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Fox Sports: "Zach Arnold's Fight Opinion site is one of the best spots on the Web for thought-provoking MMA pieces."

« | Home | »

Is it fair to label MMA ‘a drug sport’ – yes/no?

By Zach Arnold | July 16, 2012

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Since we last touched on the topic on June 1st when we talked about the Testosterone Hall of Fame, we’ve had Rich Franklin go wishy-washy in public about consideration of TRT usage. Larry Pepe also broke news last Friday that Forrest Griffin is just the latest UFC name to get a hall pass for testosterone usage, thanks to Keith Kizer and the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

Even if you consider TRT to be an acceptable practice for MMA fighters, you have to admit that fighters wouldn’t be inquiring about TRT if it didn’t work in enhancing their performance & increased strength. Keith Kizer can tell you that approving hall passes for testosterone usage should not constitute the scarlet letter treatment, but it’s hard to to make an argument to the public that so many healthy-looking 20, 30, and 40 year olds in the sport need testosterone in order to function as human beings.

Jonathan Snowden: Forrest Griffin joins TRT club and that’s okay

Boxing Insider: Crash course on testosterone, hypogonadism, and doping

Today, UFC issued a press release claiming that they will be developing their own PED policy using the same law firm as the NFL. Of course, the NFL & NFLPA are bickering back & forth about blood/HGH testing right now. WWE’s drug testing policy was backed by Dr. David Black, who was also involved in the NFL’s drug testing policy. Suffice to say, I don’t think anyone would put WWE’s policy on a pedestal. However, given that they even think hall passes for testosterone are bad, they’re a step up from various state athletic commissions.

And then there’s BJ Penn, who has decided that if he and Rory MacDonald are going to volunteer for drug testing from the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association that VADA must delay releasing drug testing results until the fighters get paid. You don’t say. The point of VADA testing is to prevent a fighter, who is doping, from actually getting in the cage while on a performance enhancer. Of course, this also means that when a fighter tests positive (Lamont Peterson for micro-dosing of testosterone pellets, Andre Berto for nandrolone) it costs the state athletic commissions & promoters money for canceling fights. Given Keith Kizer’s dislike of Dr. Margaret Goodman, don’t expect Nevada to warmly embrace VADA with 100% conviction given that all it takes is one fighter getting busted and you can lose 6 figures in AC revenue from the gate & TV/PPV taxes.

Here’s a Twitter stink bomb from Victor Conte:

Let’s be real. It seems that people were handing out info on how to get a TUE for TRT at the recent MMA summit for fighters in Vegas.

So, is it fair to label MMA as a drug sport right now and, if so, what sport is it comparable to as far as the pecking order of other drug sports?

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 10 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

10 Responses to “Is it fair to label MMA ‘a drug sport’ – yes/no?”

  1. Steve4192 says:

    ALL sports where there is big money to be made are drug sports. Every last one of them. MMA is no exception, on either the positive or negative side. It’s just as dirty as the rest of ’em.

    The only difference is that those sports have had decades to polish their PR stance on doping while MMA is still muddling through territory the stick-and-ball sports covered back in the 1960s and 1970s.

  2. SmackyBear says:

    How does one define a drug sport? Is it every sport where any athletes are using PEDs, or do there have to be certain percentages of athletes using them? If a percentage is necessary, how large must it be?

    I’m not trying to be difficult, I just think a term like that needs to be defined for a reasonable answer.

    On another note, Mr. Snowden’s article was rather disappointing. I’ve never seen any corroboration for the bro science he stated as fact. Despite asking everyone that I’ve ever seen make the claim, nobody has ever shown that weight cutting has a permanent impact on testosterone levels. It has been shown to have a temporary impact, and that’s it.

    • Zach Arnold says:

      On a ‘drug sport’ scale, let’s say that cycling is near the top or at the top of the list. In comparison to cycling, where does MMA stand and where does MMA stand compared to American football?

      Or do we compare MMA to horse racing? I’m trying to figure it out myself.

      • SmackyBear says:

        Better than cycling, though considerably worse than (modern) football. It’s hard to be as bad as cycling unless coaches are passing out roids ’63 Chargers style.

