by Christian Duque
The world of bodybuilding lost a major superstar in Christian Lobarede this past Tuesday. He was considered the greatest physique-based athlete Chile ever produced and it was so bizarre that he passed away the day I left the country for the United States. I hadn’t visited Chile since 1999 and he passed while I was there. In fact, I met with a longtime viewer, Felipe Barra, of StrengthAddicts (who’d been watching my channel for over a decade) and we talked about it at a local café.
Neither one of us could believe that the legendary bodybuilder had died. That said he had been battling with renal failure, a brain spill, and an addiction to morphine which we’ll discuss later in the article. He was a hero to so many people, but he always knew what it felt like to have your country turn its back on you. When you’re on top everyone’s there, but it’s when you hit hard times that you know who your real friends are.
‘El Toro,’ or The Bull, had put the country on the map. As he started his amateur career he won every championship in Chile and would go onto winning numerous titles throughout the region. Everything changed when he won the South American Championships – the most competitive contest in the continent. Whoever wins this title is considered the greatest athlete in a part of the world that includes powerhouse countries like Brazil, Argentina, and Colombia. None of these nations have criminalized anabolics, growth, or diuretics. Athletes have access to anything and everything under the sun. They’re able to eat, use gear, and train.
It was during these years competing at this level that Lobarede realized if he was going to play with the big boys he’d need to take the plunge. Being natty and going pro was just not going to happen. He could be big in Chile, appear on national tv shows, and make big money in personal training but that would be the extent of his career if he stayed natural. Christian wanted to be a superstar! He dreamt big and wanted to chase big dreams. Once he won the South American Championships he would go onto compete at the World Games where he won the bronze medal for Chile.
Upon his return, El Toro was an IFBB Pro and the #3 bodybuilder in the world. He worked tirelessly to bring as much as honor to his country as he could. He did endless media, appearing on television, radio, and print media. He always made time to speak to the press and in so doing was able to educate the viewers with regard to what his sport was all about.
You have to realize this was way before the the internet and most people assumed bodybuilding was a sport all about lifting nonstop and drugs. They didn’t realize the importance of a good diet, smart training, and the value of things as simple as hydration. They also didn’t appreciate how much time bodybuilders spent in the mirror. It’s not just about building a great physique but it’s also about being a strategist – showcasing the best body parts and knowing how to hide weaknesses. Posing is very much an art form and a great poser strives to be a great entertainer as well. Whether you’re hitting the mandatories, battling in a posedown, or guest posing, how you present yourself is key.
Even when it comes to the, arguably, boring mandatory round, how you hit the poses allows the athlete to express themselves. Each competitor should stand out and Lobarede did just that. He wasn’t some mindless muscle monster. He loved being onstage, under the lights, and making the audience come alive.
And even when he wasn’t on stage, he told jokes and was always upbeat and social. When you think of a true ambassador for fitness Lobarede’s name and likeness came to mind. He loved it all and people could tell. It was an authentic love affair that put Chile on the fitness map.
Lobarede chased big dreams his entire career! He wasn’t about to slow down or much less retire after getting his pro card. He went on to compete at a number of pro shows throughout the world and would often place in the Top 10. While many international athletes avoided contests in the United States due to the elite level of competition, El Toro dove in head first. This is how he developed strong friendships with guys like Ronnie Coleman, Jay Cutler, and others. When Chile came up, people thought of Lobarede and vice versa. It was this relationship that also helped bring top Olympians to Chile. Although many knew very little about the country, El Toro provided that necessary link that facilitated them touring the country and making guest posing appearances.
The more Lobarede competed and brought big stars to Chile, the media couldn’t get enough of him. He made an appearance on Sábado Gigante (the biggest show in Latin America and Spanish speaking American tv), he was featured on countless bodybuilding publications, and his DVD’s sold like hotcakes! And then, his health started to deteriorate and he nearly died just days before competing at the Iron Man. Ironically, he had never looked better than that prep, and had he had his way he would have gotten onstage and taken his chances. Once he pulled out of that contest he became aware just how little renal function he had.
Lobarede began using morphine to take the edge off the pain. He refused dialysis and hoped he could heal himself. When competing became infeasible due to health, he focused on personal training, contest prep, his supplement line and his contest. It was during this time that a couple of his clients faced major health issues and one died. Lobarede had also become the focus of a cable news expose. The channel sent in a would-be competitor who befriended him, bought illegal drugs from him, and videotaped everything possible from behind the scenes. The expose surprisingly coincided with a police operation where Lobarede’s home was raided. He’d then be criminally charged and was carted off to prison. This is when the country and its media turned on him. He went from being a celebrity to a villain. And ultimately, he was totally ignored.
Prison didn’t stop El Toro. Losing countless “friends” didn’t either. Once he did his time, he returned to the sport he loved so much. He was no longer a mass monster but he was alive! He continued training athletes and talking about the way of life he followed. Years past and many of us assumed everything was ok. When my buddy Felipe texted me to tell me what time he could meet up, that’s when he broke the news to me. I just always assumed Christian was ok and hanging in there. I found out about Lobarede on Monday and the Mighty Mike Quinn on Tuesday.
We’ve lost two amazing human beings who lived life to the fullest. They were bodybuilders who loved the sport and loved helping people. They will both be remembered and missed.
RIP / QEPD