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« | Home | »

Tuesday media turmoil: Truths and untruths

By Zach Arnold | July 23, 2007

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If you’re a beta tester of the new Fight Opinion site design, please go check out the test site and contribute feedback if you haven’t already done so. I really need to get moving on the new design and make it as compatible as possible for every browser platform.

Ikuhisa Minowa won his fight today at a show dedicated to his 10th anniversary in the fight game. The show was at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, drawing 1,078 paid. The headline coming out of the show is that Minowaman’s dream fight is to face Masakatsu Funaki. A New Year’s Eve battle coming?

Sean Sherk has hired doping attorney Howard Jacobs for his appeal with the California State Athletic Commission. If you recognize the name Howard Jacobs, the reason is likely because he was hired by Pawel Nastula when Nastula filed an appeal for his failed drug test with the NSAC. Jacobs and Nastula (who I quoted in the latest CBS Sportsline article) stated that Nastula did not dope, despite an alleged provision in his contract with PRIDE that allowed for doping to occur.

Sam Stout has been pulled from the July 28th ShootBoxing card at Korakuen Hall due to a foot injury suffered in training. Adam Higson will be taking his place on the show.

Speaking of California, I was able to get the data from the CSAC in regards to drug suspensions in Q1 2007 (January 1st ~ March 30th). Here’s the quick breakdown in data – 7 boxing, 8 MMA, 15 total suspensions. 13 were for marijuana, 2 were for hydrocodone. Full steroid testing was not implemented until Q2 of 2007 in the state. In Q2 of CSAC drug testing, there were 17 failures for ‘drugs of abuse’. In other words, the CSAC is regularly catching fighters on ‘drugs of abuse’ at a pretty consistent rate of 15 or higher. With the steroid testing added, the numbers are jumping up. So, let’s do the math – 23 MMA suspensions in all of 2006 in California, 8 in Q1 2007, and 20 or 21 in MMA in Q2 2007. Well over a benchmark of 50, which would average out to a little over 3 suspensions a month in California of MMA fighters.

The topic de jour on Any Given Saturday (the radio show hosted by Luke Thomas was the steroids mess in MMA. Audio of show here. One suggestion I have for Luke if he wants to attract more callers is to set up an 800 or 888 conf. call line (you can get one for a limited time block online for free) and hook it up to the 646 number of BlogTalkRadio. That way, more people can call in because it will be for free. Show e-mail here.

In response to a question/observation Luke made about why fighters take performance-enhancers, I can only state from personal experience in talking with several fighters that the prevailing attitude that exists is pretty libertarian in nature.

In summary from the fighters I talked with off-the-record, if a fighter wants to take a substance, fine, but that won’t determine the ultimate outcome of a fight. If you are a fighter and you know you’re better than your opponent, then the issue of performance-enhancing drugs isn’t a big enough factor to change the outcome of the fight. In other words, the playing field is what it is and you have to deal with it.

Now, I disagree with that attitude. A lot of that disagreement is not so much about moral integrity of sports (I come from a professional wrestling background). However, it’s more or less concern about the health of the fighters and whether or not they are going to drop dead at an early age like so many wrestlers have. You can only cram so many supplements and drugs into your body before your body eventually breaks down.

There will be supporters of fighters or critics of the MMA media who shout about how angry they are because anti-drug columnists are not taking a ‘nuanced’ approach to the story. I don’t see how taking the position I have taken is ‘political’ or ‘populist’ in nature. Is it really selfish of me to want to care about the health of friends in the business? Is it selfish of me to not want to see some of them drop dead before the age of 50 like some of my friends in professional wrestling have? I don’t want to say that professional wrestling fans understand the steroids issue better than their MMA counterparts, but I will say that I think wrestling fans have always been ahead of the curve compared to other sports fans on the issue of drugs because we’ve seen what can happen to wrestlers when you have a massive, outlaw drug culture. Depending on your point of view, you can thank or not thank promoters like Vince McMahon for that.