        I would think boxing would be pretty close, but I don’t follow boxing enough to say for sure. I just know they’d have similar incentives to dope, they’re both highly physical combat sports, and they’re regulated by a patchwork quilt of ACs that range from abysmal to mediocre at best. So I imagine they both have a paucity of disincentives to dope.

        Boxing I guess hasn’t had the TRT issue pop up too much, though. But I thought that was going to be the defense of one of the boxers who failed VADA testing.

  3. Jason Harris says:

    “So, is it fair to label MMA as a drug sport ”

    No, but you’re going to. Even your lax standards for your “TRT Hall of Shame” that you like to put out lists about 6 guys out of 400.

    “Given Keith Kizer’s dislike of Dr. Margaret Goodman”

    Was your source link supposed to back up your statement that he dislikes Goodman? All it had was quotes from him that were professional and not particularly critical, and a lot of speculation from you that they don’t like each other.

    “don’t expect Nevada to warmly embrace VADA”

    Best I can tell, VADA has had exactly one high profile testing situation where they seemed to come under criticism for their process from everyone involved. What in the track record of VADA should make us consider them a reputable organization? Your posts on VADA are always 100% positive, never the least bit critical, and often read like you’re reposting what their PR person wrote for you. Why are you pushing VADA in every article and not any of the other, more established, independent testing organizations?

    “Here’s a Twitter stink bomb from Victor Conte:”

    A convicted criminal in the PED field who just had a fighter test positive (From VADA!) that he was giving supplements to? Why do we trust his credibility in any way, shape or form? You love his sound bites but again fail to provide any context for why he should be listened to or trusted.

    “it’s hard to to make an argument to the public that so many healthy-looking 20, 30, and 40 year olds in the sport need testosterone in order to function as human beings.”

    Looking? Are we seriously going by the look test, now? I’ve asked repeatedly and have yet to see your response on why, exactly, TRT used appropriately under the supervision of the doctor/AC is inappropriate. You’re using the term “hall pass” which is calling TRT wrong. OK. So what evidence, either medicinal or from actual fighter’s performance, do you have to show that TRT is making the super fighters you claim?

    Forrest on TRT looked exactly as sloppy and slow as Forrest in his last fight. Rampage on TRT looked sluggish and terrible. Marquardt off TRT looked better than he had in years. Shane Roller on TRT lost 3 in a row and off TRT won a decision.

    While sites like this are branding anyone using TRT as cheaters (based on what evidence, again?) you have guys like Roller who are going off of treatment against medical advice just so they won’t get the PR backlash. What makes you more qualified to determine what Roller needs than his physician? You saw him fight for 15 minutes and he looked pretty healthy?

    You have been waving the pitchforks on this super hard for a while now. You’ve been successful and you’ve bullied guys like Marquardt and Roller off of TRT (and oddly don’t do stories about them going off, even though you will do anything you can to link any story to someone going on TRT). You sensationalize stories and love to use terminology like someone on TRT is going to kill someone in the ring….so, back it up. You can spend hours upon hours doing research into the office politics of the CSAC….so where’s that research explaining to us why we should distrust multiple licensed physicians placing professional athletes on legal treatments under the monitoring of the state athletic commissions?

    • SmackyBear says:

      “Looking? Are we seriously going by the look test, now? I’ve asked repeatedly and have yet to see your response on why, exactly, TRT used appropriately under the supervision of the doctor/AC is inappropriate. You’re using the term “hall pass” which is calling TRT wrong. OK. So what evidence, either medicinal or from actual fighter’s performance, do you have to show that TRT is making the super fighters you claim?

      Forrest on TRT looked exactly as sloppy and slow as Forrest in his last fight. Rampage on TRT looked sluggish and terrible. Marquardt off TRT looked better than he had in years. Shane Roller on TRT lost 3 in a row and off TRT won a decision.”

      Would you consider the NSAC’s monitoring of fighters with TUEs for TRT to be enough supervision to ensure it’s being used properly?

      From the only public hearing I’ve seen where one of these TUEs has been discussed, it seemed pretty inadequate to me.

