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Will UFC be pressured into doing their own supplemental drug testing program?

By Zach Arnold | September 20, 2010

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Update: Josh Gross reports that Sonnen tested with elevated levels of testosterone — and that he reportedly told the commission ahead of time.

On the back-drop of two (recent) major UFC main-eventers on PPV being in the public eye regarding the issue of alleged drug usage (Shane Carwin & Chael Sonnen), Dave Meltzer says it’s time for UFC to step up and do what the athletic commissions can’t financially do and that’s fund an aggressive drug testing program to try to help clean up Mixed Martial Arts:

“But I mean the whole thing is that the drug testing system that we have in place right now is a complete joke. I mean, that’s a big part of this story is that when you know the date of your test and because of funding issues, you know you’ve got, one of the big issues right here to me is that for this sport UFC should be doing the testing and they should be testing similar to, you know, what a regular sport would do. I mean, like, you know they’re sitting there doing, well we’ll do what boxing does which is leave it to the commissions. But, number one, the number of drug test failures in MMA is significantly bigger than boxing, so it’s a bigger problem. The other issue is that it’s an organizational thing and the organization should be stepping up and not leaving it to these commissions that are financially strapped because California does allow out-of-competition testing, Nevada does allow out-of-competition testing, but given the budget restraints (it) ain’t going to happen for these commissions. They’re going to do (the least), you know, they don’t have the funding to do I’m sure they would like to do. It’s just not happening right now and I think that for this business, UFC should do more than just day-of-event testing because, again, you’ve got guys, a lot of guys, who are doing it cycling, cycling off, getting the benefits of increased training, they may also be getting the detriments of getting off at the wrong time and going into fights kind of lulling which sometimes gives you bad fights because guys didn’t get their cycle properly and they may be at a down point of their actual testosterone kicking in and the drugs that they’re taking to do that, you know, you can’t take too many of them because they may show up on a test. It’s a really weird deal here.”

Regarding what a failed drug test means for Sonnen and for UFC…

“You know, I mean, to me one of the things that UFC needs to do and UFC has the money to do it, the commissions don’t and UFC needs to have a thing where they can test guys at any time they say that, they do it, they have an outside agency doing it, and again, you know, I don’t expect that to happen. You know I mean it’s been talked about with Dana White and his thing is that it’s the commission’s job is to do this but the reality is, again like we’ve said, if you want a clean sport the commissions do not have the funding to keep this a clean sport so what we’re going to do is we’re going to have really unlucky guys or stupid guys fail and, again, it’s just a kind of a weird thing. I mean it’s not a defense of the guy for doing it and again, reputation-wise, you know it’s a real killer for him in the sense that you know he was onto something if he had won the championship in his next match, he would have gotten tremendous endorsements because of how much he could talk. I mean, he could have been really one of the biggest stars and as far as that kind of endorsements, this does effect you. I mean this is why like everyone’s you know, GSP gets so much more money in endorsements than anyone else because he’s got that squeaky-clean character and people are very confident that if they have GSP that they’re going to have a guy who’s not going to make headlines the wrong way and embarrass the company, that’s why other fighters, you know, people are a little bit more leery of as far as like giving them that kind of level of endorsements.”

We know why Dana White leaves it up to “the government” when it comes to drug testing and that’s the issue of liability. If drug testing sucks in Nevada, the heat goes on Keith Kizer and not on Dana White. For the European events, UFC does their own drug testing but you rarely hear much discussed about it in the media. (Except for when Chris Leben tested positive after facing Michael Bisping.)

Lance Pugmire of The LA Times says that the commissioner told him that Sonnen tested positive for a steroid in a pre-fight drug test.

Jordan Breen introduces a second layer to the story…

Possible Sonnen-flu med angle is interesting. People seem willing to forgive if it’s true; serves to reinforce hypocrisy of anti-roid ideas.

People okay with Sonnen possibly using flu meds with banned substances to “get better”. What about injured fighters roiding to heal? Tsk tsk.

Depends on what meds he was taking, if he really was .Could be prednisone or another corticosteroid.

