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Bigfoot Silva using testosterone: just another damning indictment on UFC’s drug problem

By Zach Arnold | December 17, 2013

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Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva failed a post-fight UFC drug test after his bout with Mark Hunt. Wonder what the pre-fight test results looked like then? If there was a difference between the two tests, then what happened in between that time frame?

Marc Ratner, Jeff Davidson, Lorenzo Fertitta, and Dana White sure are cracking down on those anabolic steroid users. So much so that Bigfoot is just the next top UFC guy to be granted permission to use testosterone because of “Low T.” On an overseas show, of course. I’m sure the foreign athletic commissions decided on their own accord to open the testosterone flood gates. Right.

Wait, you mean the UFC self-regulates some of their shows?

Funny how guys, both “clean” in the past and those who have failed drug tests, are allowed by UFC to use testosterone (anabolic steroids). There’s a reason I keep saying UFC is as dirty as horse racing or cycling.

Don’t worry, Bigfoot Silva is really taking ownership of the “mistake.”

Remember Tom Wright last week arguing with one of Australia’s staunchest critics about the credibility of the UFC? Remember when he was arguing how the UFC is cleaner than other sports on doping?

They are tested before and after fight for performance enhancing drugs, which is overseen by the US combat sport authority. They have a code and we apply it to our fighters. The instances of drug use are extremely low compared to other sports.

Any criticism dished out towards the UFC in Australia is now fair game after this latest debacle. Think about it this way — how much (proverbial) ink has been used writing about drug testing protocols in sport? Well, in order for drug testing to have a semblance of credibility, you have to assume that management of such leagues like UFC discourage doping in the first place.

But that’s not the case here with the UFC. They’ve helped in changing the entire dynamic of doping in combat sports — both in MMA and now in boxing. By moving the goalposts so that fighters can cry hypogonadism and low testosterone levels, they’ve allowed legalized doping through the use of anabolic steroids. Drug testing doesn’t mean jack if the guys are given permission to use steroids in the first place.

Now we have a system in which fighters who don’t get permission slips to use testosterone but fail standard drug tests are mocked for being stupid while the guys who get the permission slips to use steroids are labeled as victims of a sport that has damaged their body — through bad weight cuts, previous or current steroid usage, brain damage from concussion, or abuse of pain killers (opiates). The duplicitous nature of what we are seeing here is a joke.

Anyone who starts falling back on the talking point that this whole testosterone is only Keith Kizer’s fault really isn’t paying attention to who is politically protecting Kizer & why. He’s just a puppet, albeit one that sometimes can’t be controlled.

I give the social media-savvy fans of MMA praise in one respect — they are way ahead of the curve on the testosterone issue than the traditional sports writers. How do I know this?

It’s easy to go after the individual fighters — and those getting permission slips to use testosterone deserve to be outed and be publicly admonished. However, we wouldn’t have this happening if there wasn’t a system that enabled it in the first place. The UFC can hide behind the “independent contractor” status of Dr. Jeff Davidson all they want. They can hide behind the reputation of Marc Ratner when he ran the show at the Nevada State Athletic Commission. They can hide behind their approved regulators like Keith Kizer. The fact is that UFC is complicit in the enabling of their fighters feeling free to use anabolic steroids. This is why Mark Hunt is starting to wonder if he should ask for permission to use testosterone.

The UFC can stop this behavior if they want to by simply not booking testosterone users in high profile money matches. If fighters want to use testosterone, make them go to court and try to establish case law for combat sports regarding testosterone usage. Make fighters go to court to try to justify their need to use testosterone in a legally-classified ultrahazardous sport by using the Americans with Disabilities Act. The UFC won’t do this. In the land of Nevada, Josh Barnett is a drug testing pariah and Chael Sonnen is an adviser to Keith Kizer on testosterone usage.

When I wrote my article last month on Fox Sports being stuck in a pro-steroids marriage with UFC 15 years after Mark McGwire & Sammy Sosa, this scenario with Bigfoot Silva is a perfect example of what I was alluding to. It’s only fitting now that Fox Sports 1 is a contender to snatch the rights to WWE programming in 2014. It would be quite the irony for UFC to go back to little brother status to the WWE a decade later on a new cable channel. Memo to UFC: if you want World Fucking Domination, you might help your global image if you stopped enabling testosterone usage in your own sport. Congratulations.


