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Josh Gross: UFC should cut fighters who fail drug tests to help clean up the sport

By Zach Arnold | September 22, 2010

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Josh Gross wrote a column on SI expanding on this idea. (Anthony Pace has a rebuttal here. Larry Pepe has a defense of Chael Sonnen that you should read.) He then appeared on Jim Rome’s radio show to talk about it. Here’s a transcript of today’s appearance by Josh Gross on Jim Rome’s radio show:

JIM ROME: “Josh Gross joining us, he’s an MMA reporter for SI.com. Hey Josh, where you come out on this — for instance, when this first came up in terms of baseball, people would call up and say, great, so maybe they add some help, but it’s not going to make you a Major Leaguer and I would always argue that no, certainly not, you can’t pull a guy out of a Gold’s Gym and then load ’em up full of roids and expect him to play Major League Baseball, but it could take a good player and make him a great, a great player and make him a Hall of Famer, a Hall of Famer and make him the best ever. What about MMA? I mean, this guy was a largely anonymous fighter not long ago, did they make him a great fighter?”

JOSH GROSS: “Uh, look, I mean you have to question his performance against Silva. He got so much credit for the way that he handled Anderson Silva in that fight. He dominated for 23 minutes. This was… nobody’s done that to Anderson Silva. Anderson Silva’s great and I think you have to really wonder if it played a part and I don’t think there’s any doubt, I mean it’s performance-enhancing for a reason. And, you know, I think people like to compare sports and talk about baseball, I got so many people e-mailing me and my Twitter feed, it’s like, who cares if these guys do that? This is not baseball. This is not a game. They’re punching each other in the face. This sport is inherently dangerous. To add testosterone and guys that are brimming with this stuff, it’s just a mix that you cannot have. So, you know, it’s a pretty big issue.”

JIM ROME: “Now, let’s finish that thought, it’s a great point. I mean, in baseball, if you’re bigger, stronger, and faster, you’re going to kill the ball. Here, if you’re bigger, stronger, and faster, somebody might really get killed.”

JOSH GROSS: “Certainly, and you know people talk about steroids, oh it’s a health & safety issue, I couldn’t care less if these guys put their health & safety on the line if they’re going to do this. Quite honestly, stepping into the Octagon and stepping into the cage they’re doing that. It’s the danger to the opponent and that’s really what the state athletic commission, that’s what their job is to regulate and to make sure the healthy & safety issues are not compromised in any kind of way and that’s why you need to eradicate this stuff.”

JIM ROME: “All right, so when we talk about how this compares to other sports, talk about the UFC. How committed is the UFC to addressing this problem as compared to other sport leagues?”

JOSH GROSS: “Well, I think, I mean, you can’t really compare them to other sports leagues. I mean, the thing about the UFC and people like to frame it this way that they’re a league, they’re not a league. They’re a fight promoter. They frame themselves in a certain way and they couch themselves as a league but they don’t have any collective bargaining agreements with the athletes. There’s no policy in terms of PED usage. This is not the NFL. There’s no clear-cut way for these guys to do it. Now, the UFC has done some really good things in terms of policing themselves when they go out to jurisdiction, when they go out of the country to the UK or Abu Dhabi, they’re treating their guys. Two guys have tested positive from UFC testing so I mean there is something legitimate to that. But I think they need to go much further. Much further. And I wrote this week that there should be zero tolerance, you know, it’s one thing… the UFC does not have to promote steroid users. They don’t have to do it, it’s pretty simple. But they choose to do it. Not only have they done that, 2003 Tim Sylvia tested positive, gets a title shot in his next fight. Sean Sherk ’07 tests positive, ’08 gets a title shot in his next fight. So, it’s not like you know they’ve done some stuff but they really haven’t gone as far as I think they should.”

JIM ROME: “Now, for instance, if they have a zero tolerance policy and this is something you’ve already addressed but I’ll ask you the question here… if Dana White were to cut or fire anybody that tested positive and enable them to go across the street to a rival promoter, what would that do to Dana White’s business?”

