UFC's Pre-Contract PED Screening Won't Stop Fighters from Cheating

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UFC's Pre-Contract PED Screening Won't Stop Fighters from Cheating

The Nevada State Athletic Commission wasn't the only one with performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) on the mind recently. 

Following the news that Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal tested positive for anabolic steroids after his Jan. 7 fight with Lorenz Larkin, the UFC had some PED news of its own.

Citing a commitment to the health and safety of its athletes, all incoming UFC and Strikeforce fighters will be subject to a mandatory pre-contract screening for PEDs prior to finalizing a contract, effective Jan. 1, 2012. 

Unfortunately, this will likely do little to actually prevent PED use amongst UFC and Strikeforce fighters. Though I commend Zuffa/the UFC on enacting this pro-active policy—something, after all, is at least better than nothing—it is ultimately little more than a nice sounding PR policy.

In fact, this policy is a perfect example of a flawed syllogism that is often cited in IT security, the "Security Syllogism." It goes something like this:

  1. To be secure, we must do something.
  2. We are doing something.
  3. Therefore, we are secure. 

The fact that the minor premise (No. 2) meets the condition of the major premise (No. 1) does not necessitate a logical conclusion. The action taken in the minor premise must actually directly address the problem.

To put it a bit more simply, predictable, well-announced drug tests (such as those established by the UFC policy) allow athletes that may be using PEDs to time the tests and ensure their system is clean prior to being tested.

Only regularly occurring, random, out-of-competition tests will suitably ensure that PED abuse is being curbed. The risk of being tested must be so omnipresent that the only reasonable reaction is to not use banned substances at all.

As Sean McCorkle put it on MMAFighting.com's The MMA Hour, "I think we'd be pretty naive to think that every person who's ever taken anything was caught."

Just because a fighter is tested once or twice at a pre-determined interval doesn't at all mean that they are clean, it just means they didn't have PEDs in their system when they were tested.

What would a good testing system look like? The World Anti-Doping Agency has already done a majority of the legwork for the UFC and major state athletic commissions by drafting and implementing a harmonized set of anti-doping rules, the World Anti-Doping Code.

So, let's see the UFC put their money where their mouth is. Take real, meaningful steps towards eliminating the use of PEDs rather than merely setting up another easily foreseen "hurdle".

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