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Larry Pepe responds to critics about his critique of Josh Gross and steroids in MMA

By Zach Arnold | October 13, 2010

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This was the article that created a controversy in media circles: Larry Pepe eviscerates Josh Gross for proposing zero-tolerance UFC policy, says current drug testing procedures are great

In Larry’s response to the critics who didn’t like what he had to say, he wants to know where the hard evidence is in regards to a drug epidemic in MMA. Furthermore, he states that at best the ceiling is probably around 15% for usage given past studies about drug usage in the NFL.

From his radio show last Monday:

“And I want to address a couple of the criticisms that I’ve seen and clarify some things because I think some people missed the point. You know, let me start with the Bloody Elbow piece, Kid Nate was very complimentary to me personally. Bloody Elbow’s been around a long time, they do a good job. None of this is personal. This is an issue that I think is up for significant debate and I’m glad that it’s being debated and I’m glad people got a chance to hear the other side because I think people hear an opinion sometimes like this overwhelming percentage of fighters are on drugs, on steroids, and people just say, OK, well, that must be on the case and I don’t think that’s the case and you’ll understand why if you go back and listen to that episode. And Kid Nate actually takes issue with both my opinion and Josh’s position. But with respect to mine, he tells me that there’s no Santa Claus which of course is devastating to me because, you know, I’m a big fan of Christmas. (laughs) But, putting that aside, what he’s really saying is that I had gave the statistic that there have been 10 UFC fighters who have failed in the last 8 years and his point is that certainly for me to believe that the testing is effective and we’re catching everybody and that type of thing is like believing in Santa Claus. Now, first of all, as far as are we catching everybody? Of course we’re not catching everybody, neither is the NFL, neither is Major League Baseball. They don’t and never will catch everybody. This battle will rage on until the end of time between people who want to cheat and use drugs and people who want to catch them and we’re never going to catch everybody with any kind of testing, it’s just not going to happen and it’s not going to happen in any sport. To me the real question is, do we have a problem? Is usage at the rampant level that Josh suggests? Because you average out his percentages, that crazy range from 30 to 70%, and let’s just call it 50%… The question is whether you believe that we have 50% of the UFC fighters using drugs. I don’t because there’s absolutely no evidence whatsoever that that’s the case outside of some locker room conversations and there is evidence, in my opinion, that it’s not the case and that is the drug testing. Do I think it’s perfect? No. Do I think we’re catching everybody? No. No drug testing ever will. But to extrapolate out from 10 fighters in 8 years which is a little over one a year, one fighter in 2009 and 2010, to extrapolate that out to half (50%) is insanity to me. That was my point. I’m not trying to estimate exactly how many people because there’s no way for us to know, but we do have evidence that suggests that that can’t be the case.

“The other thing that I brought up in the last piece is an NFL study of 2,552 players, retired players, and in that study they determined that 9.1% had used drugs and about 15-16% of lineman, where strength and size were a bigger issue. Now, some people attacked using that study saying that the average age of those polled was 54 but those people actually made my argument for me because these are retired players who have no reason to lie. It’s a confidential survey. They’re not getting paid any more. They’re not going to lose any money. They’re not going to get suspended. But more importantly, with the average age being 54 the majority of the players in this study actually played in the NFL prior to 1987 and the reason that this is very important is because the NFL did no drug testing before 1987. So, I don’t think you have to be, you know, there’s no stretch, there’s no leap of faith to believe that more people use drugs when they’re not being drug tested than when they know they are being drug tested and they can get suspended and lose portions of their salary. I think to think otherwise would be kind of silly and in a non-tested environment athletes are going to use drugs more than a tested environment. In the non-tested environment, the number of NFL players were 9.1% to 16%. So in a tested environment, you have to believe that that number is no higher and logically a bit lower. So, even if you use those numbers, even if you say it’s 10%, it’s 15%, in a non-tested environment, when you’re taking a non-tested time period into consideration and the majority of people in the study played in that non-tested time period, I think 15% is the ceiling and I don’t know where the argument is that MMA fighters are going to be more likely to use drugs, use steroids than NFL players. That makes no sense to me, either, because you know a) they’re going to get suspended for 9-12 months, they don’t make a salary. MMA fighters don’t make money if they’re not fighting outside of some sponsorship deals and not that many MMA Fighters have sponsorship deals that aren’t directly linked to them at a fight, like wearing a t-shirt at a fight or wearing shorts at a fight, so if you can’t fight your ability to earn money goes down to next to nothing whereas if you can’t play four games in the NFL, you still collect your salary for the 12 weeks. So, thank you, because by pointing out the average age of the players, you actually made my point for me.

