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Dr. Margaret Goodman: If the UFC & fighters don’t clean up their sport, the US Government will step in

By Zach Arnold | July 4, 2011

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When horse racing — yes, horse racing — is held up as an example of a sport that recently has made better changes for drug testing than your industry, that’s saying quite a lot.

A horse is a horse, of course, unless they’re an MMA fighter taking horse drugs like boldenone and clenbuterol. Great for your heart, I hear.

Dr. Margaret Goodman appeared on Eddie Goldman’s radio show last Friday with some interesting remarks about the landscape of MMA’s drug culture and where things might be heading in regards to potential Federal or independent oversight of regulation.

The subject of Nate Marquradt and TRT came up. As you might expect, TRT is now an increasingly popular loophole for fighters to exploit for double-doping: take steroids, damage the endocrine system, get testosterone, go to a commission and get a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE), and off you go. Keith Kizer says Nevada has protocols to weed out the steroid users from non-steroid users in order to qualify for TRT, but color me skeptical.

Should TUEs be allowed in MMA?

“The answer is that, yes, Therapeutic (Use) Exemptions are important, but it’s almost unnecessary for anyone to need that that are top athletes. It just doesn’t make sense, those two things just don’t go together and I think the problem is it’s not a new area for MMA and for boxing and commissions but it’s an area that’s not dealt with on the same level that an organization like WADA deals with it or USADA in the sense that if you’re going to allow TUEs you have to understand when one is appropriate and, you know, it’s just practicing cookbook medicine. You can’t just say, ‘okay, if he’s got a low T level or his testosterone level is between a certain range, then he’s not overusing it.’ You know I was talking to someone that intimately worked with WADA for a number of years and even was on a committee to assess this kind of thing and they only have a handful of doctors that are around the world that they believe are acceptable to really determine if somebody needs a TUE for testosterone or drugs like that. So, if WADA, you know, who you have to say holds this to the highest standard in evaluation can’t find that many doctors that are appropriate in determining whether or not someone really, really needs the TUE, then this has to be handled to a much greater degree in boxing and the MMA.

“And the other issue is that nobody’s dealing with… let’s say that these fighters are given a TUE for it and their levels, let’s say Marquardt’s levels were within a normal range, everyone is forgetting that even though his levels are down all that time when he was using he continues to have a beneficial effect from a Performance Enhancing Drug, so that can last months after stopping usage. So, technically, we’re allowing certain athletes to have PED advantage over their opponent and that is just not right. It’s not fair to the fighter who probably doesn’t need the drug in the first place and it certainly isn’t fair to their opponent. And then, you know, you hate to bring this issue into it but when there’s betting on these fights, besides the most important safety aspect. So, you know, if these kinds of exemptions are going to be allowed which I think almost never should they be allowed as far as PEDs are concerned, then it is important for commissions that are going to say whether or not they’re going to allow this that they have these athletes evaluated in the right manner. To say, okay, we’re going to stop it for 8 weeks and then re-test him and blah blah blah… some of these drugs can be out of somebody’s system very quickly, you know, the half-life of how long a drug stays in your system can be gone very quickly when you do a drug test. But that does not mean that someone is not obtaining the performance-enhancing effects from it.

“Look, if they’re going to play the game, if commissions are going to play the game and grant these TUEs, then they have to go that extra mile to determine when it’s absolutely necessary.”

Shouldn’t opponents of fighters getting TUEs be notified ahead of time and have their own doctors analyze what is going on?

“The dangers (of fighters abusing TUEs) are huge and how fair is that? I mean, that is not fair and why should the opponent have to (deal with) that risk? And, you know, I just think that the issue, this is a great time to sit down and deal with it. Kudos go out to Greg Sirb because, really, he’s the first one that has really stepped up and said, wait a minute, this doesn’t smell right. And, you know, that is fantastic and I think that, you know, yes it’s great that the UFC supported that. I would hope that they would support that more, but the issue is they must have had some knowledge that he was, you know, Nate was using beforehand obviously because of other fights. How long was he given TUEs? And then you have to worry about with some of these organizations and UFC is one of them where they go overseas, where there is no commission overseeing things, so if they’re handling whether or not a fighter gets a TUE, how often does the opponent know that and how are they granting those? You know, I guess the question was Marquardt using it during his fight in Germany and who was overseeing that? So, I mean, and how many other fighters are doing that? And then you deal with all the other PEDs out there, who’s monitoring that or is it just a free-for-all? And, so, unless there’s the light of day brought on it by a commission like Pennsylvania, how often is this skirting by and opponents are dealing with performance-enhanced fighters? It’s just a bad around situation all around and this would be a good time to deal with this.”