At the 27:30 mark of his show, Luke starts answering a question from fellow blogger Nate about whether or not Steve Sievert, Zach Arnold, and Kevin Iole are keyboard warriors. First off, I don’t know how anyone could read the Sportsline article and accuse me of trying to incite a riot. If anything, the Sportsline article on Friday had all the heat sucked out of it online when the Josh Gross/Dana White flame war broke out. Furthermore, it wasn’t until three days after the article was published that people online are even talking about the major substantive points raised in the piece. Second, I never called a fighter a coward or used any sort of incendiary language whatsoever. I stuck to the facts and, in conjunction with Tomer Chen and Denny Burkholder, did the proper leg work. I learned a lot about MMA’s drug culture when I wrote the article. It wasn’t set out to be a pure opinion piece.

Which makes Luke’s ranting and raving against me on his radio show to be so bizarre and out-of-character. I’m not sure if he read the article or not. I would hope so. I would hope that he would realize that I’ve been covering MMA and wrestling for a long time, well since the early 90s. Accusing me of calling fighters ‘cowards’ when I didn’t do such a thing is not true, misinformed, and pretty slanderous.

I thought it was really classless on Luke’s part to lump in Josh Gross, myself, Steve Sievert, and Kevin Iole together. Each column by each writer had a different message and different talking points. To lump the writers together and make the slanderous statement twice that we all called fighters ‘cowards’ for taking drugs is irresponsible. Furthermore, this “you’re not a professional athlete” garbage that he was spewing against the writers who wrote MMA drug articles is the same kind of bull%&^% that a pro-wrestler spews every time a writer criticizes one of their matches. “You’ve never been in the ring before!” or “You’ve never taken a bump in your life!”

What disappoints me personally is that if people truly believed that the message coming out of the CBS Sportsline article is that I’m labeling fighters as horrible people on a personal level, that’s the wrong message. I wrote an article based on the actions of fighters and the facts at hand. Everything in the piece was factually scrutinized and accurate. Denny Burkholder did a tremendous job in interviewing several people for quotes. Everything was also on-the-record. I refused from the on-set to quote anonymous sources or to write off-the-record material.

By the way, Luke, I’ve never had a problem ever meeting a writing deadline in my life. Just thought that you should know that. Oh, and one other thing – I did not receive financial payment for the Sportsline article.

Using Luke’s logic, I shouldn’t have been angry or disgusted about the PRIDE yakuza scandal or the K-1 corporate tax evasion scandal because, hey, those events didn’t impact my daily life. Why are you spending years writing about those incidents and trying to ‘trump up’ a scandal? Nothing to see here, look away…

One other item… Luke made a strange analogy on his radio show, comparing the steroid controversy in MMA to illegal immigration. He repeated a joke that a comedian said about how pathetic you have to be if your job security is threatened by a rag-tag person who just crossed the border to get to the States with no possessions. I have no idea what point he was trying to make with the analogy. Too bad he didn’t bring up a tangential point about the border, with that point being how easy it is to get horse steroids down in Tijuana if athletes want them and cross back into the States with relatively little scrutiny.

The most ironic thing about Luke’s hour-long diatribe against the ‘MMA media’ is that he accuses the MMA media of sensationalism and (fake) outrage, all while slandering me (accusing me of calling fighters cowards when I did not) and getting emotional about what writers have written about. This meme of “the MMA media is getting emotional about steroids” needs to be shot down quickly. It’s also bush-league to trash Steve Sievert, who happened to be the individual that exposed the fact that UFC did not have drug testing at their UFC 69 and UFC 70 events. I’m embarrassed by the total closing-of-ranks that I’m seeing in certain MMA blogging circles because it’s exactly the same kind of mentality that I see on pro-wrestling sites & message boards when it comes to the drug culture in the respective industries.

Onto today’s headlines.