JOSH GROSS: “I don’t think it effects his business in any way. UFC’s operated under the idea that it’s the UFC brand that’s selling in particular. Yes, certain fighters, Brock Lesnar, GSP, guys that sort of transcend the brand, but they’re few and far between. For the most part, the UFC has operated as you know the three letters mean more than anything else and I don’t think it makes a difference. Quite honestly, I think they come out looking good if all of a sudden they’re doing everything they can to make sure that their league, their organization, their promotion, however you want to frame it is steroid-free, performance-enhance-drug-free, at least the best to their ability that you’re doing everything you can. I don’t see how that’s a negative for them.”

JIM ROME: “No, I think that’s good PR, that’s good PR, that’s good business. Josh, where do you come out on this — I mean, for instance, anything short of zero tolerance, you know how these guys operate. You know what they’re thinking. They’re always going to believe that the risk is going to far outweigh or the reward is going to far outweigh the risk. How in the world can you ever get in front of this and address it when guys just don’t care, they’re going to keep doing it because they know what the reward is if they succeed?”

JOSH GROSS: “Well, that’s why I think there needs to be a zero tolerance policy. if the UFC says today that Dana White comes out and says today, anybody who tests positive for steroids or PEDs moving forward will not be in the UFC, you don’t think that’s the loudest, I think it’s the least invasive, the least expensive, the biggest message that they can send to anybody and not only to fighters in their organization right now but the young kids coming up who see Chael Sonnen, Sean Sherk, Hermes Franca testing positive on a fairly regular basis in the biggest Mixed Martial Arts show in the world, they’re going to say I have to do this stuff or otherwise I won’t be able to compete. If the UFC lays down the gauntlet and says you cannot compete here if you test positive, I don’t see how that doesn’t help in changing the culture, at least the drug culture in MMA.”

JIM ROME: “How prevalent do you think the use is in the UFC and MMA or drugs?”

JOSH GROSS: “You know, I’ve heard estimates anywhere from 30% to 70%. Talking to people in gyms this week, you know, in the wake of the Chael Sonnen thing, I think it’s certainly prevalent and it’s not the way that it was in the early 2000s even 2002 when state regulatory commissions started testing this stuff but they do it by jurisdiction and the way they test in California is not how they test in Nevada or how they test in Texas, so it’s sort of you’re going from one place to another. Guys can get by it. it’s not that difficult. I grew up with a buddy who ran high-level track internationally and he says, you know, if you want to do it you hire an endocrinologist and you can do this stuff and it’s not an issue to get around and until and unless they adopt WADA-quality testing, Olympic-style testing on a wide scale, I don’t think anything is going to change which is why I think the UFC has to take a stand.”

JIM ROME: “I mean it’s always going to be that way. I mean, to your friend’s point, the guys who are using are always going to be one step ahead of the guys trying to run them down for the reasons you and I talked about, the rewards are so great. I don’t see that ever changing.”

JOSH GROSS: “No, certainly not. Guys are going to take the risk because the rewards are great. But if you make it so that the consequences are so dire, you cannot compete in the UFC which is clearly the preeminent organization in Mixed Martial Arts, I think some guys are going to take a second look at this. I think that would do more than anything that’s been done at this point to really change the mindset amongst Mixed Martial Artists who are thinking about using this stuff.”

JIM ROME: “Do you think an athlete would take one look at this and change their mind? I mean, short of a guy dropping dead or sort of a guy having his career ripped from him, will guys really take a second look?”

JOSH GROSS: “Yeah, see, I don’t think a guy dropping dead or a guy, you know, coming down with cancer affects these guys in any way, they’re all untouchable in their own minds, right?”

JIM ROME: “Right.”

JOSH GROSS: “I mean these guys are athletes first and foremost and then fighters. So, nothing is going to hurt them. I just think it has to come down from the people calling the shots and people calling the shots largely in MMA are the UFC and to this point, I would like to see them at least adopt a drug standard, some performance-enhancing policy that, you know, is pretty clear-cut. A guy tests positives for steroids, something is going to happen internally in the UFC, to just rely on the government bodies, the regulatory bodies… you know, it hasn’t worked so far. So I think something needs to change.”

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 51 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

51 Responses to “Josh Gross: UFC should cut fighters who fail drug tests to help clean up the sport”

  1. Jason Harris says:

    1) What sport does this? Other sports suspend guys for 2-4 WEEKS instead of a year
    2) More like good for Strikeforce. And we know how Gross feels about UFC.

