Gym cancels professional bodybuilder's membership

Shashikant Hotkar, winner of the Mumbai Shree 2011 title, was unceremoniously barred from entering the fitness training facility; authorities claim he was trying to promote his private business in the premises

Are you a professional bodybuilder in search of state-of-the-art training equipment? Going by a recent incident, the last place you should look for these amenities is, quite ironically, the gymnasium.

Not just muscle: Shashikant Hotkar helps his mother in making papad
at his Dharavi residence. Pic/ Pradeep Dhivar

Shashikant Hotkar, winner of the coveted Mumbai Shree title for the year 2011, was taken completely by surprise when his membership to Gold's Gym, one of the premier fitness training facilities in the city, was terminated without notice, a few weeks back. The reason the authorities cited for ousting him was even more shocking: he was a 'professional' in the fitness industry.

Hotkar, a resident of Dharavi, enrolled himself in the Bandra branch of the gym on a one-year membership in June this year, paying a hefty sum of Rs 20, 400 to avail of the facilities. He had just been conferred the prestigious title of Mumbai Shree, and wanted to have access to the paraphernalia of fitness available in the well-equipped gym.

In the first week of December, however, Hotkar was taken aback when administrators of the gym asked him to voluntarily withdraw his membership. When he refused to comply, he was stopped at the gym's entrance, and barred from entering the gym premises. An incensed Hotkar (28) said, "I joined the gym in June, after I won the title in March this year. From the first week of December, the officials there started telling me that I was no longer welcome at the gym for my workouts. When I demanded to know on what grounds they had decided to bar my membership, they said that I was ineligible as I was a professional bodybuilder. I requested them to give this to me in writing, assuring them that I would stop frequenting the gym. They kept offering me a refund, but refused to give a written notification. I was stopped at the gym's gate on December 4."

He added, "I joined the gym because they have standard equipment and air conditioning, which helps me tone my physique and train intensively so I can retain my title at the Mumbai Shree 2012. I now have to go to the local gym in Dharavi to work out, where the amenities are not at all up to the mark. They don't even have a treadmill, and the ventilation is poor. I am afraid that I will not be able to complete my preparations in time for next year's competition."

Parag Parulekar, founder of the Maharashtra Fitness Trainers and Bodybuilders Association, said, "I personally went and asked the gym authorities why Hotkar's membership was terminated. They claimed that he could not continue training, as he was a bodybuilder. We asked them to issue a written notification, but they refused to do so."

Rajesh Sawant, treasurer, All India Bodybuilding Association, said, "The fact that Hotkar is a professional in the fitness industry does in no way disqualify him from training in a private gym. Every professional bodybuilder has a right to work out in a gym of his or her choice."

The other side
Althea Shah, vice president of marketing at Gold's Gym, said, "We did not terminate his membership because he was a bodybuilder. We have many international and renowned bodybuilders who come and work out here. But ours is a private company and we have certain rules and regulations. One of our rules dictates that a professional trainer is not allowed in our gym. This is clearly mentioned in our membership form. We do not allow professionals of the fitness industry into our premises. By professional I mean someone who trains others as a profession. Hotkar was training his friends and our other clients inside our gym. External trainers are not allowed to train our customers in the gym. Only the trainers contracted by us are to offer such services. We are no obligated to tender a warning before terminating a membership. We have CCTVs in our gym and can monitor the actions of all our customers." Asked if they would make public the surveillance footage, Shah said, "We reserve the right to not share that with anyone, as that is our property. By training others in the gym, he was basically promoting himself as a private trainer.

He is in the business of selling supplements, and we have a strict policy of not allowing professionals of the same industry into our premises, as it may hamper our own business prospects."

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