(Forget about Barnett, get me some of whatever that chick is on.)
MMA pariah Josh Barnett emerged from hiding just long enough to release a statement about the positive steroid test that derailed Affliction: Trilogy and lead to the UFC and Strikeforce both gorging themselves on suddenly available fighter contracts. As you can probably guess, the statement did not include the words, ‘my bad.’ Instead it followed the trajectory we’ve all come to expect with these stories, almost impressively so. For all you possibly juiced-up aspiring fighters out there, take it from a cagey veteran of the sport. Here’s what you do when you get busted:
Step 1: Hedge your bets
If you can’t say with absolute certainty that there were no banned substances in your system when you peed in a cup for the athletic commission, you’re going to want to begin your defense by setting up a back-up defense just in case they nail you cold. That’s what Barnett is doing with this sentence from his official statement:
“Mr. Barnett vehemently denies intentionally ingesting any banned substances in preparation for the August 1st fight and he is looking forward to presenting his case to the California State Athletic Commission.”
Key word there is “intentionally.” This sets you up for the old it-was-in-my-creatine-and-I-had-no-idea defense. Not that this defense is total bullshit, mind you, but as any pro athlete knows by now, you’re responsible for whatever ends up in your body, whether you intentionally put it there or not.
Step 2: Maintain innocence until guilt is undeniable
Barnett accomplishes this by shifting focus to the as-of-yet unannounced results of his B sample:
“In the meantime, Mr. Barnett has yet to learn of the results of the B sample testing and he has not received any of the documentation that provides further details of the alleged positive sample despite numerous requests.”
The upside here is, it’s an argument that makes good sense. Where is the B sample, and why hasn’t the CSAC told us what the results of testing on it were? In the steroid playbook, this is sort of like trying to bunt your way on base. A technically sound team ought to be able to get you out 95% of the time, but at least putting something in play forces them to not screw up. And Barnett likely knows that the odds of the CSAC screwing up are good enough to take a chance on. Which leads us to this…
Step 3: Turn the accusing finger on your accusers
“In fact, the documentation that Mr. Barnett has received raises serious questions about the integrity of the sample and the validity of the results themselves.”
What kinds of questions did this documentation raise, and what documentation are we even talking about? We have no idea, because it isn’t specified. In fact, this sentence immediately follows the one about not receiving “any of the documentation.” So what did they receive from the CSAC? A notice of a failed steroid test that was written in crayon? Regardless, they’ve now cast the shadow of suspicion on the CSAC.
Step 4: Suggest that it’s only a matter of time until you “clear your name”
“At this time Mr. Barnett would like to thank his fans and colleagues for their ongoing support and faith in him. He intends to vigorously defend himself against these allegations and hopes for a swift resolution to this matter so he can get back to what he does best — fighting!”
Stop and think for a second about the history of steroid testing in pro fighting. Now name me some people who have proven their innocence after testing positive. Go on, I’ll wait.
Barnett’s best hope here is that the B sample comes back with conflicting results, or at the very least that the CSAC mishandles the situation enough to damage their own credibility even further. Neither of those options is impossible, and the second one is damn near likely.
But for Barnett, the damage is done. Affliction is canceled, and unless he can prove that the CSAC is entirely to blame for fabricating a positive test result out of thin air, he’ll be remembered as the guy who brought the whole show down. Swift resolution, indeed.