The use of performance-enhancing drugs in mixed martial arts is a major problem. Fighters have long since thrown out guesses as to the percentage of abusers in the sport, and it was never a low guess. We have been subjected to the laundry list of excuses spewed after positive tests: I was fighting an injury, I did not know what I was taking, I was just trying to level the playing field.
The excuses are just that. Excuses. It is an insult to our intelligence.
Some gyms are better than others, some coaches are better than others, and sometimes the opposing fighter is a better athlete. If the fighter wants to overcome the disadvantages it is on his or her choices in preparation. That is no more a legitimate reason for PED usage than “everyone else is doing it."
PED users are not looking to level the playing field for themselves, they are looking for a shortcut. It is an asinine excuse used by cheaters looking for the easy road to the top.
The “playing field” is already level, or at least as level as it can ever be.
When athletes step in the cage or ring they wear the same four-ounce gloves on their fists that their opponents do. They all have the same legal, approved supplements and equipment available to them. It is up to the athlete to seek out and utilize the tools that surround them for their benefit.
Athletes who take the illegal substances are searching for answers that only hard work can answer. There is not a pill on the market that can teach you how to strike more effectively or a new submission, and that is ultimately what this sport boils down to: technique.
I am not saying PEDs do not help fighters. I would have to be ignorant, or flat-out stupid, to believe that. As Kenny Florian said on UFC Tonight, “PEDs allow you to train longer, harder and recover faster.”
My point is that they will never mask technical or mental deficiencies. PEDs simply highlight the fighters who are not confident in their abilities to overcome their shortcomings on their own.
I cannot speculate on who has taken PEDs in the past. I can only focus on who has been busted by the athletic commissions to date, and the list is hardly filled to the brim with the most talented fighters to grace the game. Not to say that there are not a few champions on the list.
Much like other sports, it is the fringe athletes that are abusing the system as they look for a way to get over the hump and into the “big leagues” of their sport of choice.
I will end by saying this: It is naive to suggest that there is not a problem of PED usage in the sport, but it is also naive on the part of these cheaters to think taking illegal substances will exponentially make them a better fighter. The shortcut is not the way to find success. Somewhere down the line they will be busted and it will tarnish their entire career.
The risk is not worth the reward, especially with the advancements made in training across the board. They are only hurting their own careers by partaking. Want to level the playing field for yourself? Identify your weaknesses and work tirelessly to fix them. No PED will ever topple proper technique.