MMA must change as doping policies puncture the faith

Daniel Herbertson Columnist

By , Daniel Herbertson is a Roar Expert

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    Anderson Silva is headed for a middleweight showdown. (AP Photo/Las Vegas Sun/LE Baskow)

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    In case you haven’t noticed, mixed martial arts has a bit of a drug problem.

    In the past two months we’ve learned that Anderson Silva used two kinds of anabolic steroids to springboard his comeback from injury, Jon Fitch combated Father Time by artificially upping his testosterone, and Jon Jones’ drug of choice is cocaine whereas Nick Diaz continues to favour marijuana.

    These recent months are not an anomaly though. In the short time that we’ve seen any level of respectable testing in the UFC, we’ve seen an alarming, continuous stream of offenders.

    In fact, Silva, the former UFC middleweight champion, is an excellent example of how deep the issue is. Out of the 16 men that he has faced in his UFC career, nine of them have tested positive for elevated testosterone, performance enhancing drugs, banned substances or had the controversial and now banned therapeutic use exemption for testosterone replacement therapy.

    Anderson Silva’s positive test is particularly painful though. It was only last week when we were waxing lyrical about his inspirational, legendary career but now we’re left wondering if the whole thing was a lie. It’s a knife in the stomach for MMA fans.

    Regardless of what excuse we hear from Silva’s camp – tainted supplements, irresponsible doctors and questionable testing procedures are always popular – we are at a watershed moment. MMA is rotten to the core and needs to change.

    Jones’ coke habit doesn’t do much to help his profile or the image of the sport, but the real issue in MMA is with performance enhancing drugs.

    We have two options. We either continue trying to regulate with more and more vigorous testing, hoping that stiffer fines and suspensions will discourage further use, or we admit defeat and legalise PEDs.

    Personally, it is my belief that PEDs should be legalised, regulated and available to the general public through prescription and thus, be allowed for most sports.

    We could all benefit from a higher quality of life into old age, faster injury recovery and improved performance. There certainly can be undesirable side-effects associated with PED use, but research, legality and education would go a long way towards making them negligible.

    However, PEDs simply cannot be legal in sports where the goal is to inflict damage on your opponent. The risks of bodily and brain injuries and the development of pugilistic dementia are already significant enough without unnaturally faster, stronger athletes delivering the blows.

    It’s clear that the current suspensions – typically six to 12 months – and fines -generally around $2500 to the commission plus the loss of any bonuses – are not sufficient deterrents.

    The career setback caused by testing positive for PEDs must be significantly more than the setback caused by a loss, otherwise the gamble is justifiable. The fines must be larger than the purse, otherwise PEDs could be considered a risk worth taking.

    If governing bodies are confident in their banned substances policies and testing procedures, why not ban offenders for multiple years and fine them their entire purse, or even more? Why aren’t multiple time offenders banned for life?

    Surely penalties such as these would quickly clean up the sport and cause all career-conscious athletes to reconsider taking banned substances.

    The ‘slap on the wrist’ nature of the suspensions and fines we are currently imposing are only ruining the sport and placing clean fighters at risk.

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