Written by Peter McGough & Photography by Per Bernal
12 October 2016


The Victor Martinez Story

His Trials, Tribulations & Triumphs



Victor Martinez won his pro card in 2000 and is one of the longest established competitors on the scene. He’s enjoyed a great competitive career but offstage he has endured more drama than the complete series of The Sopranos. Within this two-parter we re-visit his past heartaches; discover how he emerged stronger and more resilient after each episode; and why no one would ever, ever, nickname him “Lucky”.


 Dateline, Friday April 27, 2012: Jacob K. Javits Federal Building, New York City.

 As he stood in the immigration court Victor Martinez knew that his torrid life had reached its most crucial make-or-break crossroads. In his 38 years on this earth he had faced many previous major traumas. For the most part he had overcome each challenge, albeit that each hurdle had bequeathed him emotional baggage that would accompany him all his days. So here he was at 9.25am this April morning, having been incarcerated for the past seven months, standing before a judge who would decide whether he was to be set free or deported to the land of his birth, the Dominican Republic. If he was deported his career as a pro bodybuilder would virtually be over, as he would never be able to compete on US soil again. But more than that he would lose contact with the four children he had fathered in the States. The judge was berating him for the 2000 felony that had brought him to this place. The defendant’s mind was full of dark thoughts but as he absorbed the judge’s admonishment, intermingled with thoughts of his children and fatherhood, it slowly dawned on Victor that he had been here before, that something almost magical, kind of otherworldly and spiritual was happening ………………….



 Victor Martinez was born on July 29, 1973 in San Francisco de Macoris in the Dominican Republic. His birthplace is a town of 175,000 souls described as an “isolated paradise” due to its valley location rendering it free from the hurricanes and extremely hot weather that affects the rest of the island. Until he was six, Victor lived in the suburb of Campo, which is basically a farming community.

 He recalls those days, “The main noise you heard was roosters crowing. I spent a lot of time with my grandpa who would cut sugar cane and I would go round with him when he delivered milk from a horse-drawn cart. I went to a small school and my sister had to bribe me with a banana to attend. The big thing was going to the Jaya River to swim and fish.”

 A few years earlier his father had relocated to New York to prepare for the rest of the family (which eventually comprised a wife, seven daughters and two sons) to follow him. In the summer of 1979, the family joined him in Washington Heights, which is in northern Manhattan.

 Our subject explains the transition: “One day I’m running around a farm in bare feet and then next thing you know I’m wearing clunky shoes and walking around the streets of a big city looking up in awe at the skyscrapers. Me and four of my sisters shared one bedroom. A few years later we upgraded big time to have two bedrooms between us – that was grandiose.”

 Victor speaks warmly of his mother, “She was a typical mother, very kind, very comforting and nurturing.” In quieter moments he will tell you that one of his most heartbreaking experiences was, “Losing my mother and not being able to say goodbye. She was in Dominican Republic. She had cancer but never told me how bad it was. It was August 2006, a month before the Olympia, and I never got to say I love you before she died.”

 His relationship with his father was different. When they moved to New York Victor was six and his dad was in his fifties. “He didn’t communicate much with me: I never had a deep conversation with him. He worked in the kitchen at Woolworth’s and I know he was frustrated about making ends meet. The main communication we had was through his fists. If I came home an hour late, he would beat me; earn a bad grade he would beat me. I was like a human punching bag.”

 As a teenager Victor vowed that if he ever had kids he would never be like his Dad. “I wanted to be their mentor. I didn’t want my kids to learn stuff from their friends or through TV the way I did. Learning through trial and error on the streets is not a good way to get educated. I didn’t have a Dad who said, ‘Look son, don’t do it that way, here’s how you should do it’. He just waited for me to screw up and then face the repercussions of him beating me.”

 Tired of the beatings Victor left home at 17 to fend for himself. However, when Victor’s father became terminally ill in 2008, it was the human punch bag who looked after him in his final months. Of his father’s last days he says, “We never brought up our previous relationship. There’s an old saying, ‘Put the baby to sleep.’”



 The year 2000 was a tumultuous one for Victor, in which he rode a roller coaster of highs and lows. He had set his heart on becoming a firefighter for the FDNY (Fire Department of New York). “I’m an adrenaline junkie. I loved the thought of running into a burning building and coming out with a man, woman or child in my arms. It must be a great feeling to save the life of another human being.”

 By late March of that year he had completed all the physical and written tests and was awaiting notification of whether he had been accepted by the FDNY. The holder of a green card, he was also going through the process of petitioning for US citizenship. At that point he had no thought that he was good enough to become a pro bodybuilder, although he was preparing to contest the Junior USAs in Hackensack, New Jersey on April 29. He duly won the heavyweight and overall titles. Shortly afterward he received notification that out of the tens of thousands of applicants he was not one of the 900 chosen by the FDNY that year. From the peak of his USA victory followed the trough of rejection. (Reflecting on those 900 accepted it’s a sobering thought to wonder how many rushed to the World Trade Center a year later on 9/11.) To lift his spirit’s his trainer Victor Munoz suggested he enter that year’ NPC Nationals being held on his New York doorstep in November.

