Natural bodybuilding competitions have increasingly turned to polygraph testing as a method to ensure fairness and adherence to the strict “drug-free” policies that define the sport. This move underscores the commitment of natural bodybuilding organizations to promote a level playing field, free from the performance-enhancing drugs that have plagued traditional bodybuilding competitions.


The Role of Polygraph Testing

Polygraph tests, often referred to as lie detector tests, measure, and record several physiological indicators such as blood pressure, pulse, respiration, and skin conductivity while the subject is asked and answers a series of questions. In the context of natural bodybuilding, these questions are designed to determine whether an athlete has used banned substances in violation of the competition’s rules.


Unique Challenges

However, administering polygraph tests in the natural bodybuilding arena comes with unique challenges:

Substances on Skin and Hands: Competitors often apply various substances to enhance their appearance on stage, such as oils or tanning products. These substances can potentially affect the skin’s conductivity, leading to unreliable polygraph results.

Dehydration Techniques: Bodybuilders commonly employ dehydration techniques to enhance muscle definition for competition. This practice can significantly reduce moisture in the fingertips, affecting the accuracy of skin conductivity measurements, a critical component of polygraph tests.

Psychological Pressure: The mental and physical stress of preparing for and participating in a competition can influence an athlete’s physiological responses, potentially complicating the interpretation of polygraph results.


Ethical and Practical Considerations

The use of polygraph tests in natural bodybuilding raises several ethical and practical considerations:

Accuracy and Reliability: To ensure the integrity and reliability of polygraph examinations in the context of natural bodybuilding competitions and other areas, it is imperative that these are conducted under strict quality standards, as established by the ASTM E52 Committee, American Polygraph Association, and Europolygraph.

An examiner who is a member of the APA or Europolygraph will not conduct more than four diagnostic tests or three expert examinations in a day, and no more than five examinations of any type in a day.

When administered under appropriate conditions, the polygraph can offer up to 98% reliability in tests with 4 relevant questions.

However, in mass screenings conducted in 20 or 30 minutes with batteries of 10 or 12 questions, the reliability would be comparable to that of chance.

Pressure on Athletes: Knowing that they must undergo a polygraph test can add psychological pressure to competitors, in addition to the stresses of competition and preparation.

Commitment to Fairness: Despite potential limitations, the use of polygraph tests reflects the commitment of natural bodybuilding organizations to maintain the sport’s integrity. It sends a strong message against the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Irregularities in the Administration of Polygraph Tests

Beyond the irregularities some athletes may incur, there are more concerning ones affecting the organizers of natural bodybuilding events.

Some athletes describe that polygraph tests are administered in a significantly shorter span than recommended by leading industry associations, such as the American Polygraph Association (APA) and Europolygraph, raising serious ethical and legal concerns. Here we offer a detailed explanation to inform athletes about this issue:

The American Polygraph Association (APA) and Europolygraph set clear limits on the number of exams a polygraph examiner can effectively perform in a day, aiming to maintain the quality and integrity of the results. These limitations are based on the understanding that the effectiveness of a polygraph exam depends not only on the technology used but also on the physical and mental state of the examiner, as well as their ability to dedicate sufficient time and attention to each case. Summary of the known regulations so far:

American Polygraph Association (APA)

The APA recommends that a polygraph examiner not conduct more than five investigative-type polygraph exams per day. This recommendation considers the need to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the exams, allowing adequate time for preparation, the exam itself, and subsequent data analysis. The polygraph examination process is extensive and involves several phases, including the pre-test interview, data collection phase, and post-test analysis. Conducting more than five exams in a day could compromise the quality of the exam and the examiner’s ability to detect important nuances in the subject’s responses.



Europolygraph, similar to the APA, establishes guidelines to ensure ethical and professional practice in administering polygraph tests. While specific recommendations may vary depending on their policy updates, the organization generally aligns with international standards aiming to limit the number of exams performed per day by a single examiner to maintain the integrity of the process.


Reasoning Behind the Limitations

The limitations imposed by these organizations are based on several key factors:

Examiner fatigue: Conducting polygraph exams is mentally demanding and requires high concentration. Fatigue can decrease the examiner’s effectiveness in detecting deception.

Quality over quantity: Limiting the number of exams ensures that each test is conducted with due diligence and attention to detail.

Consistency and reliability: Reducing the number of daily exams helps maintain consistency in test administration and result interpretation.

Professional ethics: These practices aim to protect the credibility of the polygraph exam as a forensic tool and ensure it is used fairly and ethically in natural bodybuilding sports competitions.


Key Information About Polygraph Tests

Polygraph tests, when conducted correctly, require a minimum of 90 minutes. This time is necessary to ensure the accuracy of the results, allowing for an adequate pre-exam interview, explanation of the procedure, administration of the test itself, and then interpretation of the results. The American Polygraph Association (APA) and Europolygraph establish these times as part of their standards to ensure that the exams are fair, accurate, and reliable.


Fraud in the Administration of Polygraph Tests

If competition organizers are knowingly reducing the time of polygraph tests to save costs or time, while simultaneously hiding information about recommended practice standards, this could be interpreted as an act of bad faith or even fraud. The intentional manipulation of tests to produce inaccurate results or the deliberate omission of critical information to participants undermines the integrity of the competition and violates fundamental ethical principles.

Problems with Abbreviated Tests

When polygraph tests are conducted in 20 or 30 minutes, much of the standard procedure is omitted, inevitably leading to inaccurate or controversial results. These abbreviated tests cannot provide a detailed assessment of the individual’s physiological responses to the questions asked, increasing the risk of false positives or false negatives.


Consequences for Athletes

Injustice: Athletes may be unfairly accused of doping based on inaccurate results, affecting their career and reputation.

Misinformation: The lack of transparency and concealment of standards by organizers can lead athletes to accept the results without questioning their validity.

Loss of Opportunities: Incorrect results can exclude competent athletes from awards, recognition, and career advancement.


Steps for Athletes to Follow

Education: Learn about the practice standards for polygraph tests as established by the APA and Europolygraph.

Questions: Before undergoing a polygraph, ask examiners about professional accreditation (which association they belong to) and ensure standardized processes and times are met.

Complaint: If tests are suspected of not meeting ethical standards, consider reporting these practices to relevant associations or seeking legal advice.

Informing athletes about these practices and their rights can help protect their careers and ensure a fairer and more transparent playing field in natural bodybuilding competitions.”



Polygraph testing in natural bodybuilding represents an innovative approach to ensuring the sport remains true to its principles of health, fairness, and equality. While not without challenges, it is part of a broader strategy to combat the use of banned substances, ensuring that victories are earned through hard work, discipline, and dedication to natural athleticism. The ongoing refinement of testing methods and ethical considerations will continue to shape the future of natural bodybuilding competitions.