( depressing intro that talks about his attempted suicide using paracetamol removed )
That man is one who, in 2006, was crowned Mr Universe. Although in the darkest days his weight shrank to 11st, Sinton in his prime was 17st of bulging muscle and posing pouch on a mission to fulfil a 30-year dream by emulating his uncle Ian Lawrence. Growing up in Kelso, Sinton used to visit the winner of the 1974 contest and was beguiled by row upon row of glinting trophies in his house.
“I was in awe of him because to me he was a superstar,” Sinton says. “But I knew when I was six years old that I was going to be Mr Universe just like him. While other kids were reading the Beano and Dandy I was reading bodybuilding magazines.”
Those other kids, though, were unwilling to tolerate such eccentricity. Indeed, the level of abuse he received was such that Sinton’s grandfather asked a reluctant Lawrence to induct the then 13-year-old into bodybuilding. “It gave me a focus,” he admits. “I was brought up by a single parent and I felt like a second-class kid because I was getting bullied at school. I always felt a need to prove myself and bodybuilding gave me a way of dealing with that.”
That thirst for justification has been a constant companion in Sinton’s life. Bodybuilding has, in more ways than one, acted as a crutch for his insecurities and gave him the kind of path through his adolescence that he has latterly attempted to instil in daughters Chelsea and Jade and would wish for his younger children Mirren, Stephen and Ethan.
But not everyone subscribes to the idea of sport as a vehicle for good, particularly when the sport in question is bodybuilding. Clive James’s line about competitors looking like condoms stuffed with walnuts is a wearying, if harmless, quip but more damaging are the prosaic generalisations about drug-taking. Sinton has long been an advocate of natural muscle development – based on 80% nutrition, 10% training and 10% quality relaxation – and, although he accepts that chemical assistance is common, he insists that should not be allowed to detract from the efforts of principled performers.
“You get a lot of guys who, because they’ve maybe not been able to get off their arses and do something with their own lives, will try to put you down,” he explains. “With just one stupid comment about steroids they’ll wipe out 30 years of hard work and cut you down to their level to justify it to themselves.”
The opinions of others have stalked Sinton for some time but the most persistent whispers have not involved drugs. Instead, his ongoing health battles have, given his prominence, become the topic de jour in the bodybuilding village.
“It’s a very fickle sport; people only want to know you when you’re winning things,” he says ruefully. “Everybody has seen me at my worst now and I want to compete again and be better than I’ve ever been, then leave the sport the way I want to leave; not the way other folk want it left. It’s not just proving a point to everyone else; it’s proving a point to myself that I can actually do it.”
Having regained a staggering 3½ stones in the two months since he returned to regular workouts, the journey has already begun and will continue later this month when Sinton leaves Berwickshire for a fresh start in Kirkcaldy. There, he will live and train alongside Lawrence, who is preparing for next year’s over-60s Mr World competition, but he has set strict criteria for a comeback that he believes can culminate in another Mr Universe title.
“I’ll not go on stage unless I’m as good as, or better than, before,” he insists. “But now that I’ve got the mindset back I can get right back to the top and win the title. Every true champion has always got one big fight left in them and I’ve got two or three years yet.”