Slippery slope. If you’re sick, use corticosteroids, you aren’t doing it to get stronger? It’s more complicated than acknowledged.

If you’re wondering what Jordan is alluding to, he’s alluding to the fact that Sonnen had been sick with a bad case of the flu about a week before the fight with Anderson Silva in Oakland. Sonnen talked about having the flu in an MMA Fighting interview with Ariel Helwani on the Wednesday before the UFC event. In the interview with Ariel in Concord, California at the UFC-branded gym there, Sonnen talked about spending the week before the fight resting up and trying to break out of whatever he had.

Either he was telling the truth or he was laying the foundation for what was coming down the road.

The third layer to this story is the fact that Sonnen drew national heat for his comments about Lance Armstrong, cancer, and allegations of steroid usage. Remember this?

The fourth layer to this story is that a rematch between Sonnen and Anderson Silva seems unlikely now. If the drug Sonnen was busted for is found in flu medicine, then let the public spectacle begin for an appeals hearing in California. (The irony of this is that a recent UFC PPV top guy had the ultimate spectacle of an appeals in California and that’s James Toney.) If Sonnen can minimize the damage of the failed drug test, perhaps he can get the rematch and Dana White will go with the “I believe him” tact that he used to similarly back Sean Sherk.

Look on the bright side, Dana… Yushin Okami is one win away from the title match we’ve all waited to see on Super Bowl weekend.

On the other hand, look at what’s going on in the UFC Middleweight division. Chael Sonnen, Chris Leben, Nate Marquardt, and Vitor Belfort all have issues regarding the taint of PEDs in MMA (or at least allegations levied at them by commissions for it.) These guys are all right at the top of the mix in the UFC Middleweight division to challenge Anderson Silva. What a mess.

Topics: MMA, Media, UFC, Zach Arnold | 33 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

33 Responses to “Will UFC be pressured into doing their own supplemental drug testing program?”

  1. 45 Huddle says:

    The drug testing is working. The way you are talking, it’s as if Sonnen admitted to PED’s but none were found in the testing.

  2. Liger05 says:

    Dana White won’t change anything. He tried to criticise Mayweather calling for random testing.

    I totally agree that the idea that fighters know when they will be tested is absurd and a fighter getting caught is more likely down to them screwing up there cycle process rather than the quality of testing.

    I see some pics of Sonnen for his last two fights at the weigh in and he has a really red spotty back in both. Someone on another forum said these could be a sign of steroid using. That true?

    • Fluyid says:

      Back acne is supposed to be a sign of juicing from what I hear, but I know a guy who gets it right when he starts lifting weights. He’s one of those guys who adds muscle really easily.

      • Mark says:

        Lots of people get it from too much protein in their diets. Also the mats being so filthy could also clog up their pores so if they aren’t washing their backs enough could cause break outs.

        But yes, around the shoulders is very common for steroid abusers and lots of people suspected of roids have had it.

  3. Fluyid says:

    “Could be prednisone or another corticosteroid.”

    A UFC fighter I used to train and manage was put on prednisone (for a neck condition) the week before we went out to Vegas for the fights. I phoned the Nevada commission in advance and they gave me Margaret Goodman’s cell number and told me to call her and let her know.

    I called and she said thanks for the call, but it’s not something that will show up as a violation on a piss test.

    It worried me, because none of them seemed to take any notes that I had called and reported the particular prescription drug that my guy was taking, but it all worked out. (My guy wasn’t one of the guys tested.)

    • David M says:

      So was Dr. Goodman incorrect about prednisone showing up on piss tests?

      • Fluyid says:

        Heck if I know. She seemed pretty sure that it wouldn’t cause a drug test violation.

        I even called the commission back to report that Dr. Goodman told me that it was fine. They once again didn’t seem too concerned.

        I was worried the whole time that it wasn’t going to turn out well and that we’d be left hanging. I made sure that my guy could indeed get his doc to verify the prescription, which he could and was ready to do.

        • edub says:

          Was ur guy Karo Pariysian?… I kid I kid.

