Alistair Overeem, Strikeforce heavyweight champion, K1 champion, Dream heavyweight champion and number one contender for the UFC heavyweight championship is in the middle of a firestorm brought completely upon himself.
It isn't news anymore; people have speculated ever since Overeem made the move to heavyweight, and their speculation was founded yesterday. The dutch heavyweight tested positive for increased testosterone levels as reported by MMAjunkie.com yesterday afternoon.
In light of this news, the heavyweight showdown between Overeem and current champion Junior Dos Santos is all but off for UFC 146 this coming May 26.
As a fan, I couldn't be more disappointed. Being of Dutch heritage, I've always pulled for Alistair and his inclusion in the UFC. After many years it finally happened despite looking like it was never meant to be. Sadly, Overeem could be leaving the UFC as fast as he came. It's sad, not because he wouldn't deserve to be cut, but because of all the fans that were looking up to him as a pillar in the UFC heavyweight division.
In any case, if he is cut by the UFC, one has to ask, what is the UFC's policy on dealing with fighters who don't pass their drug tests?
I believe in equal competition and am the first person to say that the best possible drug testing should be used in all sports to maintain a level playing field. Guys who cheat shouldn't get a second chance without having to work very hard for it.
That being said, it will be interesting to see how the UFC handles Overeem's case compared to others who have cheated in the past, particularly Chael Sonnen and Thiago Silva.
After hearing the news, UFC President Dana White was understandably beside himself to say the least.
"I am beyond pissed," White told Canadian media during a conference call. "It doesn’t look good, does it? It doesn’t look good," White said about Overeem's future with the UFC.
Now I am all for making an example out of a cheater and cutting him from the UFC. My only questions are: Why is Chael Sonnen still in the UFC and fighting for the middleweight title in Brazil against Anderson Silva? And why is Thiago Silva headlining UFC on Fuel TV 2 in Sweden against Alexander Gustaffson?
Sonnen, after taking Anderson Silva to the brink of defeat in their title fight at UFC 117 in August, 2010, tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone. The California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) released the results almost a month after the fight.
Sonnen tried to appeal, citing medically approved testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) as the cause for his elevated levels but to no avail. The middleweight was suspended from action for what was supposed to be one year but was later reduced to six months—only to be moved back up to one year after he plead guilty to money laundering.
Some people called for the UFC to take more action against Sonnen and other cheaters, but the UFC felt differently.
Dana White told Ariel Helwani of MMAfighting.com the following when asked about having a zero tolerance policy for performance enhancing drugs in the UFC:
The government comes in and takes away your ability to make a living for a year or whatever it is. Then on top of that the money that you made in that fight, they are gonna fine you, which many guys already have that money spent or whatever. This test came out a month later, Chael Sonnen I'm sure has been out making some moves, plus he has to pay taxes on that money and now he has to pay a fine and the public stigma now and everything else. I mean what more could you do to a guy? What more could you do to a guy?
In the case of Thiago Silva, the Brazillian fighter didn't test positive for anything, in fact it was impossible for him to test positive because he submitted non-human urine for his drug test prior to his fight against Brandon Vera. In fact, Vera was cut from the UFC for losing to Silva but brought back in once it was discovered that Silva cheated.
In both cases, the fighters remain in the UFC despite their shortcomings in pre-fight drug tests. Not only do they remain in the UFC, but they also find themselves in pretty good positions.
Nate Marquardt on the other hand was cut after testing positive for elevated testosterone, but it wasn't his first offense.
Maybe it makes sense to give guys the benefit of the doubt on their first offense; everyone makes a mistake, and if that is the UFC's stance on the issue then so be it.
However, if they do decide to cut Overeem after the current debacle, where was his second chance? Despite all the speculation, the Dutchman never tested positive before in his athletic career.
There is, however, one thing that Overeem has in common with Marquardt that he doesn't have in common with Sonnen or Silva. Overeem's positive test will likely result in the cancellation of the biggest fight of 2012 thus far—leaving the UFC scrambling to find another marquee opponent for Dos Santos to defend his title against. Just as Marquardt's positive test resulted in the cancellation of his scheduled bout with Rick Story just one day before the event.
In the cases of Silva and Sonnen, their positive test results were only released after the fights had long been decided.
Silva and Sonnen hurt their own reputation along with the UFC's, but they never cost the UFC an event in the way that Marquardt did or Overeem may.
I'm sure Overeem will be allowed to plead his case, and depending on what he has to say, he may still have a place in the UFC, but I won't hold my breath.
On the other hand, with the controversy surrounding TRT and performance enhancing drugs and the UFC's increased visibility with the Fox television deal, I could understand the UFC wanting to set an example. If this is the case though, all first time offenders should suffer the same fate in order to really set a precedent.
Should the UFC simply set a zero tolerance policy for performance enhancing drugs?
There are still lot of details yet to be released on Overeem's situation; in fact, the media and fans haven't had a chance to hear from Overeem himself. This is a story to watch closely as it develops since there are a lot of loose ends, and it will be interesting to see how everything shakes out.
Hopefully there was a major mistake in the testing, but I think it's safe to say that it's a very unlikely possibility.