By Zach Arnold | April 16, 2012
- Two plausible paths for Alistair Overeem to get licensed in Nevada
- ‘We’re the most tested sport in the world’ ain’t cutting it no more
- UFC’s current stance on the testosterone issue – not much of a plan
- Testosterone MMA HOF grows as backers ramp up the rhetoric
- Keith Kizer: Rampage’s testosterone cheerleading has led to more TUE requests
- Mike Kogan has had enough of Rampage’s complaining w/ UFC
- Did Rampage name-drop his UFC-friendly doctor?
- Rampage suddenly says the magic of T isn’t helping his knees
- How UFC can play the testosterone card against Rampage
- Testosterone capitulation: The UFC, Rampage, & Fighters Only
- Rampage’s exquisite timing in making his ‘final stand’ against UFC
- One enemy too many: UFC testosterone narrative backfiring
- Mood swings: Rampage rages against UFC
- Rampage Jackson admits TRT usage, claims his doctor works for UFC
- Five questions the media should ask about UFC testosterone story
- Victor Conte: Ongoing testosterone fiasco will haunt UFC; Dave Meltzer says Bristol Marunde fought on Strikeforce show w/ TUE for testosterone
Kenny Florian may be mad about drug usage in MMA, but his bosses have spun a rather conflicting message on this front.
The back drop of what happened in the UFC over the last two weeks should be established here. For UFC Sweden, you have Thiago Silva headlining a main event against Alexander Gustafsson. Silva was coming off of suspension from Nevada because of an altered urine sample for his drug test. Hacran Dias, who was supposed to be on The Ultimate Fighter Brazil but failed a drug test due to usage of diuretics, got signed by UFC to a contract. To add a touch of irony, Fuel TV hired Karyn Bryant to do the fighter interviews. Yes, that Karyn Bryant who Rampage motorboated and name-dropped his chiropractor (Dr. William Kessler) during an interview when he was praising his usage of testosterone.
So, we know where UFC stands based on their recent actions when it comes to the usage of drugs by fighters in MMA. Don’t hate the player, hate the game? Well, when the game is about whether or not UFC is a sport, part of that process is drug testing and cleaning up rampant drug abuse. It’s not just an image thing, it’s also a health & safety thing, too.
Which is why these two headlines from Dana White this weekend at UFC Sweden made him sound as out-of-touch as Bob Arum:
- Dana White says drug testing in MMA is the gold standard in sports
- Dana White says ‘random’ drug testing in MMA is impossible
Money quote from the first article:
“The [expletive] testing in this sport is insane. It is literally the gold standard in all of sports.”
And as for the guys who get caught by that testing? White had some words for them as well.
“You’re grown men. You’re [expletive] adults. You’re professional athletes. How many times do you have to be told not to do this? To the point where you just completely blow you’re entire [expletive] career?”
Money quote from the second article:
“I have 375 fighters in every country all over the world,” White fumed. “The battle that I have to get these guys to get their [expletive] bout agreements back and show up for press is un[expletive]believable. The fact that I have to make personal phone calls to tell guys to talk to the [expletive] press. Now I’m going to start making personal phone calls to go show up for random drug tests? The general public and the media need to grasp some [expletive] concept of reality, okay? The reality of us doing all the [expletive] things that we’re doing, when we already have the gold standard in drug testing, and then trying to chase 375 guys all over the world to randomly test them too? It’s impossible.”
What’s funny about this quote is that no one is asking Dana to personally hold a cup and take a urine sample from 375 fighters around the world and do the drug testing himself. The Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency, a non-profit organization set up to help out with advanced & independent drug testing in combat sports, is right in Las Vegas. VADA works with WADA-accredited labs, something that many athletic commissions currently do not. For the UFC, all they would need to do is support an independently-operated drug testing program that would administratively take the issue right out of their hands. No more drug testing while running ’self-regulated’ shows, either.
Earlier, I remarked that Dana sounds as out-of-touch as Bob Arum does on this issue. Truthfully, we know Dana knows better than what he’s spouting off here. He knows drug usage is a big problem and his company is facing chaos because guys are getting suspended. That’s what makes the UFC’s predicament so intriguing here — the current drug testing protocols are nowhere near what they should be and yet many fighters are failing a standard IQ test by being sloppy drug users or shamelessly begging for a hall pass to use testosterone. Combine that with the number of fighters who are using designer steroids or growth hormone quietly and you can see just how out of control things are right now for drug usage in the sport.