“Then some people raised the issue of blood testing, that without blood testing all this doesn’t matter because the urine test is a joke and Kid Nate made a comment that entire classes of extremely powerful PEDs are never going to be detected by the tests. The only steroid related compound and HGH technically is different than steroids but let’s link them together, the only one that I’m aware of and I checked with actually an attorney who deals with drug testing cases all the time, and he wasn’t aware of any known steroid that is detectable in blood but not detectable in urine. HGH is detectable in blood BUT even back in April when the Nevada State Athletic Commission was considering adding a form of blood testing for HGH, a gentleman named Robert Voy who was a former chief medical officer for the US Olympic Committee actually dissuaded them, telling them that as of that time that blood testing for HGH was still not effective and unreliable. Now, how that far that’s come since then, I don’t know but in terms of these entire classes of extremely powerful PEDs, the only thing I know of that is not detectable in urine that is detectable in blood is HGH and according to those comments unless the technology has really leaped forward it would be unreliable so I’m not sure that blood testing is the end-all of everything.

“I am also, I also question why do we have to go beyond what any other major sport does when we have the lowest failure rate in any major sport. NFL does not do blood testing, Major League Baseball does not do blood testing. why does MMA have to do blood testing and if you’re going to say it’s because they fight and it’s violent, again, go back to that prior episode (I won’t get into the details now) but I would strongly argue that when you look at the injury reports from an NFL weekend and the injury reports from a fight weekend that the risk of harm and risk of injury to an NFL player is greater than an MMA fighter. And, we also found out earlier this week that the Nevada State Athletic Commission is going to do some form of blood testing. They haven’t fleshed out all the details, it hasn’t been done yet so I don’t want to put too much on that but depending on how that blood testing plays out, then we will be doing some form of blood testing and the fighters do get blood tested once a year when they do their licensing although the focus of that blood testing is really on infectious diseases. Mike Chiappetta did a nice piece on this whole blood testing issue at so you can check that out in terms of these new details of these new policies. But at the end of the day, again, if we don’t have a statistical problem and we are failing less fighters than the NFL and Major League Baseball is failing in terms of their players, why is this, why do we then hold ourselves to a higher standard? I don’t believe that we have to have blood testing, but I’m in favor of anything that gets added. The question, though, comes back again to whether we have an epidemic in MMA as Josh (Gross) and others would suggest and there’s nothing that tells me that that’s the case.

“Last but not least, on the credentialing issue. I saw some comments that I got the time line wrong in terms of when Josh gave out the results to TUF 4 before the show was over and when the Sherdog credentials were pulled. I had thought that it was a result of him giving out those, the results of the show. It turns out that it may not have been. Apparently, the credentials may have been pulled before. You can jump up and down and say, look look look, you got it wrong. Doesn’t matter. Whether they pulled it before or after is not the point. The reason I raised the history is because I believe that you at least have to question whether this was a completely objective opinion given the relationship between the parties. When the credentials were pulled, not particularly relevant. What is relevant is that at the time the comments were made that don’t appear to me to have any basis in fact or any evidence, at that time there exists then and exists now a contentious negative relationship between Dana White/Zuffa and Josh (Gross). That’s my point and any time that type of relationship exists you at least have to question whether you are getting a completely unbiased opinion and if you listen and go back to the episode (which a lot of people didn’t actually catch this part), I said I don’t know that it plays into it but to not at least raise the question is silly and at the end of the day if you really believe that it didn’t matter that he gave out those results, if you believe that their relationship is fine and that Josh can be completely objective, then you have to question if he’s a reporter for Sports Illustrated, one of the biggest sports entities in the business, and he’s not getting credentialed, obviously the UFC and Josh are not on great terms. That was my only point.”

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 15 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

15 Responses to “Larry Pepe responds to critics about his critique of Josh Gross and steroids in MMA”

  1. Jason Harris says:

    I think Pepe makes too much sense for the more sensational MMA tabloids, is all.