And now for a couple of observations from this man:

Well, here we go again. After Ben Rothwell received a TUE for TRT and then failed his post-fight drug test at UFC 164 for elevated levels of testosterone, now Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva who also received a TUE for TRT, has also failed his UFC Fight Night 33 post-fight drug test for the exact same reason. Except Ben Rothwell claimed brain trauma from a car accident, while Bigfoot applied based on Acromegaly.

When Rothwell failed his test, he issued this statement:

“I am not going to fight the suspension as I feel ultimately it is my responsibility to make sure I stay under the acceptable limit. I am deeply sorry for this mistake and apologize to my fans, family and friends.”

Bigfoot Silva, on the other hand, denied any culpability for his failed test.

This is not the first time Silva has failed a test, which was due to the anabolic steroid Boldenone, and it’s also not the first time he refused to take any of the blame.

The most disturbing part about this story is that the UFC reportedly issued the anabolic steroid pass to Silva. Silva previously applied for a testosterone exemption with the NSAC, which was withdrawn when the NSAC informed Silva’s camp that there wouldn’t be enough time to evaluate the medical necessity of the treatment. This is where Dana White’s fall back quote about how the UFC is “regulated by the government” falls short. In this case they were regulating themselves, and in doing so they approved the use of anabolic steroids for their fighter and the testosterone pass wasn’t disclosed until the failed post-fight drug test. As Larry Pepe pointed out on twitter, when the UFC is acting as the commission, there needs to be transparency:

The problem is the UFC is pro-testosterone, so don’t expect any changes.

Interesting to note that the doctor named Bigfoot Silva here is a guy allegedly known as a “UFC doctor” in Brazil.

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 22 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

22 Responses to “Bigfoot Silva using testosterone: just another damning indictment on UFC’s drug problem”

  1. Michael says:

    Why do you have such a problem with UFC self regulating their shows? A lot of the fighters who have been caught cheating have been caught on shows that the UFC self regulates so surely they are actually doing something right if they are catching people and then announcing it.

    What am I missing here?

    • Zach Arnold says:

      Why do you have such a problem with UFC self regulating their shows? A lot of the fighters who have been caught cheating have been caught on shows that the UFC self regulates so surely they are actually doing something right if they are catching people and then announcing it.

      What am I missing here?

      So, there’s multiple issues at work.

      1) The idea of drug testing is to catch fighters doping, right? Well, if you start allowing fighters to use anabolic steroids in a de facto form of legalized doping, you’ve already made the concept of preventing doping look like a sham to the casual sports fan. Once you open the door for giving permission to certain fighters to use anabolics, then the floodgates open. And in this case with Bigfoot, we have UFC giving this guy the A-OK to use testosterone and yet he still failed a post-fight drug test. So what’s the point of testing then if it doesn’t prevent guys who dope from fighting when they’re about their levels during the fight itself?

      2) When Tom Wright was defending the UFC from that Australian critic, he kept saying the UFC is regulated by American commissions and that because they drug test that therefore UFC has less drug usage than other sports, which is complete bull.

      You have American AC’s pressured into giving fighters permission to use testosterone and then on the self-regulated shows they themselves are giving the permission slips to fighters to use testosterone. They can’t sit there and look at their critics and say, hey, we’re cleaner than other sports, we test and do this and that when they’re the ones making up their own rules and setting the paramters for what constitutes as legalized doping.

      If the UFC wants to self-regulate, that’s their choice and in certain locales they have to because there’s no commission structure. But when they do self-regulate, they should own up to it when addressing the critics and be fully transparent. We only find out about these testosterone exemptions for overseas shows they regulate when someone fails a drug test for too high levels of testosterone. There isn’t a lot of transparency.

      And in the case of Tom Wright, that Australian critic just got all the ammunition he needed to continue his crusade against MMA because Wright got busted (unwittingly) when Bigfoot not only got a testosterone exemption from the UFC but managed to overdose on the anabolic steroid usage.

      • Michael says:

        If UFC hold themselves to the standards of an Athletic Commission then why would they disallow TRT if an Athletic Commission allows it?

        No matter what you say, legally speaking being on TRT isn’t doping but abusing it is. It seems to me that the UFC is catching people who abuse it and highlighting cases like Silva and Rothwell only prove the point that they are doing a good job doesn’t it?

        • Chris C says:

          This exactly, TRT isnt illegal, the US commissions arent saying no and the UFC then allows guys on international events to do it. The UFC is just following the commissions standards.