    • Robert Poole says:

      MLB suspends players 50 games on the first offense. 2-4 weeks is seriously inaccurate.

      Third strike and it’s a lifetime ban.

      Frankly a 3 Strikes is still too many in combat sports. Twice should be enough. Josh Barnett has no business being allowed to fight anywhere anymore.

      • Jason Harris says:

        50 games in baseball is 3 months
        NFL just suspended a guy for 4 games (1 month)
        last NBA suspension I could find was 10 games (what is that, 2 weeks?)
        I couldn’t find any record of NHL suspending anyone, but I did find confirmation they don’t even test during playoffs

    • 45 Huddle says:

      #2 was exactly my thoughts when I read what Gross said.

      Notice how he isn’t saying they should be banned from Strikeforce. Or banned from the sport. Just let go by the UFC.

      He doesn’t even try anymore really. He is so beyond biased that he lost all credibility.

      • What does Strikeforce have to do with the UFC’s policy? They’re a completely independent promoter.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          Because it makes no sense to say one promotion has to have a drug policy and the other one doesn’t. All we hear from guys like Josh Gross is that fighters should matter and not the promotion. Gross has no problem ranking fighters together from Japan and the UFC, despite the fact that the UFC drug tests and Japan does not.

          Shouldn’t a fighter taking steroids in the UFC be no different then a fighter taking steroids in Strikeforce? Why is Gross singling out one promotion? If the UFC should ban a fighter for life if they take steroids, then shouldn’t that fighter just be banned for life from the sport (using Gross’s logic)?

          All Gross is doing is trying to force out fighters from the UFC so smaller promotions can use them.

        • The Gaijin says:

          “All Gross is doing is trying to force out fighters from the UFC so smaller promotions can use them.”

          Talk about wearing your tinfoil helmet here…this is hilariously off base.

        • It doesn’t matter what Strikeforce does. The UFC is, as Gross points out, the top promoter in the sport. They’re the big dogs. They set the tone. If Strikeforce wants to hire a bunch of suspended or non-licensed fighters, that isn’t the UFC’s fault nor something they should concern themselves with.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          It does matter what Strikeforce is doing. Just like it matters what the NFL or MLB is doing. The UFC doesn’t operate in a bubble. They operate in a world that they are competing for entertainment dollars. They are operating in an industry that has competitors.

          So if the UFC does this ZERO tolerance policy, then Strikeforce would just pick up these athletes and be able to promote them. Why in a million years would the UFC allow that to happen?

          And why would the UFC, who has 1/100th of the mainstream media coverage as the NFL…. Have a tougher steroid policy? Once again, makes no sense.

          A fight is a fight. And as Gross points out, it’s about the potential damage a roider can do to his opponent. Why should it matter what organization that fighter is in? Shouldn’t their health be the most important and if they are a user they should be banned?

          Gross is contradicting himself. One one hand he is saying fighters should be protected. On the other hand, he is saying they should only be protected in 1 organization.

          Let’s be honest here. Japan is a bigger problem. Strikeforce not doing drug testing when the commissions don’t is a bigger problem. They should be the topic of conversation of roid use…. Not the UFC.

        • It doesn’t matter what Strikeforce is doing. They are second rate goons running shows only slightly elevated from KOTC most nights. The UFC taking cues from what Strikeforce does would be like MLB changing drug testing policies because the Venezuelan League doesn’t bother.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          The difference is that MMA is an individual sport, so losing 1 specific fighter can change the tide.

          In team sports, if the Yankees canned Alex Rodriguez tomorrow for failing a roid test…. Nobody would care that he is playing in the Independent Leagues….

          And once again, you are ignoring the fact…. Which Gross brought up…. That it’s about fighter safety. And if this was true…. Then Gross would be preaching it to every commission who regulates the sports…. Not one specific organization.

        • Gross isn’t going to preach it to the commissions because he knows its a dead end. No money to test and 50 different sets of rules, pus indian reservations = not gonna happen. The UFC can control its own fate here.