          So I am guessing that there is not certified list, and there is somewhat of a gray area on medications?

        • Bix says:

          Corticosteroids and anabolic steroids are different animals. Kurt Angle claimed that a cortisone shot caused him to fail a WWE drug test for anabolics and it was bullshit then, too.

    • Black Dog says:

      Prednisone is not an anabolic steroid; doctors in fact call it an “anti-steroid.” I used them on and off for years to help control an internal illness. I don’t think that’s a problem.

      In terms of the big pic: I think UFC has to do something, and fairly soon. Carwin and others like him notwithstanding.

  4. Phil says:

    This is a big hole in the sport that is just waiting to be filled. I don’t know why exactly the UFC won’t do it on their own, but it leaves an opening for other people.

    SF could get a lot of good press by stepping up and implementing this on their own (and this is not an area where they can act like they are just the 2nd tier org, and that big bad zuffa is the company that should step up. SF talks like they are big boys, especially in the HW division, and now that Barnett is in that division, they might need the extra testing just as much as the UFC).

    It is also an opportunity for any fighters group or other groups that seems to come around and say that their purpose is to help fighters. This is an actual way to make a difference in improving fighter safety and the sport, and if you make drug testing you main purpose, it will be PR suicide for Zuffa to fight you, so you that’s one less thing to worry about when getting started.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      No hole to be filled.

      People only cared about the MLB steroid issue when it wasn’t being tested for. And then they cared because guys were being tested and the results weren’t released or used against the athletes.

      That is where all of the steroid scandal comes into play. If they are testing, nobody will care.

      And if Strikeforce spends more money on roid testing, nobody is going to care either. It won’t give them some sort of competitive edge. It just won’t matter….

      Besides, Strikeforce can’t even afford professionals on the prelims of a few of their shows. They don’t have the money to get this done.

  5. Norm says:

    The UFC does not want to fix the steroid problem themselves. Remember when the GSP vs. Kos fight was announced? Kos was pushing for WADA level testing ala PBF, and Dana squashed that idea real fast.

    I honestly believe the percentage of guys that use is atleast the 50% Hallman mentioned, but probably higher. The risk of being caught vs. the reward IE paydays will not deter guys from using.

    I am happy to finally see a writer address the fact that most of the current MW title contenders have their own PED back story. Nate, Chael, Vitor, Leben.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      It’s a dangerous thing to allow the inmates to run the asylum. You should never let one athlete dictate the terms of the testing.

      Which I think is the crux of the issue. It’s a slippery slope to go down. Once you say okay to one athlete, it just becomes just one big game of guys trying to accuse the other of doping by demanding different tests.

      The commissions, UFC, or fighters as a whole should dictate the terms of the testing. Not select fighters.

      • Mark says:

        Josh Koshcheck didn’t cook up the drug testing formula, he’s suggesting UFC help themselves out by looking even more legitimately concerned about PEDs than the ball sports. That’s not “letting the inmates run the asylum”. It’s a guy making a public suggestion because it’s the only way it would get any attention. If he called up Dana to suggest it he’d get blown off. But then Dana has to answer the question several times in interviews the public way.

        • edub says:

          It’s not gonna make difference if koscheck says anything in public or not. Dana White has addressed the issue maybe once where Koscheck is concerned. What’s happening to Chael is the only thing that is gonna bring more light to the issue. Which if we stop and think about it is kind of a good thing.

          I have a random thought though: Is it fair to want the more extensive testing done in the UFC just because they have the most money? Would it be some type of conflict of interest if the UFC did it’s own testing(even if it is better) when compared to different promotions using athletic commision standards?

          IMO logic would point to just having the best testing possible, but there would probably be some that would disagree.

  6. Battleman says:

    I think this is a legitimate question and I’m certainly not trolling, looking to start anything, or even lobbing an opinion out there. So, with that, I ask this question in the context of the business of MMA.

    Who actually cares about positive PED tests?

    The answer to this will really dictate whether or not UFC, Strikeforce, or anyone else take a *more active role* in drug testing. As Dana White said, they’ve worked closely to get this thing regulated, what more do you want?