          The day they say no more is the day TRT will stop.

          Now you can say the UFC can say no, they wont allow anyone on TRT but wouldnt that bring up issues if a fighter has a legit need for it, its legal and a doc prescribes it?

          Plus what, you are gonna cut some of your stars now and let Bellator sign them?

          I know this is Zach’s big thing that he uses to shit on the UFC all the time but its not illegal and the UFC is just following the commissions on this one.

        • edub says:

          Following commission standards would be not letting certain fighters get TUE’s who have failed drug tests in the past.

          Nope, their would be no issues. That fighter just wouldn’t be able to compete anymore.

          You don’t have to cut them. They just can’t compete on TRT.

          The UFC keeps trying to pass itself off as a major sport, and has even campaigned for MMA in the Olympics. Major sports don’t are against this type of thing.

  2. cutch says:

    If fighters want to use testosterone, make them go to court and try to establish case law for combat sports regarding testosterone usage. Make fighters go to court to try to justify their need to use testosterone in a legally-classified ultrahazardous sport by using the Americans with Disabilities Act. The UFC won’t do this.

    Surely Big Foot would easily win that court battle unlike most of the guys on TRT, he actually does need it.

    He has Acromegaly (the same as Andre The Giant) and had the pituitary gland or maybe just a tumour in it removed,the surgery helps him live a longer, less painful life. When you have that surgery it hinders your hormone production and you needs medication to correct this.

  3. Chris says:

    So “Big Foot” receives permission to TRT and still fails? That’s such a joke, and so is the way the UFC handles TRT.

    If you need TRT to compete you should not be fighting.

  4. 45 Huddle says:

    Big Foot is the one guy who might have a reason for some messed up glands. He has giantism…. And so I’m sure his body isn’t like the rest of ours.

    With that said, he has pissed hot twice and once while taking stuff because he had low Testosterone.

    The UFC needs to cut these multiple time offenders. And the AC’s have to stop allowing them to fight.

  5. Jonathan says:

    The question to 45 Huddle’s and everyone else’s statement is how do we get the UFC to STOP allowing fighters who use testosterone, legally OR illegally?

    How does that happen, and what all would it entail?

    • 45 Huddle says:

      Stop TRT Exemptions. And start testing doing blood tests instead of piss tests. And test for more things (like HGH). And test randomly 6 times a year.

      It would not end doping in MMA, but it would greatly diminish it a lot….

  6. Jonathan says:

    If that is what it takes 45 Huddle, then I think the simple answer is that the UFC management just does not want it to happen. From the evidence that I’ve seen, I think that they tacitly want their fighters on TRY/HGH so long as they go about it the right (read legal) way.

  7. Rob Maysey says:

    Why a problem?

    Read the congressional history of the Ali Act–MMA is no different. This is a dangerous, violent sport where the INTENT is to cause bodily harm to obtain victory.

    It is a gross conflict of interest to have the promoter (motivated by profits) acts as the arbiter of safety and regulation (not motivated by profits) WHILE simultaneously serving as the matchmaker (essentially manager) too.

    In boxing, all of this is illegal–and for good reason.

    “Just trust us. . .” No thank you–a division of power is essential to achieve balance.

    • Steve4192 says:

      “In boxing, all of this is illegal–and for good reason. “

      The Ali act isn’t global. It only applies in the United States, where Zuffa is NOT ‘the arbiter of safety and regulation’. The Ali act doesn’t stop anyone from doing anything they want in Singapore, Brazil, England, China, Ireland, Poland, Turkey, Sweden, Scotland, or any other foreign markets where Zuffa has events scheduled.

      Even in the one market where the Ali act does apply (the USA), it is completely toothless and has never been enforced. People need to quit acting like the Ali act is some sort of panacea. It is a deeply flawed act that has had very little impact on the boxing establishment in the USA and no impact on what happens outside the USA.

      • Zach Arnold says:

        And your comment is why I’ve been saying the UFC should tell New York pols that they’ll have Harry Reid amend the Ali Act to cover MMA in exchange for getting legislation passed in NY.

        But UFC is definitely spooked by that Private Right of Action civil suit clause for someone reason…

      • Rob Maysey says:

        Ali Act isn’t global–but neither is NSAC. NSAC, however, and most other “ABC” commissions agree to honor each others suspensions.

        Could they not simply disallow their officials from participating in such events? Isn’t it their job to regulate safety? Wouldn’t such disapproval be in line with the purpose of their existence?

