Did Rulon Gardner break his contract to Skip the Biggest Loser finale?

When Rulon Gardner left The Biggest Loser abruptly in the middle of the season even though he seemed to be poised to win the competition, I wasn’t as surprised as a lot of folks out there. And, once Rulon started talking and acting like he might try to make a comeback in competitive Greco-Roman wrestling, it made perfect sense to me for him not to want to go below his competition weight. The Biggest Loser prize money is big, but it probably doesn’t compare to the endorsement income he could make from a wrestling comeback. But, Rulon’s decision not to show up for the Biggest Loser finale feels different. Rude, even.

At the beginning of every season of the show, there are a fair handful of contestants who are clearly motivated by the money. But, about halfway through, 100% say that it is all about the weight loss. Could they be trying to say what we want to hear? Sure. Could they have a better sense of the income opportunities that have opened to them just for being on the show. Of course.

The point is, though, that Rulon is not at all unique for saying that the show wasn’t about the money for him. So, why didn’t he show up at the finale? Although I don’t know exactly what it is, my nose tells me that something is going on with Rulon and The Biggest Loser producers. Why would a man who makes his living doing public appearances forego the opportunity to get his face into several million homes for the live finale? Why would a guy who hopes to bring attention and prominence to his Olympic sport, pass up a chance to promote it on national television? It just doesn’t add up.

And it gets worse. In a recent interview with USA Today, Rulon takes a couple of shots at the show. They are not low blows, but why is Rulon saying anything but nice things about the show that he credits with giving him his life back? Why bother to say that “Reality TV is not reality?” We know that. Why say out of one side of his mouth that he is grateful to the show for helping him make a life altering change, and out of the other side say that “he had moved on” by the time of the finale?

And, are there legal issues regarding this matter? What do Biggest Loser contestants owe to the show, contractually and ethically? Surely, one of the reasons that Rulon was selected was his prominence as an Olympic athlete, prominence that the producers wanted to convert into interest for The Biggest Loser. Shouldn’t Rulon have some obligation (legal or otherwise) to show up at the finale and finish what he started?

I am guessing that Rulon is navigating stormy seas with the Biggest Loser producers, and I have to say that I am not sorry. I do not know whether he shirked any actionable responsibilities to skip the finale, but I do know that it was tacky. Bad form, Rulon. Very bad form.