    Unless there is some legitimate threat to the business – having commissions yank sanctioning would be a big threat, but won’t happen in this case since the testing is on them in most places – why would an organization put more money into advanced PED testing? Who are they appeasing with that investment?

    If it is the fans or sponsors, then the investment makes sense. Will company-level sponsors – that is, not fighter-level sponsors – take their money off the table if fighters *get caught* doping? Remember, the testing “works” – it catches those that attempt to skirt the system. Do fans stop buying PPVs, going to events, buying licensed products, etc? Overall, what is the backlash? Does a failed PED test negatively affect the fight organization’s bottom line? If so, the investment into more substantive testing makes sense. If not, from a purely business sense, it doesn’t.

    If a failed PED test doesn’t have a direct cost – lost sponsors or fans – but somehow devalues the brand, that is also a reason to make the investment. But does it? How does this relate to other sports and failed PED tests? Does the NFL’s brand get hurt when a player fails a test? Is that a fair analogy given the immensity of the NFL? Is there a better analogy or is this totally new?

    All of this has absolutely nothing to do with fighter health, safety, and well being. One could argue that is outside the scope of “business” or you could also argue that fighter longevity is key to brand success. That comes down to the organizations’ internal goals and values, but should factor into these discussions.

    I’ve rambled on, but if I were to draw a Pro-Wrestling analogy here… muscles sell. WWF only cracked down on steroid abuse when the feds got involved – it was certainly *not* market pressures that made them take that step. In fact, they were on a meteoric rise based 100% on super-man style muscles.

    - Battleman!

    • Mark says:

      The fans certainly don’t care in most cases. They’ll care for Sonnen only because his big mouth and holier-than-thou attitude made a ton of people salivate at the thought of his downfall. But MMA fans in the real world probably won’t even remember this in a month.

      So the UFC could make this all go away if they wanted to. Sonnen could lay low a year, come back and have UFC mislead people into thinking he was injured and nobody but those in the MMA online/media bubble would notice.

      But MMA is a little different in that they’ve got a bunker mentality that the world is out to get them they will never shake. Those running Zuffa spent 5 long years being the persecuted sport, fending off “Human Cockfighting”, “Real Life Fight Club”, “Barbaric No Rules Fighting”, “Caged Carnage”, ect. ect. ect. stories and you just don’t shake that off that easily. So any negative headline, however minor, gets them back in that “cat in a corner” mentality and they feel they must go to extremes to defend themselves.

      Baseball and football are institutions in America. If they came out and reported every baseball player was shooting steroids 3 times a day and in the NFL Lawrence Taylor was holding seminars about how to smoke crack before games, they’d get away with it ultimately and survive because they are institutions. America wouldn’t be the same without MLB’s Opening Day or the NFL Super Bowl. But the media could easily walk away from the UFC, try to shame Spike into dropping them, and call McCain for advice on protesting cable companies. So they have to listen to outcries when they happen. And they probably always will because they probably always will be the bastard outcast sport.

      And lastly, you cannot compare WWE to UFC with PEDs. Nobody takes pro wrestling seriously because it is not an athletic competition. Nobody cared everybody was juiced to the gills until George Zahorian made it an issue because it’s viewed as a fake kids show. But centralized drug trafficking is an entirely different issue than a bunch of pro wrestlers roiding. UFC on the other hand is a heavily betted on sport, so everything has to be on the up and up, so there is no comparison.

    • robthom says:

      FRAT

      Why?

      Because its not allowed in the rules, its also against the law and so its cheating by any applicable definition.

      There that wasn’t so hard now was it.

      Also because it taints the image of an already demonized sport.
      We cant afford it like baseball and apple pie can.

      Punish the guys that get caught and hopefully it will make others think twice whether its worth it.

  7. Shane says:

    What’s stopping commissions from increasing their sanctioning fees so they can afford to drug test more efficiently, randomly and effectively?

    Has WWE’s wellness policy had much of an impact? Why would UFC/Strikeforce/local independant org’s be any different?

