Quick, name a mainstream sport that hasn’t been tainted by a steroid scandal in the last several years.
If you responded with baseball, football, soccer, cycling, tennis or any Olympic sport since they invented synthetic testosterone you are incorrect. Even billiards, yes billiards, had a top dog in Axel Buescher test positive for EPO earlier this year.
Now when you compare those mainstream sports to MMA which one would benefit the most from increased strength, speed, endurance, explosiveness, recovery time and ability to hold muscle mass while cutting weight? MMA hands down.
How about which mainstream sport is it most likely that the use of performance enhancing drugs could create the increased possibility for one competitor to kill the other one? Think MMA takes that one too.
In addition, the top performers in MMA are paid disproportionately higher than the average contender in that sport putting the risk of taking performance enhancing substances in MMA more worth the reward than in any other mainstream sport.
Tim Sylvia, Josh Barnett, Kimo Leopoldo, Sean Sherk, Hermes Franca, Stephan Bonnar, Vitor Belfort, Pawel Nastula, Phil Baroni, Royce Gracie, Johnnie Morton, Carina Damm… ladies and gentlemen, we have a steroid problem.
Ok, so we can all agree that the temptation has been proven to exist, the rewards are rich and the punishment for breaking the rules… well, unbelievably weak.
There have been plenty of articles written about steroids in MMA and the UFC in particular. This is not another attempt to document the problem, what we need are recommendations that are enforced so that the problem is fixed before it takes the sport down. Simple.
UFC, here is your blueprint to eliminating steroids in MMA:
1. Punishment – Make the punishment for violating the rules clear and consistent. I don’t care if the fighter says sorry or if they admit it or not, make the punishment something that is more than six months off and a whopping $2,500 fine. If that is the punishment we might as well give fighters the option to check that box at weigh in “Put an X here if you have been using performance enhancing drugs and intend to have six months off before your next fight anyways and are willing to donate 10% of your purse as a result”. Or perhaps they can admit that they got ripped off from their dealer and overpaid by $2,500 so the fine should be waived. Here is an idea – lifetime ban and return of all proceeds from that fight. Use steroids and you are gone. Period.
2. Education - Take some of those lucrative pay-per-view dollars and educate the fighters. I’m not saying it in the same light as bringing a condom into a grade eight sex education class (we know you are doing it so here is your protection), educate them on the risks. Clearly many of the fighters that tested positive have zero knowledge of the steroid landscape. They are told months in advance that they will be tested – hint, it will be the night or the day of your fight – and yet they still fail. Let them know the risks and the ways in which steroids can show up in your body months and months later and perhaps we’ll have some of them realize they will simply get caught so why bother trying.
3. Cooperation - The UFC has the big stick and they should use it. The current “system” allows those that violate the rules to just pick up their gloves and head off to another organization and get paid more (ahem Japan) – sounds like quite the deterrent doesn’t it? If we can’t have one organization in mainstream MMA then we should at least have one oversight committee on enforcement of a steroid policy. Consistency across organizations is critical.
4. Create an Alternative – If all else fails create the “All Juiced Jamboree” and let everyone cheat. I’ve always thought it would be interesting to watch someone run the 100 in under 9 seconds completely juiced; maybe there would be a good following for an all steroid MMA organization. Teach Canseco how to choke and bring on the pay per view millions.
The UFC needs to take real action other than consistently saying they are against it.
If they don’t, two things will eventually happen:
- Someone will get seriously hurt in a fight against a juiced up opponent. Result? A big lawsuit.
- The repetitive positive tests will bring the credibility of the sport to unrecoverable lows. Baseball and football can withstand a steroid scandal; MMA isn’t in that category yet.
There is a problem – let’s put a game plan in place before it risks the entire sport.