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BODYBUILDER IS ON TOP OF THE WORLD

Doug Rieser probably won't be starring in any films like "Kindergarten Cop" or "Jingle All the Way." And he definitely won't be marrying into the Kennedy clan.

But he does have his sights set on one career achievement of Arnold Schwarzenegger: winning the "Mr. Universe" crown a staggering five times.

One down and four to go.

Two weeks ago, Rieser -- the former Lancaster boxer, wrestler and football player -- earned the "Mr. Universe" title by winning the heavyweight division of the World Federation of Natural Bodybuilding championship in Antwerp, Belgium.

"Before this competition, all I said was this is going to be my last competition, win or lose," Rieser, 34, said in his parents' Lancaster home Saturday. "But I still have that competitive urge. Now I want to see how close I can come to Arnold's record."

Rieser, who recently moved to Waycross, Ga., with his young family, has several reasons for emulating Schwarzenegger. For one thing, they have about the same frame and height -- considerably taller than the typically short, squat bodybuilders. Rieser is 6 feet 2 1/2 inches, about 260 pounds.

More importantly, Rieser has become almost a crusader against the drug-enhancing side of bodybuilding. He even retired from the sport over that issue in 1993 and wants to be a poster boy for drug-free bodybuilding.

"I think it is about time that our sport, once again, became synonymous with health and fitness," he explained. "We need role models who are educated, health-conscious, well-balanced individuals with a commitment to achieving success in all aspects of life."

That's why Rieser has so much admiration for Schwarzenegger, who changed the image of bodybuilding.

"They were considered freaks, like a circus act," he said.

"He (Schwarzenegger) brought a lot of credibility to the sport. He was very competitive and he wanted to get to the top of bodybuilding, but he also had a lot of other goals."

How did Rieser move to the top of that world, winning this year's "Mr. Universe" competition and the "Mr. America" title last year?

He played football and wrestled at Lancaster High School, but he excelled at boxing, winning a state Golden Gloves crown in 1979. While attending the University at Buffalo, he got heavily involved in lifting weights, with an eye on bodybuilding competition.

Rieser didn't have to look far for a role model. His father, Fritz, now 75, was a bodybuilder, gymnast and World War II paratrooper.

"When I first started working out, I had the desire to compete," the younger Rieser said. "In the back of my head, I wanted to be Mr. Universe. I wanted to be Arnold."

Then his competitive juices took him to the top. "For me, whatever I do, I want to be the best at it," he said. "That's my competitive nature."

Rieser, who has an undergraduate degree in psychology from UB, moved out of Western New York with his wife and four children about three years ago. He now works as a personal fitness trainer and has his eye on a law-enforcement career in Georgia. On a weekend visit to his parents and in-laws, he talked about his sport.

While bodybuilding still has a bit of a mindless image, it's actually a very scientific sport, he explained.

"In the last week of preparation, you try to reach a peak condition that you can only reach for a few hours," Rieser said.

That means cutting out carbohydrates at the beginning of that final week, to burn and deplete the body's sugar. Then late in the week, the bodybuilder loads up on carbohydrates. The body compensates by overloading the muscles with extra sugar, in case another "famine" hits.

The athlete also has to dehydrate himself, forcing the water from the skin into the muscles, so the muscles appear thicker and the skin appears thinner.

"It takes a lot to trick your body into holding that condition for a couple hours," Rieser said.

Rieser also knows how to let go. He has seen other bodybuilders give up relationships, schooling and jobs to pursue the sport. He has seen some of them become obsessed.

"I know bodybuilders who are afraid to walk around a mall, because they'll burn too many calories and possibly lose muscle," he said.

Not Rieser.

He will eat a pizza with his wife, Donna, and their kids -- Brianne, 12; Samantha, 10; Shane, 8; and Chelsie, 6. He lifts weights only one hour a day, five days a week, although he does added aerobic work. And he's not afraid to skip a workout when the real world intrudes on his training schedule.

"I feel I became more successful when I relaxed and did it more for fun," he said. "It was no longer an obsession. I still live a normal life."

His wife and high-school sweetheart, the former Donna Kicak, can attest to that.

"I've seen him go from a thin boxer to Mr. Universe," she said. "But he's still the same guy."

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