Getting a license to fight is a privilege, not a right

“If you’re going to do the drug testing, you do the drug testing to the best of your ability and I believe, I really do believe and I’m not sure about MMA athletes but I do believe there’s many boxers out there that, like Floyd (Mayweather), that maybe don’t want to be the spokesman for this because that’s not their role, but I do believe that they want to prove that they fight clean, they’re willing to step up to the plate and I would hope that there’s other MMA athletes out there that would speak out against this and speak out to the fact that PED use is rampant. And, you know, yes everyone wants to say that MMA is a safer sport on many different levels and, yes, they don’t have the statistics of deaths and those types of injuries, thank goodness, but this kind of problem could end up being their Achilles’ heel if it’s not dealt with appropriately. Because it’s just like I said, if you’re not going to do the testing in the appropriate manner and determine whether or not someone really needs a TUE to the fullest capabilities, then I agree that it shouldn’t be allowed at all because what are we trying to do? Are we trying to make somebody perform at a level they’re not able to medically? Let’s say if Marquardt or another fighter really does have this problem, you know, what about all the harmful effects of giving the young man these drugs? If you have a medical condition that precludes you from competing in MMA or boxing, then you shouldn’t be given drugs to try to make you fit into that role.”

The next big drug focus for MMA – EPO usage & blood doping in general

“What we’re ignoring here is that there’s so many other substances that are used as performance-enhancing agents besides testosterone or anabolic steroids and often athletes use things in combination. So, to say that an athlete is just purely using one single anabolic steroid and not using all this other stuff like EPO for blood doping or all these other things that are out there, I mean you could give a litany of drugs, is silly and that they’re probably using things in combination. And if you look at cycling, which is probably considered the dirtiest sport out there still, they’re using, you know, certain agents in addition to probably using steroids but they’re using things like EPO all the time and I do believe that EPO is very commonly used in MMA and in boxing and that is a drug that definitely will improve your endurance. You know, steroids, anabolic steroids will help them in training considerably besides the actual idea of the power. They will help every single athlete in training, especially in a boxer, an MMA athlete where they’re getting injured all the time. But EPO or blood doping methods are hugely important in giving a performance-enhancing effect to an MMA athlete or a boxer, so you know I think the problem is our testing is inadequate. If we’re going to do the testing, it needs to be the done right way. Yes, nothing is perfect, but the way the situation is and the way commissions is handling it now is just not thoroughly enough. It’s like trying to put lipstick on a pig, unfortunately, and it still is a pig. I hate to use that analogy but it just fits. So, if we’re going to deal with it, let’s deal with it. Otherwise, don’t deal with it at all! Just stop all this. Let everybody fight on whatever they want but I don’t think that’s the mentality that we want, I don’t think that’s fair, I don’t think it’s safe, it tarnishes these great sports and so, yeah, now we got to deal with and I think it’s easy to do but I think it needs to be done in a right way instead of just everybody coming out and saying, ‘we’re doing WADA testing,’ when they’re not doing WADA testing or ‘yes we care about it, we’re teaching our athletes to stay away from steroids’ when they’re looking the other way.”

Why standards need to be stepped up now and independently examined

“Of course, these TUEs are important and have to be used. But the overall drug testing is so inadequate at this point, it needs to go to unannounced drug testing, needs to have more expansive lists of things that are tested for, depending on what is thought to be used in boxing and MMA. The blood counts need to be evaluated in fighters to make sure they’re not blood doping, these needs to be done periodically for EPO to make sure there’s no blood doping. So, there’s a whole host of things that need to be done that aren’t being done and they’re not hard to do and then it wouldn’t take all of this explanation in the media every time somebody is thought to be guilty of using something. We’d be nipping it in the bud in the beginning.

“The bottom line is that this 100% can’t fall on commissions are far as drug testing. This is where we get into a problem. You know, a lot of commissions don’t have the manpower, they don’t have the finances, they don’t have a lot of the things that are needed to conduct appropriate, thorough drug testing and that’s why ultimately this needed to be handed over to other agencies and individuals to do it not only independently but to do it the correct way. So, that’s the bottom line.

“There are athletes that will step up to the plate to volunteer themselves for drug testing. I believe that commissions and this is something that the ABC look should to help promote further education in how drug testing can be performed and be done cost-effectively but has to be in an unannounced, random way. It has to be free of conflicts of interests and it needs to be done now.”

Who will create an independent medical body to oversee drug testing and what’s the incentive?