          Is there any evidence right now that Strikeforce can turn guys who’ve had significant exposure with the UFC into stars of equivalent value for them? That’s without them being marred with a positive for steroids.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          So Strikeforce’s ability to promote and advertise should have an effect on the safety of the fighters?

        • Why should Strikeforce’s attitude towards drug testing affect the safety of the fighters in the UFC?

        • 45 Huddle says:

          You answered my question with a question.

        • I absolutely did. What Strikeforce chooses to do or chooses not to do isn’t in any way relevant to what the UFC can or cannot do. You can’t argue it so.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          It’s very easy to argue it because they are in the same industry. What one does can effect the other.

          You dodged my question completely.

        • For Dana White to argue that his hands are tied about doing something because “Well, Strikeforce doesn’t do it” would be the most asinine thing I’ve ever heard.

  2. Zack says:

    Props to Rome for expanding his MMA knowledge past the Zuffa yes-men horizon.

  3. Kalle Beck says:

    wow two guys babbling about two subjects they clearly know little on. I liked it better when the main stream didn’t cover mma

    You hold MMA to a higher standard then other sports, why because they punch each other? Shawn Merrimen tests positive and gets 4 weeks and NO ONE talks about it again. You want more penalties for athletes who make less in a year then someone in the NFL makes in a year? compared to major sports and have 0 guaranteed money. Not letting them make a living for a year isn’t enough? How many repeat offenders are in the UFC? Did the UFC sign Barnett? NO he has failed 3 drug tests, the NFL is a 3 strikes and your out rule why would the UFC do differently?

    • Oh Yeah says:

      It’s seriously flawed.

      In baseball if you have a decent rep and then have a big contract year you can end up with a fully guaranteed, long-term deal easily over 30m. In fact, it happens all the time but noone seems to care.

  4. EJ says:

    As usual Gross is wrong, it’s also amazing that anyone would actually take anything he says these days.

  5. Mark says:

    I hope Gross was just trying to get attention by saying something provocative on national airwaves, because if he really believes anything he said he is an idiot. He sounded as uneducated as the MMA haters he’s bitched about for years.

    #1 No sport period is ever going to fire a first time offender. That’s like saying you’re going to give a first time drug offender in the criminal system a life sentence. It makes zero sense on any level. Nobody else would do that, you’d be handing over a huge star to Strikeforce in Sonnen’s case, and humanity has been giving second chances to people who mess up for centuries. Ridiculous.

    #2 How can you not care about an athlete’s well being. “Oh, well, they fight for a living” is not an excuse to not want to put the fact that steroid users are going to have severe health problems down the road. I have no respect for drug abusers of any kind, but it still makes me sad to know they’ve destroyed their health over something as stupid as getting high for hours or minutes or to gain short-term strength. That “we don’t want MMA fighters dropping dead in their 40s like pro wrestlers” should be among your top reasons to support drug testing next to competition fairness. It makes more sense than…..

    #3 People on steroids are going to kill their opponent? Come on, that’s like “reefer madness” level absurdity uneducated scare tactic BS. Do you know how many MMA deaths there would be if this was true? PRIDE would have had a body count to rival Jonestown. There’s, you know, a referee and stuff to stop fights before they go to far, Josh.. Rocky IV wasn’t real.

    #4 It absolutely affects the business you moron. Will Silva-Okami have the same giant buyrate Silva-Sonnen II will have? No? Then it effected the business, Einstein.

    • Fluyid says:

      The depictions of marijuana-induced insanity shown in “Reefer Madness” have been proven to be accurate.

      • Mark says:

        Roid rage has been proven to be legit too, but to say it’s possible for somebody to snap and beat another fighter to death is as hyperbolic as to pretend people getting high on marijuana and killing themselves is a regular occurance.

        If steroids really cause over-aggression in an MMA fight, then let’s break into the homes of Gray Maynard and Jon Fitch every night and start injecting them as they sleep.

      • Bryan says:

        No, it hasn’t. A couple of studies conducted in Europe have linked Marijuana usage to schizophrenia and depression. However, these studies are hardly conclusive. Especially, when one considers both the number of people that have used Marijuana without ill effect and that some of the early American studies conducted came to conclusions based on political pressure rather than science.

