By Zach Arnold | April 10, 2012
Karim Zidan (@theflyingkneeto) of The Flying Knee MMA noted on his site last Sunday (item here), Alistair Overeem will in fact attend a scheduled April 24th hearing in Las Vegas in front of the Nevada State Athletic Commission to apply for a fighter’s license. In addition, so far, he is not asking for his B urine sample to be tested in order to nullify the initial drug testing result of his A urine sample.
So, what’s going on here?
Everyone is guessing about what his strategy will be if it’s not predicated on getting the B sample tested with a Carbon Isotope Ratio test. When the news broke on Sunday, there was plenty of mockery and plenty of ‘horse meat’ reasons being dished online.
What makes this situation fascinating is that UFC reportedly is the party that set up the licensing request for Overeem with Nevada for the April 24th hearing. Either UFC is confident that Overeem has a plausible reason to get licensed or they are basically putting the pressure on Overeem in a ‘OK, you made this mess, now go clean it up’ kind of way.
In the embedded Inside MMA video clip at the top of this post, Kenny Rice & Bas Rutten had one hell of a panel on their show to discuss the issue of drug usage in MMA — Michael Schiavello (happy birthday), Joe Rogan, and Josh Barnett. If you had told me ahead of time that Schiavello would have the most controversial comments about PED usage out of those three names, I would have never believed you.
Schiavello says that, off the record, fighters tell him that the rate of PED usage in MMA is ‘about 99%.’ He went on to present some reasons to use to defend Overeem. His two arguments:
- How can you randomly drug test someone who isn’t licensed?
- “He hasn’t technically cheated” because it’s two months away from his fight against Junior dos Santos, saying he’s 14:1 now but isn’t allowed to get down to a 6:1 T/E ratio by fight time?
Even Joe Rogan pointed out the obvious in saying that there’s a reason why random drug testing is used. I was taken aback by the assertion that basically it’s OK to use testosterone or whatever you want to use as long as by fight time you are down to a 6:1 T/E ratio. It’s an assumption that basically relies upon a premise that everyone is using, why fight it, and just recognize it for what it is. It’s also an argument that nullifies the point of drug testing in the first place, which is to try to catch guys who are using banned substances in order for a performance-enhancing benefit in preparation of a fight.
The last point is a salient one given that there are recent articles published quoting Swedish scientists as claiming that once someone uses steroids, they gain whatever benefits from steroid usage long after they stop using steroids.
So, given how everyone is playing the guessing game as to what Overeem will say on April 24th, there are two plausible paths that I could see UFC & Overeem arguing at the Nevada hearing. Michael Schiavello hinted at the first path.
Door #1 – How can you randomly drug test someone who isn’t ‘officially’ licensed?
Last week during a radio interview featuring Keith Kizer & Mauro Ranallo, this issue became a contentious one because a lot of people are totally confused about the way Nevada has handled the licensing procedures for Overeem. Let’s summarize what has happened so far:
- Overeem was supposed to take a drug test in order to get approved for a fighter’s license to fight Brock Lesnar on 12/30/11. Overeem missed the drug test, claiming he had to fly to Holland to attend to his sick mother.
- The Nevada commission granted Overeem a ‘temporary’ conditional license to fight Lesnar on December 30th based on the premise that he would be subjected to random urine drug testing and that he would have to go to London to take a drug test immediately so that Quest Diagnostics could examine the sample.
- Overeem fights Lesnar and wins. He passed the pre-fight and post-fight urine drug tests. His ‘temporary’ license expires after December 31st, 2011.
- Overeem is still stuck in ‘conditional’ limbo for licensing and has to continue passing drug tests in order to fight Junior dos Santos on May 26th even though Overeem isn’t truly ‘officially’ licensed. Overeem fails the ‘random’ urine drug test due to elevated levels of testosterone at an estimated 14:1 T/E ratio. Because he’s not ‘officially’ licensed, he can’t be suspended by Nevada but he can’t be officially licensed until he applies for a license on April 24th.
If this process sounds absurd to you, that’s because it is. Nevada got their money for the Overeem/Lesnar fight while Overeem was fighting on a conditional temporary license. Now that he failed a drug test, he’s caught in the same limbo that Josh Barnett found himself caught in with the California State Athletic Commission.
PR-wise, attacking Nevada over this licensing process is probably better than the other plausible path Overeem has to pursue for licensing but it’s also a lot riskier & is likely going to really anger the commission.
The other path is a not-so PR friendly one these days.
Door #2 – Hypogonadism (testosterone replacement therapy)
A couple of weeks ago, Mike Chiappetta of MMAFighting.com wrote an article in which he stated that Keith Kizer had told him that the process for getting a Theurapeutic Use Exemption in Nevada for testosterone takes 20 days. I kid you not, 20 days.
You can see where this is going. Damon Martin:
Keith Kizer confirms with me today that a fighter can apply for TRT exemption either before or with their application for a license.
Overeem’s T/E ratio was reportedly 14:1. When Chael Sonnen tested positive in California, his T/E ratio was nearly 17:1. Sonnen then came out and had his appeals hearing where he said that Dr. Mark Czarnecki, a general practitioner, wrote his prescription for testosterone. In Sonnen’s case, he was already licensed and got suspended. In Overeem’s case, he is nebulously not ‘officially’ licensed to fight in Nevada. They have him classified for a ‘conditional’ license even though he’s already fought once (the Brock Lesnar fight) and the commission got paid because of the box office that bout did.
So, let’s say Overeem does claim hypogonadism and goes the TRT route. Keith Kizer has left the door open for Overeem to claim hypogonadism and the need for testosterone. If Nevada gives him his Exemption, the fight with Junior dos Santos is on.
If Nevada rejects Overeem, he could easily go to another state where Therapeutic Use Exemptions are issued with less scrutiny and fight there. Or… he could simply fight for the UFC on shows that they regulate under the auspices of using a TUE for testosterone and that Dr. Jeff Davidson would manage the situation.
So, Overeem’s options for fighting still exist no matter what happens in Nevada.
What would make Overeem applying for TRT so interesting is whether or not any testimony he would give on April 24th would conflict with the testimony he gave under oath to Nevada a few months ago. After all, UFC President Dana White has readily admitted that many MMA fighters who are applying for TRT are previously anabolic steroid users.
Outside of applying for a TUE for testosterone or aggressively attacking the ambiguity of Nevada’s licensing process, I don’t see why Overeem would even bother attending the April 24th hearing if he’s not having the B sample tested with CIR. It’s hard to see what other angle he could come up with here. He’s stuck in a very tenuous position. He split off from Golden Glory, so that bridge is burned and they are going after him for cash. UFC is his only big meal ticket. DREAM is dormant and not active. There’s no major player in Japanese MMA any longer on a national level. One FC likely isn’t going to be able to afford him. He got stiffed (allegedly) by K-1 on a lot of money and Ishii is back with K-1 Global Holdings and is supposed to be working with Simon Rutz of Its Showtime, a mortal enemy of Bas Boon & Golden Glory. I suppose there’s that route… but it’s simply not UFC money.
If Overeem presents a case that doesn’t revolve around the need of testosterone to function, what angle does he possess? Is it simply to say, yeah, I screwed up, I’ll wait a year and then get licensed after that time period in hopes of getting a second chance with UFC? It’s hard to say.