Fabio Maldonado Admits He'll Be Doping Before He Fights Fedor, Russian Promoter Is Cool With It

Fightland Blog

By Josh Rosenblatt

Photo by Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

Oh to be in Russia now that April’s there.

Let that be the cry of any mixed martial artist seeking true freedom (free as springtime) in these days of onerous regulations and meddling doping agencies. Here in the United States, a fighter can lose his right to fight for having any one of a thousand chemicals or synthetic hormones in his system. Meanwhile, in Russia, fighters are free to do as they please—with their bodies and with the body of their opponents.

And so, when former UFC light-heavyweight Fabio Maldonado (a talented fighter most famous for his ability to get beaten up by Glover Teixeira without dying) meets pound-for-pound MMA great Fedor Emelianenko in St. Petersburg, Russia, on June 17, he has announced to the world that he will do so with synthetic dehydroepiandrosterone running through his system. Announced flagrantly and boldly and without care.

DHEA, a hormone produced by the adrenal gland, leads to the production of androgens and estrogens (male and female sex hormones). The problem is that the body slows down the production of DHEA after age 30, leaving it weaker, less energetic, and with less muscle mass. And while there’s no actual proof that synthetic DHEA slows down the aging process or increases strength or speed, doctors do prescribe it for athletes settling into early middle age, which means it could potentially be a performance-enhancing drug. And that was good enough for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), which includes DHEA on its list of banned substances.

Not that Maldonado, 36, was worried. The Brazilian says he was taking DHEA while he was in the UFC, even after the USADA became the league’s official anti-doping partner.

“[W]hen I was in my final UFC stretch and they had random tests, I was using DHEA because the doctor told me it's good for men past 32, it's good for your skin and your hormones. It wasn't even a PED,” Maldonado told AG fight yesterday.

But if Maldonado wasn’t worried about getting popped for doping when he was fighting for the UFC in America, his mind should be entirely at ease leading up to his fight with Fedor. Because he’ll be fighting in Russia: the frontier, the wild east, the land of unfettered masculinity and contempt for the “feminizing” corruptions of the western world, corruptions like drug testing. In fact, the promoter of the June 17 Fight Nights event, Kamil Gadzhiev, has already said there will be no drug testing done before or after the Fedor/Maldonado fight, same as any other Fight Nights fight.  

"We will not check for doping," Gadzhiev told Tass.ru after the fight was announced two weeks ago. "We do not have doping control. In this regard, we do not make exceptions."

Gadzhiev went a step further, admitting he and his colleagues don’t even care what their fighters put in their systems. Asked whether they worry that either Fedor or Maldonado could get an unfair advantage through the use of performance-enhancing drugs, Gadzhiev said, “No, we did not think about it."

Which is probably good for Maldonado. Because even if scientists haven’t proven that taking DHEA will actually do anything to increase your fighting ability, Maldonado can hardly be faulted for seeking out all the help he can get. After all, the man he’s fighting June 17 is as great a legend, as terrifying a force, as mythic a presence, as the sport of MMA has ever known. A killer with a bowler’s body, Fedor was, for a decade, indestructible. And even if his reputation took a hit after three straight losses in America, Fedor still carries a terrifying air about him, something cold and unaffected, something inhuman even. And Maldonado will be fighting him on his home turf, where he is undefeated and revered as a hero by the people and held up as an emblem of Russian masculinity by that greatest champion of Russian masculinity, Vladimir Putin, whose presence at fights, unabashed partisan support of Fedor, and long history of questionable behavior on the geopolitical stage must have a psychological effect on Fedors’ opponents. It’s one thing to fight the greatest heavyweight of all time; it’s quite another to do so with an unhinged dictator sitting in the front row cheering him on, secret police by his side.

So, in this new permissive environment Fabio Maldonado now finds himself in, at the tail end of his career, can we really blame him for wanting to take all the age-erasing, even performance-enhancing, hormones he can get his hands on, for seeking out every possible advantage? It’s springtime in Russia, after all: a time of renewal and second chances.  


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