(Whatever could have been done to prevent this terrible tragedy?!? PicProps: Fightertrends.com)
One of the more interesting side effects of the report this week that Chael Sonnen’s urine tested way, way too manly at UFC 117 is that pretty much everybody in the industry got the chance to weigh in on MMA’s “steroid problem.” From Bloody Elbow’s suggestion that the sport just “accept” steroids in order to regulate them to Kevin Iole’s idea that promoters start funneling money to state athletic commissions for better testing to Bas Rutten saying he’s “blown away” that guys continue to look for unfair advantages, nearly everyone old enough to have a Twitter account tossed out an opinion.
For his part, Dana White told Iole that the UFC already shells out “literally millions of dollars a year to try to prevent the steroid problem” and the promotion brings in DEA officials to “speak to the fighters about the ramification of performance enhancing drugs” at its annual fighter summit. Iole writes that White was “exasperated” to learn over the weekend that Sonnen had tested positive and Big DW sounds downright at-his-wits-end when he moans: “What else do I do?” during the article.
Hey, I’m glad he asked. What the UFC should do about steroids in MMA is actually incredibly simple (Spoiler alert: It’s not spend “literal millions” to hold an annual summit where fighters get a stern lecture) …
Here’s a novel idea: If the UFC is really, truly concerned about getting its fighters off steroids, perhaps it should take the initiative in testing them. All of them. Without warning. Multiple times a year. Olympic-style, with blood and urine exams for both steroids and HGH. It should do this not as a replacement for athletic commission testing, but in addition to it. Athletes who test positive for any banned substance shouldn’t be allowed to fight until they can test clean.
The truth is, when it comes to eradicating the use of performance enhancers, the UFC is in a unique position in professional sports. Other longstanding mainstream entities like baseball and football can’t administer invasive blood tests – the only kind that can accurately check for HGH – because they have to contend with the players’ powerful labor unions. The UFC doesn’t have that problem. The UFC can and does do whatever it wants, all the time. Anybody who knows anything about your basic UFC contract knows the fight company has certainly never troubled itself with trivialities like privacy or the personal freedom of its employees. What’s to stop it from mandating that everybody who signs a UFC contract also gets blood tested for drugs, say, four times a year?
One thing: Cost. Make no mistake, a move like this would be expensive. Then again, if the company already has “literal millions” to spend on preventing the use of PEDs as White contends, shifting the money into testing doesn’t seem like a big deal. Considering the UFC’s continually swelling ticket prices, PPV prices that certainly aren’t going down anytime soon and the promotion’s stated desire to open an office in fuckin’ China, I assume money is no object.
Also considering the UFC’s somewhat tenuous foothold in the mainstream American sporting culture – which makes ignoring or accepting steroids impossible — the company would be well served to become an industry leader not only in new media and marketing (where it already more than holds its own) but in drug testing as well.
Either that, or we’re left to assume the UFC doesn’t really care about its athletes taking steroids; it only cares about them getting caught.