Why Dana White Won't Upgrade the UFC's Drug Testing Program
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According to Michael Schiavello, 99 percent of fighters are using steroids.
With Rampage Jackson and Nate Marquardt admitting to having abnormally high levels of testosterone during training via TRT, it's difficult not to concede that the treatment is an obvious loophole. Fighters are sometimes having difficulty hiding their bad habits and I can name one that didn't even try.
Chael Sonnen fought Anderson Silva at UFC 117 with seemingly no attempt to have his testosterone at a normal level at fight time. His post-fight urine test was 16.9:1, more than four times the California State Athletic Commission limit.
It seems like every few months we have another case of elevated testosterone. Alistair Overeem, along with several other heavyweight fighters participating in UFC 146, were subjected to a surprise urine test a few weeks ago at the press conference for the event. All samples were within normal limits except for Overeem's, which was 14:1.
As this growing problem becomes more prominent in the public eye, the UFC faces more scrutiny from critics. Dana has responded to questioning of the organization's drug testing policies with claims that UFC "athletes are already held to the highest testing standards in all sports by athletic commissions." Dana has also stated that utilizing a system to randomly drug test all of his almost 400-fighter roster would be unrealistic.
But according to Victor Conte, during his interview on MMA Hour, there are multiple feasible and affordable options that the UFC could use to monitor its roster. The main suggestion from Conte is that the UFC hire the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (VADA) for about $1-1.5 million a year. All of the UFC's nearly 400-man roster would be randomly drug tested biannually.
Should the UFC use VADA's program now?
Another suggestion from Conte is the possibility of carbon isotope ratio testing, abbreviated as CIR. CIR testing has the ability to distinguish synthetic testosterone in the urine. Conte claims to understand that no system is perfect, but there is always room for improvement. He believes that the UFC and the athletic commissions should be the ones financing these third-party programs. The organization would essentially be investing in its own legitimacy.
With a system like VADA's, it would make it very difficult to maintain a higher level of testosterone during training and have it within normal ranges at fight time since fighters wouldn't know when they're going to be tested. For what reason could the UFC owners not want to increase the legitimacy of their organization with a relatively cheap drug testing program?
At this point, I think Dana knows his roster would be sacked with the removal of all fighters abusing steroids. The increased standards would theoretically improve the legitimacy of the organization, but may also destroy it since several popular fighters would be suspended of a license to fight for possibly a year or more. Dana may not be completely confident that his entire roster is completely drug free. For this reason, he may not be encouraged to take those extra steps ahead of other major sports leagues.
Once the UFC has an extensive pool of talent at each weight class, they may choose to ramp up their drug testing program, since losing a certain percentage of athletes won't have such a huge negative impact. The UFC is still in a fragile stage, where huge sweeping changes like this could be detrimental.
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