        The ABC has also passed a little known provision that few know about–to be considered an official “fight stat”–your event has to be governed by an ABC recognized commission. Could the ABC in addition to not participating, simply refuse to recognize such fights? Of course they could–but their not really about safety at all–are they?

        As to the Ali Act and enforcement–the Ali Act was purposefully unfunded. . . hence, no enforcement. However, it does provide a private right of action–which has been used by a number of fighters both in public and private to exert leverage. . . In fact, their is currently a lawsuit that has invoked it.

        Flawed as it is–it is better than the nothing MMA has–and it does mandate divisions of authority in the interests of “safety.”

  8. david m says:

    I think the UFC should suspend itself for giving Bigfoot too much steroids.

  9. 45 Huddle says:

    GSP/Hendricks did 600k to 650k. Lowest for a GSP fight since 2008. The FS1 move has certainly hurt them.

    I would love to see the UFC get off of PPV out side a few fights per year. Get the rest of the stuff onto FOX.

    I wonder if FOX would ever be willing to spend the money to get everything moving in that direction. Only time will tell.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      I also saw on The UG that according to Dave Meltzer:

      The Facebook Fights are no longer. They will be pushed over to the UFC Digital Network.

      **** FACE PALM ****

      How much of their content do they want to put behind a paywall? Do they realize they are completely hurting their chances for long term growth?

      • Nepal says:

        This is bizarre, only the hard cores care about the undercard and only a small percentage of them would be willing to shell out cash for them. All undercard stuff should be free on the UFC channel. I watch everything but wouldn’t pay for anything other than solid ppv’s. Last UFC on Fox 9, I wanted to watch the Laflare and Cody fights but no way I’m paying for them. What did I have to do? I had to find the a torrent file and download the prelims, only then could I watch the fights I wanted to see. Maybe the prelims were available in North America but they’re not available here in Thailand. However I do get the PPV’s free on my normal TV package (free meaning incl’d in with my $50/mo service).

        If prelims were free, the UFC would get way more people watching the up and comers. Asking them to pay for that level of fighter is just stupid.

        • cutch says:

          I really don’t think it’s weird at all, how many people actually watch the Facebook prelims? you are talking 6 hours of fights one after the other that’s an insane amount of MMA, maybe you can do it for the PPVs & Fox events but watching prelims on cards Ultimate Fight Nights seems insane to me.

          The people who do watch all these are really hardcore fans but I think a hardcore fan might buy this, it’s not just prelims it’s European & Asian fight nights (at least 12 a year)and apparently the full UFC library (UFC, Pride, Strikeforce, WEC etc) for something like $14 a month.

          Casual fans probably wont watch any of this but I’m guessing they aren’t watching fights on Facebook anyway.

    • david m says:

      UFC is fucked. To use Zach’s puroresu terminology, GSP was their last ace (besides Anderson, who became an ace through his Sonnen feud and now finally appears beatable). Silva v Weidman II will draw because Silva is finally seen as no longer invincible, but GSP v Hendricks II would have been even bigger because of their incredible first fight, GSP’s popularity, and Hendricks’ ability to both talk with his hands and his mouth.

      I am not sure who the winner of Weidman v Silva will fight who could draw on ppv, besides Belfort. Weidman can’t talk to save his life, and I am not sure Anderson really wants to fight anymore.

      It will be interesting to see if Hendricks’ strong showing against GSP makes him a ppv draw.

  10. rst says:

    I dont think Hunt would get on the TRT, thats a riotous dude. Like the time he wouldn’t get bought out of his contract in exchange for going away.
    He was just being snide.

    I actually thought, maybe still think that Bigfoot is a generally honest guy.
    The guy has weirded out glands. If there were only one person on the ufc roster with an excuse for glandular production treatment (which there probably is at most) it would be this guy.

    Although I’d bet that he’d still be able to compete without it, and that his unusual size would offset any handicap his low testosterone would represent. So the pro’s of banning it outright would far outweigh the cons.

    But the most offensive thing I’ve heard in while isn’t Bigfoot on TRT,
    its dana trotting out his “the fans want to see” shtick again today to justify belfort vs. the Weidman/silva winner.
    Presumably the same way the fans wanted to see belfort and chael sonnen vs. Jon Jones.

    I’m not sure I’m willing to watch MMA much anymore until dana and his cronies move on.


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