Leave it to a professional wrestler to be the voice of reason when it comes to steroids and PED use in MMA. CM Punk, born into the world as Phillip Brooks, has trained in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the past and follows MMA. He’s famously friends with UFC middleweight contender Chael Sonnen and has graced the “Gracie Breakdown” videos from Rener and Ryron Gracie discussing BJJ. Punk tweeted that “I didn’t know what I was putting in my body” is the new “my phone got hacked” almost immediately after Alistair Overeem’s farce of a commission appointment. It was the sanest statement in a day filled with general craziness.
Nevada, which is held up as the gold standard of regulation, essentially gave the former K-1 World Grand Prix champion a pass and seemed almost apologetic for having to punish him. This was a money decision, nothing more, as Overeem’s next fight in the state will most likely be a fairly substantially grossing one. The UFC, which has generally passed off regulation onto the states as opposed to taking it into their own hands, is in the midst of a dilemma.
How do they handle what seems to be a rampant problem of PED abuse in the sport? Right now it seems to be the Wild West when it comes to usage. Right now all you have to do is make sure you monitor your cycle correctly and monitor drug half lives and the UFC is essentially turning a blind eye to the situation. As long as you don’t get caught seems to be the motif; they do require testing up front in order to get a contract, which is a good start. There’s no simple solution, unfortunately, as in any sport everyone is always going to try and get an edge through any means possible. But the UFC has an easy solution to this nightmare that Overeem has put them in. Two solutions, actually, and they’re not mutually exclusive.
Institute a random testing program through an independent third party …. and make examples of anyone who gets caught.
While Dana White discusses the impracticality of testing the near 400 fights under contract, programs like VADA (Voluntary Anti-Doping Association) have stated that a program to randomly test the organization could be run for under $3 million. As much as Dana White wants to pass the buck onto overworked and underfunded athletic commissions, and lose his temper and discuss why people are idiots who use PEDs to get ahead, the bottom line is that by actively avoiding being an industry leader the UFC has in a way encouraged their use.
While other sports leagues have things like collective bargaining agreements with unions that allow them to test year around, the UFC has an easy way of putting this into action: Require year round testing with an independent third party using World Anti-Doping Agency standards run by a contracted, independent third party. Make it a condition of employment and users will either get caught or stop; you can use contractual enforcements and have positive results reported to the athletic commission where the fighter resides or the State of Nevada for internationally based fighters.
Fighters won’t use if they think they’ll get caught and if commissions aren’t willing to do more than the bare minimum, which is what Nevada did, PED use in MMA will only continue.
By refusing to punish fighters in addition to what the commission levies down for positive tests, and by not trying to find or create a system like VADA that could be cost controlled to a much greater degree, the UFC has sent one main message to everyone involved. “It’s ok to use, just don’t get caught.” It’s akin to the military’s failed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. The UFC can talk about being heavily regulated, etc, but by pushing off testing onto a third party (in this case the athletic commission) it’s shirking a responsibility they have as a legitimate sport. In a way it’s almost encourage their use; by saying that they don’t have the means to test and pushing it off to the athletic commission they are in a way being willfully blind.
It’s one thing to discourage their use and running events with an athletic commission everywhere they go; that is something that has to be a bare minimum. But in essence they are allowing out of competition use by not testing unless someone is fighting; Overeem’s nine month suspension came with no drug testing requirements and he’ll only have to test again by the end of the year. He could be using synthetic testosterone and come in ever more muscular than he has been in the past with no one being the wiser.
Until the UFC takes an active role in getting rid of PEDs from MMA, instead of passing the buck, the problem will continue to plague the sport. It’s a necessary expense that needs to start being paid; for too long the problem has been passed off onto others. Alistair Overeem’s removal from UFC 146 caused them plenty of problems on many levels but things like this will continue to happen until Zuffa becomes more actively involved. Merely pointing to the athletic commissions is not good enough anymore; Roger Goodell would be crucified if he passed the buck on PED use in the NFL like Dana White and company have. For MMA to enter the mainstream this has to happen.
Tags: Alistair Overeem, Mixed Martial Arts