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This year’s model of the American man needs a little toot to get over the top. After walking off with the trophy and the spinning-bike award, Mr. America 1996 tested positive for drug use, and Ted Karnezis is “really pissed off” about it. Karnezis is an authority on being pissed, since it was he who took the urine samples from contestants at the would-be drug-free Mr./Ms. America Bodybuilding Championships, on Sept. 14 (see “Pumped-Up Performance Art,” 9/27). Tests indicated that five of 19 contestants for the Mr. America title were using anabolic steroids, said Karnezis, Amateur Athletics Union (AAU) bodybuilding national chairman, who added that the violators are “basically thumb[ing] their noses at the process.”

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The No. 1 thumb to the nose would be from the Mr. America title-winner himself, Charles Durr of Chicago. His piss-cup test showed baldenone, nandrolone, and stenozolol (all anabolic steroids) in his system, according to Karnezis, as well as a testosterone level at least 32 times that of a normal man, according to Buddy DuVall, a spokesperson for Corning Clinical Laboratories, in San Diego, which conduced the tests. (Durr could not be reached for comment.)

Winning the middleweight class as well as the overall title, Durr was first among equals. In the middleweight class, the first and second runners-up, Rommy Abdallah and Zuhlir “Zoo” Gazawmeh, were also flagged for abnormal drug levels, as were the light-heavyweight-class winner Jamie Rodriguez, and his first runner-up, Dean Miller. None of the contestants for the Ms. America title tested positive for drugs.

Each positive result was tested “at least twice,” said DuVall, but each of the accused can appeal for another test under AAU rules. If the results survive the challenges, heavyweight-class winner Doug Rieser, a personal trainer from Lancaster, N.Y., who told Karnezis he is a former steroid user (he quit over a year ago to be ready for the September event), is Mr. America 1996. So much for pure Mr. American ideals.

—Chris Peterson