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Dopes caught doping at big rates

By Zach Arnold | July 18, 2007

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By Zach Arnold

Keep your eyes open for any further reports at MMA California.

The California State Athletic Commission released the latest drug test-related suspension figures from the time period of 3/31/2007 to 7/6/2007. Within that three month time-span, there were 28 failed drug tests – 20 of them in MMA plus Johnnie Morton refusing to take a test (MMA testing over a period of 17 events), 5 in boxing (over a period of 28 events), and 2 in kickboxing.

Do the math – that means 5 out of every 7 drug test failures in California were related to MMA, or a little over 70%. If you count Morton’s refusal to take a drug test as a testing failure (which naturally you should), then the ratio would hit 3 out of every 4 (21/28) drug test failures (75%).

More percentages – you were likely to catch a fighter doping at a boxing show at an 18% rate (5/28), whereas you had a 118-124% rate (20/17 or 21/17) of catching a fighter doping at an MMA show in California. In other words, the CSAC was practically guaranteed to find at least one fighter doping at an MMA show. A virtual lock.

One other note – the CSAC tested at a total of 48 shows (17 MMA, 28 boxing, 3 kickboxing). MMA events only accounted for around 35% (17/48) of the total testing done by CSAC, yet accounted for 70-75% (20/28 or 21/28) of the total drug suspensions in the time period.

Out of the 28 test failures, 17 were for drugs of abuse (marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines, and amphetamines) and 9 were for steroids. 1 for Morton refusing his test and 1 for a fighter actually manipulating the tap water in their drug testing kit.

A further look at the 9 steroid suspensions – out of those suspensions, 4 of them showed fighters (MMA, boxing, and kickboxing) with elevated T/E ratios. What those T/E numbers were, I do not know. Yesterday, I sent a message asking the CSAC what constitutes a T/E ratio needed to fail their drug test and I did not hear back from them. My guess is that it’s 4:1, which is a standard ratio in sports tests. Two of the nine steroid suspensions involved the use of Boldenone (Phil Baroni – MMA, James Toney – boxing).

Information about CSAC drug testing

What stood out to me is that the CSAC doesn’t test every fighter for steroids or drugs of abuse. The fact that they’re catching so many fighters based on random testing is intriguing.

Mixed Martial Arts
Events where all athletes were tested for drugs of abuse and steroids = 3
Events where all athletes were tested for drugs of abuse and random testing for steroids = 2
Events where there is random testing for both drugs of abuse and steroids = 12

Events where all athletes were tested for drugs of abuse and steroids = 3
Events where all athletes were tested for drugs of abuse and random testing for steroids = 2
Events where there is random testing for both drugs of abuse and steroids = 23


If I had to make a solid, educated guess about which three MMA shows had every fighter tested for both drugs of abuse and steroids, two of those three shows would be the K-1 Dynamite at the L.A. Coliseum (6/2) event and the StrikeForce event at HP Pavilion (6/22). It should come as no surprise, then, that 5 out of the 20 MMA drug-related suspensions happened on these two shows (Tim Persey – methamphetamines, Johnnie Morton – refused test, Royce Gracie – nandrolone, Carter Williams – cocaine, Phil Baroni – boldenone & stanozolol).

The idea that you could extrapolate the quarterly drug suspensions into a year-long total and come up with an estimated potential of 80 MMA drug suspensions in California sounds preposterous, but it’s on the verge of becoming a reality. In 2006 (from March 2006 to the end of December 2006), at least 23 MMA fighters failed drug tests.

Now put that into context – there were 23 MMA suspensions for drugs in a 9-month period of time in 2006. From late March 2007 to early July 2007, there were 20 MMA suspensions. That is serious time compression as far as getting the same test results. That’s a 300% increase in guys getting busted.

I realize that these stats are going to draw a big argument as to whether or not the athletic commissions should test for marijuana. The reality is that if you’re going to fight in California, stay away from the cannabis before testing.


I have two conclusions based on the data presented here by the CSAC.

1) California is busting a lot of fighters based on the sheer number of events happening.

2) It’s time for a Test One, Test All drug policy. I was surprised that there is so much random testing going on, as opposed to every fighter being tested. There is a major drug problem in the MMA scene in California and there’s no reason why everyone should not be tested.

Playing with the numbers (a hypothetical)

The following may not be accurate, so don’t look at this portion of the post as super-accurate or hard-news. This is purely me thinking out loud, trying to formulate some numbers and rationalize the data the CSAC presented.

If you thought a percentage rate over 100% didn’t make sense when you first read it, don’t worry. I thought the same thing. My next question, after computing the percentage, was to figure out how many shows had all the fighters tested for drugs and how many had random testing. (That data is up above in this post). Naturally, my next thought was the following: If the failure rate during this time period in California is in the 118-124% range (which is absurd to think about), how many fighters would be suspended in the CSAC had implemented full drug testing at every event?

We already know the hard numbers (20 MMA fighters out of 28 failed drug tests). We know that the CSAC tested all fighters for drugs of abuse and steroids at three shows, two of which we have already guessed and probably gotten right. At those two events, we had 5 drug suspensions. There were a total of 17 MMA events in the quarter period that the CSAC tested in.