UFC is at a crossroads here. Promoters want certainty. An environment with no drug testing would provide certainty, but that world is not going to exist. So, it’s time for UFC to cooperate with independent agencies that can handle the drug testing issue for them and do the job right. Sunlight may as well be exposed on all the fighters.
It’s not as if independent drug testing on a world stage isn’t currently being done. It’s done with Olympic competitors. It’s done with tennis players. Drug testing in tennis blows away what’s currently happening in MMA.
And, yet, you will see people basically take a realpolitik stance on the matter. “Hey, Chael Sonnen’s fighting in Brazil while using testosterone. Thiago Silva’s headlining UFC Sweden. How much more proof do you need that they don’t care about PEDs?” The way in which this dropped during a conversation is more or less in a ‘hey, if they don’t care, why should I care?” kind of tone.
Why the UFC should care about the drug issue
Liability. Forget pushing pipe dream, no-name international MMA sanctioning bodies. It’s simply not going to work. What will work is if the UFC works with someone like VADA and actually stops hiring guys who are prominent drug users. Fighters wouldn’t risk using drugs as often if they knew the price to be paid was their job security. UFC has the power of message to send to fighters not to use testosterone or else they won’t be coming back to the organization. Instead, guys who recently miss failed drug tests get hired right back or back within a year.
But what happens on a self-regulated show if a testosterone user like Sonnen ends up crippling or killing a fighter? There will be hell to pay on many fronts and the legal front is a guaranteed avenue of pain for Zuffa. They should clean things up as much as they possibly can now before it mushrooms into a giant legal headache later on. Take a look at the legal issues the NFL is facing right now from having over 1,000 former players sue them over concussions.
Image & credibility. How on Earth can a bunch of men who look like Greek Gods be crying hypogonadism with a straight face and telling fans that they have to use testosterone because they suffer from a medical condition that less than 2% of the adult male population in the world suffers from? It’s embarrassing to see play out the way it is right now. On Tuesday (7-8 PM EST, 4-5 PM PST) in Nevada, there will be a 1 hour meeting of the NSAC’s medical advisory panel to talk about Therapeutic Use Exemptions. What exquisite timing given Alistair’s hearing coming up next week. The varying standards between different AC’s over TUEs and what the process should be is a perfect reason as to why TUEs for testosterone shouldn’t be happening in the first place. If the WWE, of all companies, can see what a fiasco a TUE for testosterone is for a professional wrestler, why should an MMA fighter get a hall pass to use testosterone? Dr. Margaret Goodman of VADA is largely opposed to TUEs for testosterone. I’ve said that TUEs for testosterone shouldn’t be happening. Others who come from the pro-wrestling business see the oncoming train wreck in MMA over the testosterone issue and they, too, are sounding off against testosterone usage in MMA.
Last week, Siena released the latest poll results about the image of MMA & MMA legislation in the state of New York. 38% approval, 52% disapproval and the numbers amongst women continue to be horrific – 26% approve, 60% oppose. UFC has spent millions of dollars trying to get MMA legislation passed in the state despite the fact that UFC has not cultivated grass roots support for MMA in the state amongst key Democratic voter blocks. If you’re a parent and your kid wants to get involved in MMA, you might have second thoughts about it because of the current drug culture of the business. It’s not as if the fighters who are using drugs in MMA are low-profile people. We’re talking big names here, household names for MMA fans. The drug issue isn’t the #1 primary cause of low approval ratings for MMA in New York, but it’s a hell of a hammer to slam the business with. And who can blame the politicians for not approving MMA legislation in the state if they aren’t receiving any pressure from influential voters to pass such a bill?
It’s time for a total overhaul of the mindset at Zuffa headquarters over the way the drug issue is being handled in the sport now. It’s not just about the health & safety of their fighters, it’s also about their corporate image which is getting chipped away every time a high-profile fighter gets busted for drug usage. When you are a facing a problem like this, rewarding guys who recently fail drug tests sends a loud message and it’s not a positive one. Both in terms of public relations and business actions, UFC needs to dramatically change the way business is being handled. It’s in their best financial interests to do so, whether they realize that right now or not.