If professional MMA has a problem with performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), only a few fighters are willing to speak openly about it.
On the front lines against PEDs, the fighters themselves are the ones that could help clean up the sport.
It’s easy to deny and shrug aside, but there are some problems that need to be handled promptly and efficiently by the UFC and athletic commissions. However, a select few MMA fighters have taken it upon themselves to demand additional testing and speak out against PED use from fellow fighters.
UFC heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos has been very vocal about PEDs, especially after a heavyweight super fight with Alistair Overeem fell through. Overeem failed a drug test and was found with a whopping 14-1 testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio—so he lost his chance to compete for the heavyweight championship, for now.
If a fight between Dos Santos and Overeem is to occur in the future, the current heavyweight champion hopes Overeem agrees to a blood test beforehand.
Here is what Dos Santos said earlier in the month about a potential fight with Overeem, according to Josh Gross of ESPN.com:
“Using drugs is completely unnecessary, and I am the living proof. I'm the champion, and I never used any kind of forbidden substances. Fighting a guy that uses these kinds of drugs is completely unfair and useless. With or without any kind of authorization [for using testosterone], the fighter who uses those substances is never fighting with his own skills. He is enhancing his power with those drugs."
Meanwhile, Overeem, the Dutchman who managed to eliminate himself out of a title shot against Dos Santos, is willing to take random and supervised drug tests at least once per month (via MMAJunkie.com).
The Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) is making a bigger splash in MMA, with BJ Penn also requesting testing via his Twitter account prior to his upcoming welterweight fight against Rory MacDonald. If the UFC doesn’t want VADA to be involved, I think it’s time for them to increase pressure on the athletic commissions.
However, if the UFC is truly concerned about PEDs in MMA, it’s time for an internal drug testing program to be created as well. In addition to VADA, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) can be called upon for assistance in creating a method to help prevent further drug use.
“We’re going to do our own testing, order these guys into (a lab); we’re sorting it out now. You have to do this to save the sport. You can’t have these guys fighting on this stuff.”
It’s good to hear White stepping up and acknowledging the UFC has something in development, even if we’re likely a long distance before it is implemented. It’s not good business when a handful of fighters believe the UFC and athletic commissions aren’t doing enough.
The PED debate clearly isn’t going to disappear anytime soon, and I think it’s good to see fighters speaking out about the issue. It looks like it’s up to the fighters to ask for additional testing before fights, a trend that won’t go away anytime soon.
Some of the biggest names in MMA—past and present—have tested positive for various PED use, including UFC legend Royce Gracie, heavyweight fighter Josh Barnett (multiple times), middleweight Vitor Belfort, Stephan Bonnar, Phil Baroni, Sean Sherk, Antonio Silva, Rafael Cavalcante, Muhammed Lawal and Chael Sonnen.
Similar to Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino, many fighters plead ignorance against direct knowledge of use, blaming tainted supplements, coaches and trainers. Clean fighters speaking out against PEDs will hopefully lead to a reduction in the excuses offered by busted competitors.
Only time will tell what happens in the fight against PEDs within the UFC and MMA as a whole, but progress is slowly being made.