        In any event, I have to concur with the consensus. It’s pretty laughable to think that taking steroids will turn a fighter into a super strong killing machine. I’m also surprised to see a MMA writer argue that fighters are brewing with testosterone. That seems an unfair stereotype, one need not have high levels of testosterone to compete in MMA.

        Additionally, the notion that just taking steroids makes you bigger and stronger is rubbish. You’ve actually got to put time in the gym for it to have a worthwhile effect. None of those bodybuilders with freakish physiques got that way by simply injecting that stuff and then sitting on their coach.

        Beyond that since the very first UFC fight, MMA has demonstrated that size and strength is not a substitute for good technique. Didn’t the former world’s strongest man lose to Tim Sylvia?

        The real benefit for MMA fighters taking steroids is not really the muscle or strength gain but the fact that it greatly aids in recovery time. Most of the freakishly large guys at the gym do lots of training that would not lead to the same results for those of us not using (because we’d by over training), precisely because steroids speed up recovery time.

        If steroids gave Chael an unfair advantage it would not be in that he was bigger and stronger, it would be in that he was able to train more and harder for the fight, and by not being as beat up for it.

        Finally, the dumbest part about Gross’ tirade is that the supplement industry is unregulated. Pretty much no one that engages in intense physical training is not taking some kind of nutritional supplement. There is no guarantee what a company says is in something is actually in it, and MMA fighters certainly can’t afford to test all or any of their supplements. Also, a number of businesses that sell cheap legal supplements also use their facilities to make illicit substances.

        A zero tolerance policy could lead to some guy who scraped and clawed his way for a chance into the UFC (who hasn’t seen the financial benefits, yet) being jettisoned from the organization because he used a contaminated protein powder or something.

        • edub says:

          I’m pretty sure Fluyid was being sarcastic Bryan. Other wise pretty good post with a lot of info. The only thing I’ll coment on is the steroid affect in the mental department. When you are on steroids you never wanna leave the gym. You never wanna miss a work out day, and the plateaus usually hit at certain points don’t really exist anymore. It gives you the feeling that you can lift or do anything even if it is way beyond your means. So after all that putting in the extensive training time becomes a lot easier.

  6. klown says:

    *irrelevance alert*

    Folks, you have to check out this video of Wanderlei Silva lecturing/threatening Chael Sonnen about showing respect while they sit together in a car. It’s freaking hilarious. (start at 3:50)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=O_JLbe-RnDw

  7. Phil says:

    I find it completely disingenuous for Gross to continuously praise the virtues of co-promotion and praising other organizations to write a column saying this, and then sit silently while Strikeforce signs Barnett.

    Zuffa and Strikeforce shouldn’t be held to the same standards, but I can’t see how someone can legitimately think that Zuffa should cut everyone that tests positive once and then ignore Barnett. No one really gives a shit, so I don’t expect him to slam Strikeforce and Barnett on ESPN, but he could have written a column.

    Also, people need to stop holding Zuffa to a higher standard than the big sports, it just doesn’t make sense.

    • Strikeforce is irrelevant to the UFC’s policy making.

      • IceMuncher says:

        UFC’s policy making is irrelevant when discussing Josh Gross’s double standards.

        If you believe PEDs are such an egregious offense that the NFL should ban a PED user for a first time offense, it makes no sense to then say “Well, if it happens in arena football I couldn’t care less”.

        • It isn’t a double standard to say that the UFC, being the vanguard and most important and successful promotion miles, can take on issues that other lesser organizations and promotions can’t. Obviously no name promoters like the MFC can’t afford Olympic testing. So what?

      • Steve4192 says:

        “Strikeforce is irrelevant to the UFC’s policy making.”

        Absolutely not true.

        If Brock Lesnar got popped for steroids and Zuffa cut him as part of a ‘zero tolerance’ stance on PEDs, it would have a HUGE impact on Zuffa’s business if the competition was able to pick up the #1 draw in the sport. ‘Zero tolerance’ is a laughable idea.

        • Of course its true. UFC policy isn’t dictated by the decisions that Strikeforce makes. Nor should it. They’re the big boys. Strikeforce are the guppies. And they could ruin Lesnar’s reputation if he tested positive and they had the gumption to do anything about it. But they don’t care and won’t do it.