  1. Dave Doyle: Five rounds – steroids fallout and more
  2. Mark Madden: Let ‘em die
  3. Jake Rossen: So, about those steroids…
  4. Sam Caplan: 5 Oz. of Pain Feature – The UFC on ESPN
  5. UFC Mania: UFC 77 – Kalib Starnes vs. Alan Belcher
  6. 411 Mania: The Steroids Epidemic!
  7. The Terra Haute Tribune-Star (IN): Shane Meehan has tall MMA test against Fort Wayne native Justin Wade
  8. The Prince George Citizen (Canada): Adriano Bernardo has to go through Tim Hague to be King of the Cage
  9. The North Platte Bulletin (NE): Controversial deputy Kelly Wiseman resigns (Wiseman has an MMA gym and is a promoter)
  10. NBC Sports (Kenny Florian): History lessons
  11. China Combat: Art of War 7 on July 28th
  12. MMA on Tap: Shawn Tompkins Responds to Stéphane Dubé

Topics: Canada, MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 70 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

70 Responses to “Tuesday media turmoil: Truths and untruths”

  1. Preach says:

    “Geez Zach, this is the second time you invoke Kevin Randleman to support your argument. Well then, show me one piece of evidence that steroid abuse (with Big Kev one would assume you’re alluding to teh roidz) causes viruses that eat the flesh of one’s lungs. A peer-reviewed medical journal would be preferable. Thanks.”

    Kevin didn’t have a virus infection, he had a fungus growing inside his lungs. Slight difference there. And both can be (more or less) caused by using steroids. For one through contamination of the steroid itself, it’s not as if the people who deal them always store them properly, and then of course there’s the user, and how he’s handling them. Does he always use a new, sterile needle? Does he properly disinfect the puncture wound? I posted a youtube link for the documentary “The Man whose arms exploded” a few days ago in another thread here on FO, dealing with this subject matter. And last but not least let’s not forget that steroids can severely fuck up your immune system. It’s just like with every other drug, too much can do irreperable damage and make you much more susceptible for infections…

  2. Body_Shots says:

    ["Kevin didn’t have a virus infection, he had a fungus growing inside his lungs. Slight difference there. And both can be (more or less) caused by using steroids."]

    Kevin’s health problems were caused by broken ribs that he never got taken care of, it had nothing to do with steroids.

  3. MickDawg says:

    Zach always is outraged over something.

    Guys who need to cheat to compete at a higher level, will risk their careers to find a way to cheat the system.

    If other professional sports can’t even solve this problem, what makes the UFC any different?

    Drug use is an issue, but it can be reduced with more testing of more fighters at every event. Bigger penalties would help too.

    I’m sure the UFC will accept any penalties given to their fighters that the state hands down.

    You guys know Dana White’s stance. He wants every state to test. He wants penalties to their fighters. He’s letting the state do this.

    That’s not enough for you guys?

    The people making the sport look bad are the athletes who try to cheat the system.

    You want the UFC to do their own drug testing?

    If UFC drug tests and catches their own fighters, what happens?

    Public perception will still be negative, and there will still be a perceived problem.

    MLB, NBA & NFL do their own drug testing, and there is a perceived drug problem in those sports also.

    It doesn’t matter who does the testing…as long as it’s done.

    Look at the Olympics.

    They test EVERYONE. Every Olympic athlete knows they are going to be tested, and they know the consequence of getting caught.

    YET THEY STILL CHEAT.

    There will always be people who do not care about the consequences, but most will.

    The UFC is doing the right thing by having most of their events in sanctioned states that drug test.

  4. Preach says:

    Broken ribs don’t cause your lungs to get a fungus infection. The broken rib obviously didnt puncture his lungs and then cause an infection, cause otherwise the lung would have collapsed in an instant, so how should the fungus have come into his lungs then? I’ve broken my ribs at least a dozen times during the 26 years i’ve been practicing combat sports, and i’ve never gotten a lung infection, nor has anyone i trained with.