1) We know that the CSAC tested every fighter at three shows, and we have suspected data for two of those three shows (K-1 at the LA Coliseum and StrikeForce in San Jose). What if we extrapolated the failures on those two shows and applied it to the 17 total shows the CSAC could have implemented full testing at in the time period?

The equation – 5 testing failures (Persey, Baroni, Royce, Morton, Williams) at 2 shows with full testing = x amount of testing failures at 17 shows with full testing

This is basic algebra from here featuring cross-multiplication. 5 testing failures * 17 total shows with full testing = x amount of total failures and 2 shows with full testing.

5 x 17 = 2x, 85 = 2x, x = 42.5 (round up to 43).

Now, does 43 MMA fighters being suspended at 17 California MMA shows if there was full drug testing at each show sound right to you? It wouldn’t sound so crazy if the hard data we are extrapolating from didn’t already tell a very troubling pattern.

Realistically, 43 fighters out of 17 MMA events would be a 252% clip, which is a little over double what the 118% percentage rate is (which includes most shows only having random testing). In fact, dare I say that 43 would be a conservative hypothesis and that 50 might be more accurate for an extrapolation?

Topics: Boxing, Media, MMA, Zach Arnold | 57 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

57 Responses to “Dopes caught doping at big rates”

  1. KennyP says:

    “If the cost of testing is a problem, a first step is to STOP TESTING FOR CANNABIS – and any recreational drug that is not “performance enhancing”.”

    The presence of any non-enhancing drug would indicate a legitimate risk of performance detraction (for lack of a better term). For example, muscle relaxers could put the drugged fighter in danger to himself if his reactions (or pain response) is diminished.

    Drug testing isn’t just designed to protect the opponent. It also can protect the fighter himself.

  2. 45 Huddle says:

    I will blame the UFC for one thing.

    They posted that Sherk & Franca tested positive for roids, and then within a few hours, quickly posted 2 completely irrelevant articles and then announcing Huerta/Crane, basically getting the news of the positive tests as far down the page as quickly as possible.

    That is crap.

  3. 45 Huddle says:

    At the same time, Dana White is saying everything right….

    “Our policy on fighters using steroids, illegal drugs or any banned substance remains the same, you cannot use them. It’s not only unhealthy and unsafe, it is against the law, The UFC fully supports the commission’s efforts and we will continue to take the measures that keep this sport clean and keep the athletes safe.”

    As much as their is a problem in MMA right now, the fact that the UFC isn’t trying to cover anything up, and are supporting the commissions with these positive tests, it basically squashes any negative press the sport might have.

    Now, if you have the next 3 title fights have 6 fighters busted for roids, then that might be a different case.

    As for my “defending” of the UFC…. I hadn’t seen comments on here, but I have seen many people blaming White & Zuffa on other message boards and blogs.

    At the end of the day, it kind of makes me sad that this crap is happening. It ruins Sherk/Penn. It ruins a possibly good title run.

    However, I wonder if Sherk is actually roiding. I know that sounds stupid, but it sounds like his levels weren’t that high, and the increased exercise and legal supplements have a chance of giving out those results. Who knows.

  4. The Gaijin says:

    45 – bet you must feel really great about insinuating how all the PRIDE guys and in particular Wandy Silva were big roiders…but looky who gets caught!

    None other than big Zuffa’s LW Champ and resident walking syringe Sean “Roid Shark” Sherk.

    Glad to see Dana got you on here to do some spin control ASAP!!! He gets caught red handed and you come out with “maybe he’s working out a lot?” hahaha – did you handle Floyd Landis’ PR? Maybe Sherk drank a lot of whiskey before the fight!!!!

    And let me get this straight – Hermes Franca “pathetic cheater”; Sean Sherk (UFC LW Champ) “works out a lot and takes legal supplements” – too rich!

    I’m gonna be smiling for days.

  5. Zach Arnold says:

    Your math is screwy, you clearly failed math in highschool. But the point is well taken; doping in MMA is rampant.

    I had little trouble in HS math classes (Algebra, Geometry, Algebra II, etc.) and other math classes in higher education (statistics, etc.) I’m pretty good with numbers. 🙂

    One question, how can you have more than 100% chance of doing something? I think you just used the chance of fighters testing positive out of all fighters at an event and mixed it up with the chances a fighter is tested positive per event–hence the over 100% number.

    I could said it was 100%, but all I did was take the 1.18 decimal form and made it 118%. All you have to do is take the number of shows and multiply it by 1.18 or 118% to get the conversion rate (17 shows, 20 suspensions).

  6. Tomer Chen says:


    Have a LWGP. 8 fighters over 3 events, or 16 fighters over 4. Crown the winner an “interim LW champion” and have that guy fight Sherk next year after his suspension.

    I know it’s a bit late, but I think that’s a good idea. For either 8 or 16 fighters they could run at least the televised portion of a UFN event (4 fights televised and possibly another 4 untelevised) and, in the case of a 16 fighter tournament, they could run the quarter finals on another UFN card. The semi finals and definitely the finals could be run on PPV.

    It likely won’t happen, but it is a good idea and better than most of the seemingly random matchups seen on UFN cards.


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