MMA must change as doping policies puncture the faith

Daniel Herbertson Columnist

By Daniel Herbertson, Daniel Herbertson is a Roar Expert


14 Have your say

    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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    The Crowd Says (14)

    • February 9th 2015 @ 9:46am
      AxeMaster said | February 9th 2015 @ 9:46am | ! Report

      Regardless of this drug problem, I’m not gonna stop watching. Boxing is nearly dead and buried and UFC is the grave digger.

      • February 9th 2015 @ 9:54am
        pjm said | February 9th 2015 @ 9:54am | ! Report

        MMA is evolving into a bit of the homogenized sameness that has struck boxing. It would be good if they went back to their roots and pit different martial arts and fighting styles against each other along side with what MMA is today.

        • Roar Rookie

          February 10th 2015 @ 10:07am
          Squidward said | February 10th 2015 @ 10:07am | ! Report

          It’s hard though because you need to be s complete fighter these days and how do you enforce to staying to a strict discipline

    • February 9th 2015 @ 9:51am
      pjm said | February 9th 2015 @ 9:51am | ! Report

      MMA has always had lax standards though a lot of fighters are on them. You can’t cut weight and be lean and keep a large amount of muscle mass as some of them do.

    • February 9th 2015 @ 10:04am
      nickoldschool said | February 9th 2015 @ 10:04am | ! Report

      All US based sports have a drugs issue whether they are recreational or performance enhancing. I honestly think the wider US public doesnt really care about it, thats why drug testing is a bit of a joke.

      Everyone more or less accepts that such things happen. Being entertained rules and if it means sometimes turning a blind eye so be it.

    • February 9th 2015 @ 7:07pm
      Alex L said | February 9th 2015 @ 7:07pm | ! Report

      If you think any elite level professional athlete isn’t using steroids, you’re deluding yourself, regardless of the sport.

    • February 9th 2015 @ 10:48pm
      IronAwe said | February 9th 2015 @ 10:48pm | ! Report

      I’m all for PED’s. Not like drug testing has prevented anything, it’s rife. Might as well let them use. Even the score across the board and get on with it.

      • February 9th 2015 @ 11:18pm
        damo said | February 9th 2015 @ 11:18pm | ! Report

        I don’t think it will even the score at all, some people will have better access to better drugs, better backing from pharmaceutical sponsors etc etc & we’ll be right back where we started.
        How will a poor kid from the slums of … (name any less developed country), be able to ever get a foothold against opponents from more affluent countries if they can barely afford food, let alone the drugs which make average athletes into super humans ?

        I know what you are driving at, & nutrition, coaching, a stable & safe life etc etc are all performance enhancing to some level, but I fear for human endeavor if the heights we scale are driven by drugs rather than desire.

        If anything, now is the time in our history to really crack down & smash legacies if that is what it takes, so that the standard is set for the future. We want to see people do their best, especially in a one on one sport such as MMA, regardless of how pedestrian they may seem compared to the artificial heroes of yesteryear.

        • February 11th 2015 @ 12:49am
          IronAwe said | February 11th 2015 @ 12:49am | ! Report

          First of all, the athletes from these poorly developed nations are already a step behind because they don’t have access to the same knowledge, science, nutrition and facilities as the wealthier nations.
          Further more, I don’t know if you’ve been to Thailand, Indonesia, Mexico, India etc etc but steroids and PED’s are legal in those countries. You can just walk into any pharmacy and buy them.
          The athletes are already on drugs. Nothing will be changing, except the money spent on trying to catch them could be spent on having a doctor working on harm minimisation.
          Think of all the sports heros. Arnold Swarzeneggar, Ben Johnson, Carl Lewis, Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds, Marion Jones, Jose Conseco, Shane Mosley, the list goes on and on. All of them on PED’s. Wouldn’t we all have been better off if we could have just kept them as heros? Wouldn’t we be better off still having these people to look up to and aspire to? Instead they have been thrown away in disgust. Even though every one of them made humongous achievements and worked their butts off. I find busting them sadder than the fact they cheated. And I honestly believe its only a matter of time before all drugs are legal anyway.

      • Roar Rookie

        February 10th 2015 @ 10:07am
        Squidward said | February 10th 2015 @ 10:07am | ! Report

        I would think about it. But it’s for the athletes own safety not to be using these

        • February 10th 2015 @ 10:17am
          Professor Rosseforp said | February 10th 2015 @ 10:17am | ! Report

          And a person who gets into the ring knowing he could be concussed, broken-boned, paralysed or dead within 60 seconds is concerned about the safety of a medically-monitored drug that may have side effects in 27 years’ time?

          • Roar Rookie

            February 10th 2015 @ 11:54am
            Squidward said | February 10th 2015 @ 11:54am | ! Report

            Or may clot their blood immediately and turn it into slush mud ala EPO

    • Roar Rookie

      February 10th 2015 @ 11:54am
      Squidward said | February 10th 2015 @ 11:54am | ! Report

      Apparently Andersons jan 19 pre fight samples have come back clean?

      • Columnist

        February 10th 2015 @ 2:28pm
        Daniel Herbertson said | February 10th 2015 @ 2:28pm | ! Report

        It’s not surprising that his pre-fight tests yield different results. He was probably planning to cycle off before any tests but they managed to test him too early.

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