  8. 45 Huddle says:

    Dear Josh Gross,

    You are wrong.

    Sincerely,
    The Majority of the MMA Fanbase

    ********

    Fighters need to be given a 2nd chance. Like somebody said above, a guy like Josh Barnett has no business in MMA. A guy like Nathan Marquardt does.

    Let’s be honest. Studies have shown that certain over the counter supplements can create positive results. So sometimes it isn’t even a guy wanting to cheat…. It’s more ignorance on what is acceptable for him to take. Why should they be banned for life for that?

    And like many others have said, no other sport bans athletes for life for 1 offense. MMA should be no different.

    All this feels like is Josh Gross trying to get attention and trying to put pressure on Zuffa for a non-issue. Keep in mind, this is the same brain child that thinks it would be better to not have the UFC around and do the events based solely on the fighters like they do in boxing. Of course, the history of open contracts and the cluster it creates has had no effect on his opinion which just shows he is just trolling at this point.

    Lastly, as Jordan Breem has often pointed out, a lot of guys in MMA aren’t taking steroids to get stronger. They are taking them for the benefits of recovery so they can have more workouts and improve their cardio for the fights.

  9. David M says:

    There is no lower form of life than sports journalists. Josh Gross is a worthless asshole with an overinflated sense of self. Shut your fucking mouth.

    • Chuck says:

      I don’t know……fan-fiction writers are extremely low on the totem pole of life. So are most science fiction book writers. Maybe writers of erotic books too. But not comic authors! They are the KINGS of life!

  10. Shane says:

    Do PEDs improve performance in MMA as Gross and Rome seem to suggest? Aren’t like 90% of fighters who get busted for roids the ones who are coming off losses?

    • Steve4192 says:

      More like 90% of the fighters who use steroids are coming off a training injury, and are therefore already at a disadvantage. The notion that these guys are taking Ronnie Coleman level dosages and gaining all kinds of new muscle is false. The vast majority of the time, they are taking steroids in therapeutic doses in order to heal existing injuries or ward off future injuries.

  11. Vox says:

    Yes! Let’s go for zero tolerance law enforcement! If you get a speeding ticket, you get your license revoked and get kicked out of your job (even if it doesn’t have anything to do with driving)…speeding puts more people in lethal danger than PEDs, and it kills more people than PEDs do, so…let’s do zero tolerance all the way!

    I usually enjoy what Josh writes/podcasts, but…this is stupid, seriously stupid, and he’s always been blindingly black and white about this subject…somebody must have caught him with a cheatsheet when he was in highschool or something.

  12. The Gaijin says:

    *Irrelevancy alert*

    Maybe more relevant, if at all, to the earlier post on UFC needing to change things up to get out of a perceived funk.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZtMm0swu5i8&feature=player_embedded

    Gave me chills – esp. as a long time boxing fan.

    I wish they would hire the HBO boxing guys or at least plagarize their ideas. Say what you will about boxing itself, but HBO’s ability to do revolutionary things like 24/7 and awesome/inspiring/original promos like this is undeniable.

  13. 45 Huddle says:

    Ariel & Dana

    http://www.mmafighting.com/2010/09/23/dana-white-talks-ufc-119-chael-sonnen-recent-cuts/

    Dana basically says at one point that a fighter is suspended for a year. Likely has already spent some of the money they will now be fined for. And what he said was basically: “What else do you want to do to him?”

    And then he goes into how everybody makes mistakes and it’s how you grow from it.

    He then flat out brings up Josh Barnett testing positive 3 times and never admitting to it once.

    White has a good perspective on the drug testing. I know people online will always bash him because they don’t have much else to cling onto in life without bashing others. But White knows how the handle this issue properly.

    And he also further went on to bash Barnett and saying how he shows no remorse about hurting others when he helped end Affliction.

  14. […] opinions and mine is very different and I’m going to focus one appearance that I heard, it was when Josh Gross went on The Jim Rome Show and made a number of statements that I just can&#82…. The first of those, you know, he made a comment when asked by Rome how prevalent the drug problem […]

  15. […] reminds me of the back-and-forth debate that happened between Josh Gross and Larry Pepe (here, here, and here) in which Larry challenged the idea that so many fighters would be visiting […]

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