    • Mark says:

      What’s stopping them from increasing fees to fund out-of-competition testing is wanting to be friendly to those who make them lots of money and not wanting bad PR from smaller orgs claiming they’re trying to drive them out of business as a favor to UFC by demanding an arm and a leg to drug test their fighters.

  8. Zack says:

    Dana has his head in the sand. Luke Thomas brought up this video that came out after UFC 108 where Dana tries to claim that the AC’s do blood testing.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lth9cM5wkuE&feature=player_embedded

  9. EJ says:

    No they won’t, the AC’s are the one’s who people need to go at if they want harsher testing not Zuffa. This idea that the UFC should test themselves ignores the conflict of interest which has already happened in places where there are no AC’s.

    Let’s also mention that all of these people shouting for harsher testing also seem to ignore whenever someone gest caught and wants to turn this into everyone is doing it which is a myth.

    Finally there is hardly a mess as far as UFC MW contenders go, unless these guys turn into Josh Barnett a failed test and passing multiple ones after doesn’t taint anything.

  10. IceMuncher says:

    UFC doing their own drug testing scores temporary points among the hardcores for a couple years at best, until they view it as a conflict of interest and demand a third party take over the testing, which brings us back full circle to letting the AC’s be solely responsible for drug testing, only with stricter policies. So let’s save the time and spare ourselves the headaches by skipping that step where the UFC does the testing and demand better testing from the AC’s from the start.

  11. robthom says:

    I dont find Chael’s current example and Carwin’s example equivalent.

    At all.

    Just punish/suspend Chael if he cant clear his name.
    Those are the rules and they work fine like that.

    Maybe he wont be so stupid again.
    (If he’s guilty, but he sure hasn’t uttered a peep yet has he!)

    And if he does it again, send him out to the cornfield with barnett.

    Problem all fixed.
    That wasn’t so hard.

  12. 45 Huddle says:

    UFC cut Escudero. He is the 2nd TUF winner to get cut. The first “original” from the show, since Lutter had previous UFC experience.

    Can’t say I’m shocked. He missed weight twice and seemed to be a mental basketcase.

    • Chromium says:

      If Escudero hadn’t missed weight, he’d still have a job. He didn’t lose two-in-a-row just two of his last three. They would have given him a bit extra leeway as a TUF winner, as a guy they can use to appeal to the Latino market, and his loss to Dunham doesn’t look so bad either now since Dunham is now a fast-rising star. But no, he fucked up doubly and so he’s gone.

  13. 45 Huddle says:

    And it’s looking like Sonnen is going to prove he had a “doctor’s reason” for taking his roids and is going to be cleared. That’s the feeling I get based on the current information out there.

    As long as you aren’t putting horse roids into your body, there is always some doctor who can justify anything.

    If Sonnen does get cleared, we are going to see more fighters like Couture and Sonnen take that route. Basically kills the entire point of steroid testing.

    Not sure what I fully think about it right now, but I tend to think that is a bad trend…. “Oh, I’m taking your band substances, but here is my doctor’s note.” A banned substance should be a banned substance no matter what….

    • It is and should be. You can’t write a doctor’s note for steroids and then show up with an elevated level.

    • David M says:

      Dude, nobody gets off; it is California. Sherk brought in one of the best lawyers in the field, spent a fortune establishing there was a chain of custody problem with the urine, showing that the equipment the lab used still had leftover residue that would have indicated he pissed hot even if he didn’t actually take steroids, and he still wasn’t found anything close to innocent; the CSAC is a fucking circus run by a bunch of inflexible morons. In this case, Chael admitted taking it to the CSAC, so there is a 0% chance he avoids suspension; I would be shocked if it is less than a 1 yr suspension.

  14. Zack says:

    Weed is basically legal here in CA if you have a prescription which anyone can get. You still get suspended for pissing hot for the burlascious ganj bud.

  15. Keith says:

    I go with the drug testing one hundred percent. We have to admit that the use of illegal drugs is getting worst and many lives are being wasted just because of this. I must say you just posted something so worthy to read. Great job!

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