“I think that its possible to create your own and obviously I’m not really able to talk about it so much right now but I think that this is something that, you know, I’ve been really interested in. I know some other individuals are interested in trying to create an independent organization that will allow athletes to volunteer for testing. You know, it’s different with Olympic sports where, you know, an athlete that knows that they’re eligible to compete in the Olympics has to sign up with WADA or USADA maybe like 18 months in advance and at that point in time and you know we’ve got boxers that have been subjected to that, Olympic boxers that are now professional fighters out there doing well that have been through that probably wouldn’t have a problem with it. But I think there needs to be this groundswell of something like this starting on a case-by-case basis to see that it isn’t that restrictive, that can be done in a cost-effective way and it is the right way and it benefits the athlete to demonstrate to the public that they’re clean and I think it can be done.

“I think it was done in horse racing, it’s being done more in horse racing, it’s started on an individual level and more and more racing commissions are adding unannounced drug testing and expansive drug testing to their protocols. I think that, you know, with MMA being so vocal and being so prominent now as far as the media is concerned it’s going to be a question that they’re going to have to answer or the Government will step in. I know people have lobbyists preventing further Government involved in MMA but the bottom line is the Government is going to be asked to take a look at drug use like it has been asked to take a look at drug use in horse racing recently. They’re going to be asked to do this in MMA and just like I said earlier, this may be end(ing) up (as) MMA’s Achilles’ heel.”

Why fighters, not promoters and commissioners, can create momentum for independent drug testing

“Well, I just think that athletes themselves need to step up like Floyd is doing and obviously Floyd’s in a different position, he fights for big purses… but I think that individual athletes can step up and volunteer for testing.

“So, I think there’s fighters out there and I think it’s just going to start on an individual basis and I think this will help give a better image to boxing. I would hope that MMA athletes would speak up as well because I don’t believe every MMA athlete is dirty, of course, and I think there’s ones out there that are willing to step up and prove that’s the case. Like I said earlier, I don’t think that the commissions as much as you would like it can (handle) the total responsibility because it is an international sport, they don’t have that much contact with the athletes and there’s so much variance between commission and commission as far as the resources that they have to have something like this done. Obviously, everybody wants to throw everything at the promoters and tell them to step up. But I think the athletes themselves, if they ask to have it done, I think it can be done.”

Will promoters dispose of non-main event level fighters who challenge the status quo on drug testing?

“It’s sad. I mean, you know, for the longest time one of the biggest complaints that many people have with horse racing, especially individuals that spend a lot of money owning horses and having horses trained, is that one gets injured and they just throw them away and move onto the next and, you know, you hate to see that type of mentality, you know, if a UFC or MMA fighters of one of these other organizations were to speak out (on drug usage) that, you know, ‘yeah, well, there’s always a lot of other talented ones that will keep their mouth shut.” I would hope that wasn’t the case, but you know, time will prove that.

“I think that it’s great that fans get involved. I try to get involved and I look at the things write and comment on, you know, yea or nay or positive and negative and I think it’s great. But I think that the fans may not realize how much influence they do have and I’m not talking about just not buying a fight or turning something off. But when fans contact commissions, they contact the media, they write, they do all these things, things do happen. So, I would think that the best thing that can be is if people out there that love the sport want the sport to be clean, want it to be a level playing field, that the more that they contact commissions and write in, I believe that more will be done.”

Topics: Boxing, Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 31 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

31 Responses to “Dr. Margaret Goodman: If the UFC & fighters don’t clean up their sport, the US Government will step in”

  1. bhannusch says:

    wow really interesting! thanks for the transcribe

  2. 45 Huddle says:

    This is a government issue not a UFC issuee.

    The UFC adheres to the guidelines of the Athletic Commissions that are state run. If the Federeal Government has a problem with it, it’s their own system they have to blame for it.

    • The Gaijin says:

      Exactly. They have many ways of fixing these issues, but it all starts with AC guidelines/rules. Although, I think there’s a lot of issues about state’s ability to run its own affairs free of federal encroachment/overreach that could come into play as well (but I’m not an American/constitutional scholar).

      And I hardly think you could expect the UFC to use more stringent rules/requirements than those used by all of the AC’s…but that whole Marquardt thing in Germany does look really bad.

  3. Jack says:

    Well it makes your beloved UFC look like a drug users convention… also not cutting dopers like chael sonnen after they get caught cheating in main event title fight is a UFC issue… not a government issue.

    • Kelvin Hunt says:

      NFL players don’t get cut the first time they get popped for PED’s.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      The penalties facing most FIRST TIME offenders for steroid use in the UFC is far greater then what we see in the NFL, MLB, and NBA.