    They want to grab attention with big headlines that 3/4 of MMA fighters are using and skipping past all the incompetent dolts at the athletic commissions. It doesn’t matter if it’s baseless, you’ll get more hits to your website with some sensational headline.

    “My ‘inside sources’ claim everyone is on the juice! This guy says that it’s possible to beat the tests!” It draws in the eyeballs. Hell, in the last thread here we had MMA “Journalist” Snowden in here with vague comments about Gross having inside sources, that of course they couldn’t quote or name. Tabloid all the way.

    Sadly it’s the internet and more eyeballs trumps accuracy any day, so this tabloid school of writing will continue.

  2. 45 Huddle says:

    This is a very well thought out, candid response. Much better then anything Gross has said recently. And he backs it up with facts.

  3. LOL he barely read any of the criticisms. Still hasn’t read the actual science he put forth as proof. Dude is either trolling or mentally ill. Best part are the people who read this slop and nod.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      The bashing of him was mainly off the sensationlist journalism that is mentioned above. It holds zero weight.

      His position in the discussion is far more stable then most people present.

      • His position is basically “I don’t want to believe fighters are using steroids and so you can’t tell me that they do.” He then uses a terrible piece of support to justify that claim. If that is what qualifies as a stable voice in the discussion, the discussion is over.

        • Michael says:

          Alan can you give any evidence to support your opinion that there is a steroid problem in MMA?

        • Like I said in the last thread: What those journalists have said along with what fighters have said (Dan Hardy had a rather pointed quote about PED use last year) both indicate that the parties involved seem to believe that use of performance enhancing drugs is at a much higher level than is currently being found by the testing system. By any review of the testing system, it lacks in comparison to any major sport in terms of out of competition and or random competition testing, making it a poor system to catch or dissuade PED use.

          So yes, you can argue its hearsay. Of course, it is hearsay from people who have relevant connections to the sport. It would be like denying that NCAA football and basketball players receive benefits from sports agents after the Josh Luchs SI piece this past week simply because its largely hearsay and conjecture.

        • Mark says:

          Journos aren’t going to rat out their sources. You can’t expect a bunch of guys who don’t even have the balls to tell Dana White he’s wrong about an issue to say “Yeah, Fighter X told me last Wednesday Fighter Z has a new HGH source just in time for his title fight.” It’s all going to be anonymous. And that’s if they even mention it. Most just sit on it and allude to it from time to time.

          And remember the MLB steroid scandal. The anonymous sources naming names of juicers were all right. Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Giambi, Palmero, Clemens: they all had guys saying they were doping anonymously and they eventually were proven right. I believe the rumor cycle about cyclists doping also was proven accurate. So is it really a stretch to say MMA could be the same way?

          And as for Pepe, he really needs a co-host. That’s why most podcasts have 2 people, because when you’re talking to somebody you don’t speak in incredibly lengthy monologues as Larry has done these two times. You know you’re talking to someone so you edit yourself down to the basics. You wouldn’t have a conversation where you speak nonstop that long.

        • Mark says:

          On a side note: I know it isn’t the same guy: but Lary Pepe’s Google search came up with a bodybuilding book by Larry Pepe for irony:

        • Mark is on point. Same exact Larry Pepe, says

  4. Michael says:

    So the correct answer Alan is no you don’t have any evidence to support your opinion

    • If the best response that can be mustered to “How can you believe the drug testing system is broken?” can be “Prove it with negatives generated by the drug testing system” then we are at a logical impasse.

  5. Mark says:

    Also, he conveniently leaves out the #1 reason of why you would lie even after you’ve left the sport about doping for the NFL deal he harps on: having your achievements tainted. Who wants to go down in history as Barry Bonds?

    And actually, hair tests are the best drug test. But they’re even more expensive to do than blood tests.

    • edub says:


      Barry Bonds should be considered the best baseball player of all time. He has 7 MVP’s, 4 consecutive, .444 career OBP, Only person in 500-500 club, .298 career BA, 8 gold gloves, and is the career leader in walks/intetional walks/homeruns.

      But he’ll never even get into the HOF.

      Really hair tests? I thought those worked only for drugs of abuse?


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