    Could it be something else than steroids? Yeah, could be, though it’s rather unlikely, especially since he admitted in an interview with MMA Weekly (after he was hospitalized this January for severe damage to the kidneys) that his recent health issues were caused by operations, medication and years of steroid abuse. Ruling steroids out like you just did is dumb, to say the least…

  5. Ivan Trembow says:

    Randleman acknowledged taking a very large amount of painkillers along with antibiotics. The complete details on his NSAC disciplinary hearing from Ferbuary 2007 are at this URL: http://www.mmaweekly.com/absolutenm/templates/dailynews.asp?articleid=3452

    A story about his situation at large called “Kevin Randleman At a Crossroads” (also from February 2007) is at this URL: http://www.mmaweekly.com/absolutenm/templates/dailynews.asp?articleid=3455

  6. Ivan Trembow says:

    Randleman acknowledged taking a very large amount of painkillers along with antibiotics. The complete details on his NSAC disciplinary hearing from Ferbuary 2007 are at this URL: http://www.mmaweekly.com/absolutenm/templates/dailynews.asp?articleid=3452

    A story about his situation at large called “Kevin Randleman At a Crossroads” (also from February 2007) is at this URL: http://www.mmaweekly.com/absolutenm/templates/dailynews.asp?articleid=3455

  7. DecisionUnanimous says:

    A diatribe for a diatribe; I see his point Zach. I have been reading your articles for a long time now and a trend has developed much similar to that of CNN’s sensationalism. At puroresupower, you were critical of underhanded actions taken by the promoters but your main focus seemed to be providing pure information about the sport, its insider secrets and its upcoming events in an enlightening format to the casual and hardcore mma fan. Now I honestly just skip past the banter and go straight to the links. I spend about 1/3 of the time looking at fightopinion than I used to, because its practically like reading an mma tabloid these days. If I am counting correctly this is the sixth, possibly seventh steroid tirade ive seen on the site this week. This speaks nothing to me about the exciting events that UFC has planned nor about the Japanese MMA scene that used to be reported so avidly. You don’t get Neilson Ratings Zach and I dont think your catering to any interest groups (as far as I know). Leave the yellow journalism to the Sherdoggers and let them take the heat for it.

  8. Rollo the Cat says:

    ” I spend about 1/3 of the time looking at fightopinion than I used to, because its practically like reading an mma tabloid these days. If I am counting correctly this is the sixth, possibly seventh steroid tirade ive seen on the site this week. This speaks nothing to me about the exciting events that UFC has planned nor about the Japanese MMA scene that used to be reported so avidly. ”

    Maybe part of the reason is that there are a lot of scandals lately. I don’t think Zach is making any of this up. One reason I like this sight is that it is different. I can get the usual puff pieces about the UFC’s exciting events and the wonderful personal lives of the clean living athletes 10 other places.

  9. white ninja says:

    A post from Sherdog, which is both funny, and sets out the steroid issues pretty well IMO:-

    QUOTE (from Matt_Whos of sherdog)-

    This may not be a popular opinion, in fact the sad thing is I might get banned for having this opinion, which is too bad – we should all be allowed to have our opinions without being censored. That said, these are my thoughts on steroid use.

    A huge misconception about steroid use is that if you use you’ll be dead by 50. This is an inaccurate myth propagated by the anti-steroid crowd, a much more accurate life expectancy of a steroid user is 40. This is great news for the fighters as it allows them to die before their time making them legends like Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, and Tupac. Dying before 40 is a sure way to seem more important than you actually were.

    Another argument the anti-steroid crowd loves is that it is cheating. It isn’t chea…ok it it cheating but who cares?

    “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying” – Tito Ortiz

    I don’t want a moral pansy bleeding heart liberal champion, I want my champs to be immoral scumbags who are willing to kill inside the ring, and on the outside punch my wife and sh*t on my dog.

    A fighter who is willing to not only cheat but also lie about cheating in order to gain a a victory that is completely invalidated by his steroid use has some serious psychological problems and narcissistic tendencies – in other words this is an extremely disturbed and unstable man. Anyone who has paid a homeless man 3 dollars to attack another homeless man knows that unstable men provide for the most entertaining fights.

    If I wanted to watch a fight between two men who have non-life threatening levels of testosterone I’d go to the local bar.

    Matt raises a lot of the important issues in steroid use in his post.

    Remember guys, we are talking COMBAT sports here, not cycling or baseball

  10. Zach Arnold says:

    If you post multiple links in a reply, it automatically goes to the queue for moderation. It does it to me, as well.