      Nobody fires first or 2nd time offenders. Heck, Manny Ramirez pissed hot for a 2nd time, and it was himself or retired, not the team firing him.

      • Alexander Mogue says:

        Thats the way it should be in the first place. Eliminating the drug user immediately sends the right message down the chain. You want a fair game, get rid of them. NFL, NBA, MLB teams have the right to cut their players for drug usage. NBA in the 80s banned players for left after 2 incidents. Only reason why MLB, NBA and NFL are NOT strict on the drug rules because Owners dont wanna have to pay a severance for cutting the player. You cant compare these two (MMA and NHL/MLB/NFL/NBA) because they are completely different siutations.

        Wanna eliminate a player from drug usage? Put a drug usage clause in their contract.

  4. Jonathan says:

    Either make it all legal or all of it illegal. I am getting sick of hearing about it.

    One way or the other, it is ruining in the sport.

  5. fd says:

    “There are athletes that will step up to the plate to volunteer themselves for drug testing. I believe that commissions and this is something that the ABC look should to help promote further education in how drug testing can be performed and be done cost-effectively but has to be in an unannounced, random way.”

    According to Andre Ward, it costs 50,000 to 100,000 to have the USADA do random testing for two fighters for the 8 weeks leading up to a fight. I’m sure there are plenty of athletes that would volunteer themselves for free drug testing. You find me a couple fighters who are willing to volunteer to take a 50k pay cut for it and I’ll buy you a beer.

    I’m sure Goodman knows her stuff about the medical ramifications of drug testing, but her opinions about what needs to happen and what’s likely to happen are, to put it bluntly, stupid and unrealistic.

  6. Keith Harris says:

    I think a big black eye to the sport (Benoit type scandal) would have to happen before the Federal Government would look into the drug culture that exists within MMA. Until then it’ll be business as usual.

  7. The Gaijin says:

    Speaking of steroids and AC’s!…Looks like everyone’s favourite troll Chael Sonnen has talked himself into a fight @205 with Machida…in TEXAS. Nice.

    Dana be (commission) shoppin’! So much for the “he’s going to have to face the music in CA and NV before he gets a fight anywhere.” Looks like TX will be their commission of choice anytime they have a guy with issues they want in a big match-up.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      Hopefully they run the Semi-Finals of the Strikeforce Grand Prix in California to mess with Josh Barnett.

      As for Sonnen:

      1) He has done his time and should be cleared to fight anywhere at this point.

      2) Sonnen vs. Machida is a pointless fight. I cannot stand fighters from different weight classes fighting unless the guy moving classes plans on staying there long term.

      • The Gaijin says:

        “As for Sonnen:

        1) He has done his time and should be cleared to fight anywhere at this point.”

        It’s not that simple, not only did he test positive for steroids, he’s claimed that he needs TRT. Given that there is a microscope over anyone using TRT now that we’ve had the Sonnen and Marquardt fiascos he’s not going to just get “cleared [/rubber-stamped] to fight anywhere at this point.” Any halfway decent commission is going to take a page from the PSAC and demand a lot of paperwork and back-up for his “necessary TUE” for TRT and the NSAC and CSAC will be going over any application of his with an electron microscope.

        We already know the Texas commission has and will turn a blind-eye/rubber stamp this, so THAT is why they’re commission shopping to get him a fight.

        • david m says:

          “I could care less if he lied…. I really don’t care. Everybody who roids lies. It should be built into the penality….”

          FAIL. FAIL. What the hell is wrong with you?

      • edub says:

        1) What is this done his time stuff? He still hasn’t completed the original suspension which was supposed to last til September 2, 2011! When did a year suspension turn in to 10 months? On top of that there is virtually no punishment for lying to the CSAC in the first place.

        CSAC folded from the pressure. It’s sad.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          I could care less if he lied…. I really don’t care. Everybody who roids lies. It should be built into the penality….

        • jack says:

          “I could care less if he lied…. I really don’t care. Everybody who roids lies. It should be built into the penality….”

          That makes absolutely no sense. He was not penalized for merely denying taking steroids..he completely fabricated discussing an exemption with the head of an athletic commission. You may not care about it but please stop trying to downplay the seriousness of lying to a commission during an official disciplinary hearing.

          Also…if this was any non-UFC fighter, you would be all up in arms (ie, Barnett). You make me sick.

        • 45 Huddle says:

          I am up in arms about Barnett because he has had THREE strikes against him. And every major sport in America has a 3 strikes and you are out rule.

          Sonnen is a ONE time offender.

          That is a VERY logical difference….

          This has NOTHING to do with the UFC.

