The gathered media and fans in reception burst into laughter at the final pre-fight press conference for UFC 196 as Nate Diaz declared, “everybody’s on steroids”.
While the PED problem in mixed martial arts certainly doesn’t encompass all of its athletes, the last few weeks have brought some shocking revelations as to the level of abuse that could potentially exist in the sport, despite UFC’s doping program with USADA.
Former featherweight title contender Chad ‘Money’ Mendes was handed a two-year ban yesterday after failing a random urine test he underwent on May 17. As reported by USADA, the Team Alpha Male fighter tested positive for GHRP-6 (Growth Hormone-Releasing Hexapeptide).
According to an article about the banned substance by BloodyElbow.com, “GHRP-6 is a substance which is designed to increase your body’s natural production of growth hormone,” which understandably would give anyone taking it an advantage over someone who was not.
There are currently 18 fighters on the UFC’s books who have been flagged by USADA, which would suggest that Mendes is not the last person that will suffer a career-altering ban. The fact that five of those 18 fighters are former or current world champions—Brock Lesnar, Jon Jones, BJ Penn, Frank Mir, Lyoto Machida—shows that that the abuses of PEDs could go straight to the top of the sport.
Mendes’ ban has gained a lot of coverage since it’s announcement yesterday, but given the men who are currently waiting to receive their bans, there could be a lot more headlines concerning UFC and PEDs in the future.
Brock, Jones and the Cloud over UFC 200
When USADA announced that Brock Lesnar would receive an exemption from its usual “back to competition testing”, which forces athletes to be available for testing four months before their return to competition, there were plenty of critics of UFC’s ability to exempt certain fighters from their new testing.
However, when the promotion was forced to pull headliner Jon Jones from UFC 200 three days before he was about to take to the Octagon for his light-heavyweight unification bout with Daniel Cormier due to a potential PED violation, people began to realize that the policy with USASA does not simply comply with UFC’s wishes.
To add to that, earlier this week, Lesnar was notified of a potential anti-doping violation by USADA from a test that was taken from the former heavyweight champion on June 28. Furthermore, two days ago, it was revealed that Lesnar also failed an in-competition test for the same substance that he was previously flagged for. UFC have claimed that the Lesnar failed the second test on the day of his co-main event meeting with Mark ‘The Super Samoan’ Hunt.
Despite the fact that UFC put the policy in place as a means to gain the sport more legitimacy, there have been some noted contrarians to the fact that Lesnar was allowed to compete despite being flagged. While UFC were unaware of his failed tests when he took to the Octagon on July 9, in hindsight, Mark Hunt has campaigned for a pay increase for taking on Lesnar due to his positive tests. As well as that, Forbes published an article taking the stance that “PED use in combat sports should be a criminal offense.”
With Jones and Lesnar still yet to receive suspensions, it is almost a certainty that there will be further casualties in the USADA era. Given that Yoel Romero and Tim Means received shortened bans due to USADA confirming that tainted supplements were behind their test failures, even if Jones’ case proves to a similar mishap, he will also be given a six-month suspension.
Due to the cross contamination that exists in the supplement industry, it is quite likely that we will continue to hear fighters plead similar cases if they fail in the future. While it seems very difficult to do so, there obviously needs to be some further protocol put in place besides fighters’ ability to call Vice President of Athlete Health and Performance, Jeff Novitzky, to clear their supplements.
BJ Penn also received a ban for using an IV under the supervisor of a doctor, which has led to further complaints about some of the stringent ruling that is in place.
There will inevitably be more flagged athletes as UFC and USADA’s policy get through some growing pains. However, it is undoubtedly what is best for the safety of the UFC athletes.
Certainly, the timing of the tests has not been convenient, especially for athletes like Hunt. The fact that Lesnar was potentially chemically altered during their bout made the likelihood of damage far more prevalent for ‘The Super Samoan’. Interestingly, before his return to UFC, Jon Jones claimed that “The UFC was very aware” that Vitor Belfort was “on steroids” before their title fight at UFC 152. Speaking about the incident, Jones insisted taking on Belfort in his altered stated was “a hazard to (his) life”.
In terms of the safety of athletes, the ability for fighters to compete with PEDs in their systems is something that needs to be rectified most pressingly.
Check out these related stories:
The Mixed Martial Arts of Victorian London
Before BJJ, there was Bartitsu.
Jonathan Maicelo: The Last Inca
Peru's up-and-coming boxing star.
Kron Gracie on Jiu-Jitsu, Skateboarding, Older Brothers, and Famous Fathers
The ties that bind are strong.
Joel Tudor on the Art of Surfing, Fighting, and Style
A surf icon helps MMA keep its sense of tradition.
Japan's Karate Kid: Kyoji Horiguchi
Japan's brightest MMA prospect.