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Dr. Margaret Goodman’s challenge to the UFC on drug testing

By Zach Arnold | February 2, 2012

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Memo from site

Calling on the UFC to Step Up Drug Testing

I first met Lorenzo Fertitta in 1996 when he became a commissioner with the Nevada State Athletic Commission. To date, there has never been a commissioner more knowledgeable and concerned about the health and welfare of the fighters, other than Dr. Flip Homansky, who succeeded Fertitta in 2000. After leaving the commission, Fertitta studied every aspect of MMA. Before purchasing the organization in 2001, Homansky and I traveled to a New Orleans UFC card with Fertitta and Dana White to help them explore needed improvements. They wanted a safe UFC as much as a successful UFC.

When the NSAC licensed MMA in 2001, I was a ring physician. I lectured before the Association of Boxing Commissions, along with the UFC, to help commissions understand the sport’s new safety measures. Although different than boxing, fighters in both sports are subject to serious injury—both chronic and acute.

In 2001, Homansky convinced the NSAC to test for anabolic steroids and masking agents. The Commission initially doubted the need. It soon became clear that all weight classes were turning to PEDs and usage was greater in MMA. Like boxing, the long term and short term risks to the MMA athletes are too great to allow cheating.

Fertitta has been quoted numerous times that MMA has a PED problem. White has stated he doesn’t want cheaters in their organization. It’s an admirable first step for the UFC to test prospective fighters before they are signed. I am in favor of testing in foreign jurisdictions that have no regulatory body overseeing UFC bouts, and I am thankful they support commissions that already test.

Sadly, these measures remain inadequate. The substance panels are antiquated to catch cheaters. Employing announced testing times, organization might as well send up a flare to inform athletes when to stop their drugs.

The UFC owners, brilliant and savvy businessmen, understand this. This awareness must come with fear—the fear that a real PED testing program, recommended by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), Drug Free Sport, the Voluntary Ant-Doping Association (VADA) and others, would eliminate a portion of their roster.

When Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal recently tested positive for anabolic steroids, MMA competitor Shawn McCorkle proposed to writer Mike Chiapetta that PED testing be stopped. McCorkle noted, “What you end up with is a situation of where the guys who are beating the test, where the guys who can afford to get a doctor to prescribe whatever they want, where the guys who have access to stuff, they have an unfair advantage already… I think we’d be pretty naïve to think that every person who’s ever taken anything was caught…”

I understand McCorkle’s perspective given current athletic commission and UFC testing procedures. If they are not serious in diminishing PED usage, stopping cheating, protecting the health of the competitors and maintaining public confidence that fights are fair, then yes, stop testing.

The UFC’s success makes full scale testing feasible. This means handing it over to an independent party who can provide a WADA-approved laboratory, certified doping collectors and comprehensive testing panels. Currently, MMA athletes are never tested for blood doping, HGH, short-acting testosterone (which most cheats use these days). The testing has to be unannounced—where the fighters are given no more than one hour of notice to undergo examination of blood and urine.

VADA educates MMA competitors and boxers about PEDs. It enables athletes to demonstrate their commitment to clean sport by volunteering for testing. Respected boxers, Andre Berto and Victor Ortiz are VADA fighters. Boxing promoters Lou DiBella, Richard Schaefer and Joe DeGuardia are not afraid to see their fighters participate in a rigorous drug testing program. Floyd Mayweather Jr. remains an advocate for clean sport.

The UFC professes that MMA can hold its own against any sport. If true, then why are boxers the only professional combat sports athletes in the world willing to undergo stringent PED exams? Yes, this isn’t free; it isn’t cheap, but it is the right thing.

Margaret Goodman MD
Voluntary Anti-Doping Association President

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 18 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

18 Responses to “Dr. Margaret Goodman’s challenge to the UFC on drug testing”

  1. Vox says:

    So…is she gonna pay for it? Because I’m pretty sure it ain’t cheap to run a program like that, and if we are honest, UFC/MMA is a business, out there to make money.

  2. Peter says:

    Vox. Yeah, bro, like, totally, she’s not gonna pay for it. Hur, hur, hur. She’s not smarts like us

    • Steve4192 says:

      Vox makes a valid point.

      It’s always easy to spend someone else’s money. Putting together that kind of testing program would be a MAJOR expense. That money has to come from somewhere.

      Ed. — If you search through the site archives for VADA, you’ll note that a lot of the issues addressed with costs of tests have been minimized in terms of deals the program is able to get. As for higher-end fighters, yes, paying for testing would likely fall on them. For fighters just breaking into the landscape, if memory serves me right I recall there being discussion about being able to bring in outside sponsorship or funding of some sort to take care of said costs.

  3. Steve4192 says:

    “If true, then why are boxers the only professional combat sports athletes in the world willing to undergo stringent PED exams?”


    There are a few high profile boxers who are pushing for PED testing, but it is hardly an industry-wide movement. What she is proposing is that Zuffa subject an entire roster of 300+ fighters to mandatory testing. That is a far cry from boxing promoters adhering to wishes of a handful of fighters who are volunteering to be tested.