      The doctor was an orthopedic surgeon. So not really qualified to make this determination. The doctor said testosterone could have a performance enhancing benefit if taken too close to the fight, so suggested restrictions on administration the week of the fight and a post fight drug test. That of course completely ignores that the primary performance enhancing effect of anabolic steroids would be during training.

      I don’t think many people are saying that an athlete taking steroids is completely analogous to Popeye taking spinach. But you also can’t say that an athlete who under performs wasn’t helped in any way by taking exogenous testosterone, since we have no idea what their performance would have been without it. Neither can we say that Marquardt and Roller coming off of TRT benefited due to coming off of it. That would be a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy.

      • Jason Harris says:

        I don’t think it’s evidence that TRT does nothing, but on the contrary, we have no evidence that it’s harmful or gives an unfair advantage, either. If I’m going to get behind the lynch mob mentality being propagated here, I want some damned solid evidence as to why exactly this is a harmful substance. That evidence never seems to come to light.

  4. Weezy02 says:

    Any sport where there is substantial money and fame to be had will have the presence of performance enhancing drugs. Period. Anyone that thinks that the NFL isn’t overrun by PEDs is living in a fantasy world. As an example, a decent percentage of the Carolina Panthers 2004 Super Bowl team were proven to be receiving prescriptions for HGH from a doctor in South Carolina. None of them ever tested positive for anything. I definitely compare boxing and MMA favorably to the NFL in the PED department.

    When it comes to TRT, here’s the bottom line (just my humble opinion): It is legal for athletes to be granted an exemption if they convince government regulators. That we know of 6 that have come before regulators in Nevada have been approved. Now, one can say “Well, no one should be granted exceptions regardless of their medical situation.” That’s a perfectly acceptable viewpoint to hold. But at the end of the day the rules allow for it. Don’t like it? Change the rules the regulators use. Until then, using TRT with a state issued TUE is perfectly legal. I don’t like it that the G.E. corporation effectively paid no corporate income tax in 2011. Should I complain about it? Sure, but it ultimately does no good. The constructive thing to do is to work to get legislation passed that changes tax rules. I know I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. Both sides in the debate readily admit that using a properly obtained TUE isn’t illegal. But I do have sympathy for your position as I’m skeptical that a few of those guys need it. Just my 2 cents.

    As far as VADA goes I’ve said it for the last month and I’ll say it again: Righ or wrong, folks in the boxing and MMA industries associate VADA with Victor Conte. Although he doesn’t hold a position in the company he is well known to advise them (and has since before thier inception) and that alone kills their traction in the industry. They are blackballed and I kinda don’t blame the business folks in boxing and MMA. Conte is the most prominent cheat in the history of sports. Think about that. Not only that, but two athletes that he “advises” have been busted for banned substances this summer alone. As I’ve argued in the past, that’s either extremely crappy luck on the part of Victor or there is smoke where there is fire. I wish Dr. Goodman all the best with VADA, I really do. I’d love for it to be the answer to all of sport’s problems, not just combat sports but MLB, NBA, NFL, etc… (funny how VADA isn’t pushing to clean up those sports too). But it won’t be. I’d almost be inclined to bet a large amount of money that the traction VADA gains in boxing and MMA in the next two years will be extremely small.

  5. Chris says:

    I would say MMA is a Drug Sport comparable to Cycling and Horse Racing.

  6. Weezy02 says:

    One last point about PEDs in MMA: Although very far from perfect I don’t think there’s any debate that the sport is better now that it was 10 years ago. Back then the sport’s largest promotion operated exclusively in a nation that didn’t test MMA fighters for anything. In fact, the use of PEDs was rampant and (according to what I’ve heard) talked about openly in the PRIDE days. What we have now is relatively weak testing by American government agencies but those that look back on the old PRIDE and UFC events with nostalgia are looking back at a far less regulated time. Again, though, I’m not trying to give a pass to weaknesses in testing procedures that exist today. I acknowledge them. I’m just putting them in their proper context given the sport’s brief history. From what I understand, to this day there is virtually no testing at MMA shows in Asia. Zach, you follow the Japanese scene closely, is that true?

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