  11. Zach Arnold says:

    I spend about 1/3 of the time looking at fightopinion than I used to, because its practically like reading an mma tabloid these days. If I am counting correctly this is the sixth, possibly seventh steroid tirade ive seen on the site this week.

    And maybe I’d read a 1/3rd of your comments if you actually bothered using a valid e-mail, as opposed to trying to trick the spam filters into buying your fake one.

    I love how the trolls are out in full force tonight, yet none of them want to use valid e-mails or leave valid information about who they are behind.

    So, I guess we should get back on topic and talk about lighter issues. Hey, let’s try a yakuza story link!

  12. MickDawg says:

    Damn, even fightopinion has trolls too

  13. Randy Rowles says:

    “Remember guys, we are talking COMBAT sports here, not cycling or baseball”

    This really is the point.

    It just seems so pompous for an MMA fan to be outraged at drug use — “Gentlemen for my enjoyment, please beat each other about the face and attempt to rip each other’s limbs off, but oh, could you do that without drugs?”

    Hermes Franca, his family, his mom, his agent, the UFC…they should be outraged at Franca. But the rest of us?

    It’s sweet that so many *care* about the health of the men who they are cheering to be knocked unconcious with the most vicious of strikes possible.

    Again, none of this means steroids or drugs should be allowed in MMA. But drug abuse is rampant throughout society, so invariably it’ll seep into MMA. If people weren’t getting caught…then that would be a problem.

  14. penxv says:

    I’d say that there are two camps as far as motives go among fighters.

    Some for cosmetic reasons… I’m sure that you could pick them out of a lineup.

    But with serious fighters, I think that it is more for training. It is referred to as “helping your body recover faster,” but more accurately… it is getting your testosterone levels back to where they should be (and beyond often).

    quote from some Dr. (I don’t know if he’s a quack, but I’ve heard it independently as well):

    “it is an unsustainable myth that hard training increases testosterone levels. In every credible study done on training and its effects on blood whether in college athletes, Olympians, or troops in training or in battle, the stress and physical fatigue of exercise, skill performance and physical activity decreases testosterone and increases estrogen”

    I think the steroids are used less for explosiveness & strength than thought by outside observers because just about everyone cuts weight… It’s not like in football or pro wrestling where there is pressure to be bigger.

    In the early MMA days, the big juicers all gassed out.

    I have never taken steroids.

    And fighters usually take a light week before the fight for the very same reason… “to recover.”

    But hard into training, your testosterone is low and it really effects motivation.

    It’s more like…

    to recover my balls!!

  15. Zach Arnold says:

    The T/E ratio on a CSAC drug test is 6:1. And fighters fail that test. That means fighters have six times more testosterone than the average man. The whole concept of testosterone replacement therapy is to help people get back to normal – 1:1. Funny how that never seemingly happens with pro-wrestlers and perhaps MMA fighters.

  16. Ivan Trembow says:

    Zach— don’t tell that to Jerry McDevitt or “Doctor” David Black! They appeared to have no problem lying on national television and even tried to say that testosterone is not an anabolic steroid.

  17. Jeremy (not that Jeremy) says:

    I’ve listened to Luke’s show a couple times and it just reminds me of Jim Rome. He kind of talks himself into a lather and convinces himself of some pretty absurd positions on the air that I’m not sure he really believes.

    Maybe he needs a co-host or something.

  18. penxv says:

    Thats because most guys just jam a needle in their ass.. it’s not like they go to a Dr. for hormone replacement therapy at the age of 22.

    Would you like to know what the Dr. will say?

    He will say… “Stop fighting in cages.”

  19. [...] been on a roll lately, pissing off people left and right. He did a live radio show on Steroids that made Zach Arnold cry harder than Loretta Hunt that time Phil Baroni headbutted her. Luke later apologized, but then went [...]

  20. [...] week, I got angry when I thought that Luke Thomas was accusing various MMA writers of calling MMA fighters who use steroids ‘cowards.’ Well, if Luke wants a specific [...]

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