    • Zach Arnold says:

      a) It’s their choice to use a promotional model like pro-wrestling/NASCAR as opposed to a free-promoter system in boxing.

      b) Other sports leagues in collective bargaining agreements have drug testing policies to various degrees. (Ironically, baseball’s new policy coming up is going to be the best so far of the bunch.)

      You can argue that the fighters don’t have a union and are ‘independent contractors’ so therefore UFC testing their entire roster isn’t workable or feasible. At least you would have some ground to stand on there.

      However, the ‘UFC is a business’ argument that gets automatically thrown around when this topic comes up is incredibly weak. Yes, they’re a business… a sports business. Right now, the drug testing issue has not become enough of a liability for them to actually 100% clean up their act. That said, there’s been enough drug testing failures of low-level athletic commission tests that the promotion basically is admitting that the sport has a problem by instituting a “pass this drug testing before you get a contract with us” routine.

      • Nottheface says:

        Yeah, the “it’s a business” defense doesn’t really hold up. Wouldn’t being tarnished by PED scandals prove even more expensive to them?

      • Keith Harris says:

        WWE wrestlers are “independent contractors” and they test their whole roster on a random basis several times a year. It would be more difficult for UFC to implement such a program, given that fighters aren’t on the road 52 weeks a year, but I’m sure they could do it if the willpower was there.

        • Robert Poole says:

          Well their whole roster… except the top stars like John Cena who regularly gets TUEs…. or the McMahons/HHH who are not tested at all…. but yeah, everybody on the roster. It’s not selective, at all.

  4. Chromium says:

    I think a good first step would be blood testing for titles fights and title eliminators. The UFC should just announce now that it’s coming for any future signed fights, as a warning to get clean if you actually want to reach the pinnacle of the sport. They can go out from there. It’s still a big risk for the UFC since it might end up tarnishing title fights and champions, but it’s one they should be able to live with and it would send a strong message.

    Forgive me though if I’m a bit jaded about PEDs having formerly been a wrestling fan for a very long time. To me what Zuffa is doing already seems pretty progressive, but Vince McMahon is probably not the best benchmark for that.

    • Mark says:

      You’re right to be jaded. And you’re right to see more parallels between MMA testing and WWE testing than MMA testing and ball sport testing. The former are far more “subcultures” than mainstream. If a wave of NFL test failures happened with whoever wins the Super Bowl Sunday, the NFL would be blasted all directions by the media for it. But if a bunch of guys on the UFC on Fox 2 show failed, it would get press, but it wouldn’t be a front page story by any means. Just like WWE drug issues never got to the front page until Chris Benoit.

      So they’d rather gamble on their fighters passing urine tests and take the minor media lumps for ones that fail than do a tough testing system and have fights canceled left and right due to injuries or top stars start losing a step like certain former PRIDE fighters in their US fights.

  5. […] Fight Opinion brings you Dr. Margaret Goodman’s challenge to the UFC regarding drug testing standards. […]

  6. 45 Huddle says:

    Shouldn’t this letter be to Keith Kizer and the other heads of the commisions as well?

    As a person with a PH D, she is certainly smart enough to know that Zuffa fighters fall under the responsibility of the AC’s as well.

    Oh, but that’s right. She is the president of this drug testing company. And she knows Zuffa has deeper pockets. So mine as well go after them.

    I agree that moretesting needs to be done. But her motivations for this article are transparent.

  7. Mark says:

    If she really wants this done, she should go to ESPN for a story on it. This seems to be the only way you can get a debate going with Zuffa on anything, not counting a one-off Dana tirade to Helwani.

    But the truth is, yes, in a perfect world UFC would do this and obviously they really wish nobody used PEDs. But in the real world they have to take a “see no evil” approach to it. They know it is a necessary evil for a lot of their top level fighters. Who knows how many more main events would be canceled if certain guys didn’t use steroids to get over their training injuries. Who knows if some of their biggest stars would have reached the level they did to make so much money if they didn’t have some chemical help. They know this. They don’t know who, but they know it happens.

    Cris Cyborg exposed for the last remaining few urine test believers that people really do master the cycle since you know she didn’t begin steroid use 4 months ago for the first time. But they’d rather cross their fingers guys do the proper math than eradicate the problem.

    • Robert Poole says:


      You’re totally right. It’s actually pretty sad that the only time White or the Fertittas care about the other side is if it’s a huge entity like ESPN discussing it. That lack of open-mindedness or introspective thinking is going to cripple the company at some point.

      Whether or not you like what they are saying, in any business there is still some shred of truth in what critics say about you and there is always room for improvement to help correct that perception somewhat.

  8. Phil says:

    This isn’t going to work because people don’t really care.

    The other sports didn’t bulk up/start their drug testing policies until the media started harping on it, and that lead to Congress getting involved.

    If questioned, the UFC can just say “the government handles it,” and the majority of people will buy into that excuse.


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