providing competitors and fans with a premium experience.
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