 On the evening of June 13, 2000, there was a knock on his door. It was a knock that would alter his life forever and nearly ruin his career. It was knock that would continue its rat-a-tat-tat reverberations for nearly 12 years. Opening the door Victor was greeted by the sight of a squad of New York’s finest flashing a warrant to search his apartment.   The reason for their visit was that a few weeks previously Victor had sold some steroids to a younger bodybuilder, who then got into trouble and was found with the steroids on his person when arrested. He in turn told the police Victor had sold them to him.   Searching Victor’s apartment the cops found steroids and some party drugs and he was charged with possession and distribution of banned substances. Victor wasn’t a dealer he was just helping out the younger guy, but that favor was the touch paper that ignited his 12-year nightmare.

 Due to the charge he had to abandon his application for US citizenship. The case dragged on for three years. Victor would not plead guilty because he wasn’t a dealer and a conviction to the distribution charge would have meant extradition. Because his lawyer voiced concerns that the search warrant had not been properly administered, the DA, in December 2003 offered the deal that if Victor pled guilty to a lesser charge he would just do three months in jail. He agreed and was locked up for 90 days through to February 2004. But the conviction was a felony and a non-US citizen with a felony rap would at some point be put before an immigration court to be considered for deportation. It can take years before the immigration authorities decide to haul someone into court. Why the delay is unclear, but like a badly constructed parking lot it seems wrong on so many levels. Whatever, for Victor that crucial court date would not take place until April 27, 2012.



 Following that June 2000 knock on the door Victor still went ahead with his Nationals plans and lo and behold he won the heavyweight and overall titles and earned a pro card. Next thing you know he’s jetting west to LA to discuss an endorsement deal with Joe Weider. He recalls the meeting; “I went into his office with those big googly eyes we all have when we get ready to meet Joe for the first time.”

 The new National champ was on top of the world as he looked ahead to joining the Weider stable. But for whatever reason it never transpired, and the world of the hopeful signee came crashing down with long-term effects. “I had the Master Blaster look at me and nothing happened. I always had a doubt about being pro material and not being signed made me think, ‘Am I truly just not good enough?’ It affected me, pulled me down and my first two years as a pro were not that good.”

 Indeed, highly touted coming out of the Nationals, his placings in his first three pro contests were as follows: 2001, 8th Night of Champions; 2002, 9th Ironman, 13th Arnold Classic. Then at the 2003 Night of Champions the real Victor Martinez showed up and stormed to victory. The astute Steve Blechman swiftly signed him to a contract and it was the best thing that ever happened in Victor’s career. In doing so he gained a lifelong friend. He’s been with Steve ever since and MD’s main honcho has stood by and supported him through all his ensuing troubles. Steve also brokered the lucrative deal Between Victor and Gerard Dente’s MHP (Maximum Human Performance) supplement company that has been in place since 2005. In retrospect not signing with Weider actually worked out best in the long run for Victor.



 Victor’s biggest competitive disappointment was finishing runner-up to Jay Cutler at the 2007 Olympia. It was a result that was roundly criticized, with the majority thinking the Dominican Republic had produced its first Mr. Olympia. To say he was merely miffed is like saying Beluga caviar is just fish eggs. Even today he will tell you, “I had it. I knew I had it. I think Jay knew I had it. People backstage were telling me I had it. I could almost feel the Sandow in my hands and then I looked and Jay was holding it. I was sick to my stomach.”

 Defusing his temper, because that’s the kind of guy he is, he turned the loss into a gain by using it as a positive energy source to fire him up to come back the next year with all guns (both 22s) blazing. He would feed off the groundswell of opinion that saw him as People’s Champion, and return to take what had been denied him in 2007.

 On January 16, 2008, six weeks prior to him defending his Arnold Classic title, Victor saw a cop about to slap a ticket on his car. He ran toward him, slipped and ruptured the left patellar tendon in his knee. He’d felt a slight twinge in that joint the day before while doing lunges but brushed it aside. It was a serious and career threatening injury and right then and there the 2008 Sandow slipped from his grasp.

 He had extensive surgeries. His doctors told him it would be 18 months before he could think of competing again. But the stricken pro targeted the 2009 Arnold, 12 months hence, for his return. During his prep every gym movement invoked pain (in fact it was to be over two years before he trained pain-free) and onstage flexing his left thigh was very near agonizing. He finished a valiant runner-up to Kai Greene. But the greater defeat was the knowledge that he wasn’t as good as he could have been if he hadn’t sustained the knee injury. “I had such big hopes for 2008. I would take the Arnold and then beat Jay at the Olympia. The momentum was with me and it definitely was a big opportunity missed due to the injury. Damn! Why didn’t I just let the cop give me a ticket?”


In Part 2, to be posted next Tuesday, July 28, we cover the brutal murder of Victor’s sister, how he was arrested and incarcerated for seven months by the Immigration authorities and how his case was finally resolved.