UFC: Penn, MacDonald agree to testing, more need to follow suit
Alistair Overeem - juiced up? (Image: UFC)
It really shouldn’t have to come down to BJ Penn challenging Rory MacDonald to do their own independent drug testing in advance of their fight at UFC 152 this September.
Penn, the former UFC lightweight champion, took to Twitter to extend the invite to his Canadian opponent, an offer that was promptly accepted by the emerging 22-year-old welterweight prospect.
The two will work with the Volunteer Anti-Doping Agency (VADA) throughout the build-up to their fight in an effort to show that they each have nothing to hide; that they talents in the cage, and ability to push through in the gym comes from heart and dedication, not synthetic testosterone and steroids.
UFC welterweight Charlie Brenneman raised a good point on the 140-characters-at-time platform on Wednesday afternoon.
From @SpaniardMMA: “The need to institute ur (sic) own drug testing is bogus. Heres an idea, don’t do roids n save urself the hassle. Innocent guys have no need.”
In theory, the bushy-haired NCAA wrestler and former Spanish teacher is absolutely correct; fighter who aren’t using any kind of performance-enhancing drugs shouldn’t need to go out of pocket for additional testing. In an ideal world, this wouldn’t be something we have to worry about at all, but we don’t live in an ideal world.
With various people within the industry estimating the number of fighters using some kind of performance-enhancing substance landing anywhere between 50 and 85 percent, something has to be done.
The various athletic commissions across the United States have already proven that they’re about as useful as a chocolate teapot when it comes to these matters – save for New Jersey, which is the best commission in the business, by far in my opinion – and Dana White has repeatedly said that the UFC won’t be forking out the funding necessary to ensure their roster is randomly tested throughout the year either.
Admittedly, having the UFC administer their own testing is a slippery slope that I wouldn’t want to go down. Not that I don’t trust the UFC to do things properly, but you can bet there would be all kinds of questions and scrutiny surrounding such a practice, and rightfully so.
But where does that leave us?
We’ve got Alistair Overeem putting himself through drug testing every three or four weeks in an effort to clear his name with the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) and the public.
Former TRT poster boy Nate Marquardt is getting off the program, asking that people focus on his upcoming title fight against Tyron Woodley instead of his decision to stop using the treatment that (1) cost him his place in the UFC just over a year ago, and (2) he swore was necessary in order to not only fight, but also maintain his marriage due to the moodiness his low testosterone levels produced in him.
While I’d love to think that more people are following Brenneman’s “Don’t Do Steroids” policy and that additional testing is unnecessary, I’m not that naive, and I don’t think anyone else in the sport should be either.
The unfortunate truth is that there are ways around the testing that is administered by the various state athletic commissions in advance of a fight, and athletes who are using performance-enhancing drugs are generally smart enough (or working with people who are smart enough) to ensure that they’re able to pass their piss test come fight week.
In this day and age, getting caught at a scheduled test is rare. For every fighter that is found to be on some form of PED through a pre-fight or post-fight test, there are surely numerous others who have passed without incident who wouldn’t produce the same results if they were tested randomly.
That’s why I think Overeem’s “I’m going to test myself to prove I’m clean” routine is a nice gesture, but one that is ultimately hollow. There is no way he’s going to fail any of the drug tests he’s set up for himself, but it might be a different story if someone showed up in South Florida one day unannounced ready to collect a sample from the former Strikeforce heavyweight champion.
Though I wish it didn’t have to come down to fighters like Penn issuing MacDonald an open challenge to prove they’re clean, and athletes potentially having to pay for such tests out of pocket, what’s the alternative?
The current climate doesn’t exactly dissuade fighters from using performance-enhancing drugs. Overeem was applauded for his openness by the NSAC, while Chael Sonnen was asked to fill a spot on their TRT committee in the future, and welcomed right back into the mix in the middleweight division when his one-year suspension finally ended. My best guess is that Overeem returns at the top of the list of contenders in the heavyweight ranks once he’s able to return as well.
Seeing that, knowing that beating the scheduled tests isn’t all that much of a challenge, and being pretty sure that the chances of being asked to submit to a random drug test are slim, what’s stopping more athletes from pursuing TRT or rolling the dice with some other PED?
You’d like to think morals, ethics, and integrity are enough, but when the stakes are as high as they are, I don’t know that simple things like right and wrong are enough of a deterrent.
That’s why I applaud Penn and MacDonald for the steps their taking in advance of their upcoming fight, and hope to see more fighters follow suit.
I hope the UFC follows suit in the future too.
Follow The Roar’s UFC Expert E. Spencer Kyte on Twitter (@spencerkyte).