          I also thought the MLB/Government stuff was a waste of time. I think prosecuting Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Marion Jones, and everybody else they have gone after legally…. not for taking steroids…. but for lying about it…. Is one huge waste of time and tax payers dollars.

          Chael Sonnen is no different.

          He lied. His penalty time is over with. It’s time for him to start fighting again….

          Now, if he gets busted a 2nd time…. String him by the balls….

        • jack says:

          What are the THREE strikes against Barnett? I only know of 2 (at least that I can think of).

          As for Sonnen. He got caught doping, thats one. Now as I said before, simply denying taking steroids is one thing, but he made a false statement to the commission, in addition to denying taking steroids. In my mind, that IS two strikes. This is NOT the same as Marion Jones (because she was caught lying about doping). Sonnen lied about an interaction he had with a head of a state athletic commission. Stop being a Sonnnen apologist. You are only being so lax with him because your masters (UFC/Zuffa) want him to keep fighting.

        • edub says:

          45- I’m not in favor at all of the Government going after Sonnen for lying to the commission (criminal wise).

          What I am in favor of is him recieving a punishment for lying during an appeals process set up for fighters to defend themselves. Basically he lied to get a reduced sentence, and when the commission figured it out nothing happened. It’s like “oh we caught you lol”.

          Can anyone explain why Sonnen’s sentence was shortened? His fight with Anderson wasn’t a year ago.

        • Alexander Mogue says:

          LOL Leave it to Huddle to make ridiculous remarks and wonders why people question him. You were doing good for awhile Huddle, then you slipped up and went back into attention mode.

          And everyone does lie when they take roids, but most people also come out and fess up to it after its all said and done in MMA.

          I dont think anyone wants to go after Sonnen in that manner. They want the loser to do his full year.

  8. 45 Huddle says:

    Woodley vs. Daley…. Winner gets a title shot against “Top” Welterweight.

    Is Coker going to sign Nathan Marquardt??? There is no real Top Welterweight available right now.

    On one hand, Marquardt never technically got hit for a 2nd time for roid use.

    But what a HORRIBLE message it sends if they do this work around to get Marquardt back under the Zuffa banner.

    White and Co. should get a verbal beatdown by fans and the media if it ends up happening….

    • mr. roadblock says:

      Maybe he means a Thiago Alves, Kampann, Fitch, Ellenberger someone cut from the UFC. Or maybe Diaz goes back to SF if he loses.

      If you ask me it’s pretty silly to have a SF 170lb champ with Diaz going to UFC. SF is most likely going to be shut down at some point in the next 18 months or so. That means the “champ” after he is crowned at somepoint early next year will have one or maximum two defenses before the end of SF.

      • 45 Huddle says:

        The only reason to do it is so they have another fighter of more “value” when they complete merger happens. but I agree, it is rather pointless….

  9. Zach Arnold says:

    The oncoming train wreck in combat sports

    In sports like boxing and MMA where fighters suffer greatly after they are out of the spotlight, it’s clear that the litany of medical issues facing the combat sports world is only continuing to grow. Who will step up and take the (sometimes unpopular) lead in being proactive in regards to changes to improve the health and safety of fighters who often don’t demonstrate an ability to help themselves?

    • edub says:

      Those Taylor KOs are bad, but is it any worse than Arlovski’s against Fedor, Sylvia, Ricco, Rizzo, Rogers, and Kharitonov?

  10. EJ says:

    The only thing that needs to be cleaned up by the goverment is these poorly run and corrupt Athletic Commissions which aren’t doing their job. The idea that The UFC needs to be cleaned up by the government might be the dumbest thing i’ve ever heard and that is saying something considering the gems i’ve read this year alone. You want to fix any so called problems with PED’s you start at the top with the testers and the people who oversee them, that’s the biggest problem in mma right now as far as i’m concerned.

  11. Chromium says:

    Considering what it took for the Federal Government to get involved in the NFL and MLB’s doping problems, and considering that even after all these years they haven’t involved themselves in steroids in Boxing (or basketball or hockey to my knowledge), then I really don’t see them leapfrogging state athletic commissions in regulatory oversight of MMA.

    Maybe if the MMA became as popular as the Big 3 sports, but we’re a very far way off from that. Not to mention the UFC’s anti-doping efforts, while far from perfect, do not at all strike me as token. Color me extremely skeptical.

  12. […] Dr. Margaret Goodman: If the UFC & fighters don’t clean up their sport, the US Government will step in | Fight Opinion […]

  13. […] weeks ago, I wrote an article talking about Dr. Margaret Goodman’s comments about drug usage in MMA and how widespread the problem is. She stated that if the major fight promoters don’t clean […]


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