(Just look at how good it feels to be drug-free.)
The Nevada State Athletic Commission has officially begun their off-competition drug-testing program, and their first testee was UFC interim lightweight champion B.J. Penn. While the NSAC does have some cause for concern about the presence of illegal substances in the upcoming UFC lightweight title bout, it probably isn’t Penn they need to be worried about.
Never fear though, because this week Sean Sherk is required to submit to an additional drug test by the NSAC. They also made him acknowledge that he is responsible for whatever substances end up in his body by whatever accidental/magical means. Because trust is something that you earn, Sean.
MMA Weekly reports that Penn came back clean for both performance-enhancing and recreational drugs, and quotes NSAC executive director Keith Kizer, who offers this completely unnecessary rationale for the program:
“Random testing throughout the year will further deter any fighters considering taking non-approved substances. The additional testing, which will be paid for by the Commission, will help us keep the sport of unarmed combat safe and fair for all fighters.”
The new testing program really only highlights questions as to why this didn’t begin sooner. Testing athletes only before events takes the element of surprise out of the picture, allowing them to cycle on and off with a firm testing date in mind.
Perhaps part of the reason this took so long to get off the ground is the commonly held belief that fighters are taking steroids in order to be stronger and faster on fight night. In fact, as Hermes Franca’s admission of steroid guilt after the Sherk fight taught us, the big benefit of steroids for MMA fighters is the aid in the physical recovery process.
Training hard twice a day for 4-6 weeks before a fight is bound to leave even the toughest guys in MMA a little banged up, if not downright injured. The knowledge that the NSAC may ask them to pee in a cup when they’re still a month or more away from the fight might make more fighters think twice about seeking help in a syringe.
While there’s no word yet on results of Sherk’s additional drug test, we have to assume that he isn’t stupid enough to so much as ingest a questionable protein shake before his first fight back from a steroid suspension. Regardless, expect the NSAC’s illegal substance awareness meter to be set to ‘ridiculously high’ approaching this event.