Is steroid use an epidemic in MMA? Or are most of the fighters who have tested positive simply the victims of inept athletic commissions, shady nutritional supplements, and tainted goat meat? After Josh Barnett’s latest chemical misadventure took down Affliction, we decided to round up every steroid bust in the sport since early 2002, when the Nevada State Athletic Commission began testing MMA fighters for performance-enhancing drugs. The results…may shock you.
Update, 11/5/13: Beginning with Chael Sonnen in 2010, several MMA fighters have failed drug tests due to elevated testosterone, without being caught for a specific steroid. To keep things orderly around here, we’ve quarantined those busts on page 2.
JOSH BARNETT (Pt. 1)
Caught: 4/22/02, following his TKO victory over Randy Couture at UFC 36.
Tested positive for: Boldenone, Nandrolone, and Fluoxymesterone
Punishment: A six-month suspension from the NSAC and the loss of his UFC heavyweight title. Barnett fought the steroid charge, and didn’t compete again in the U.S. until PRIDE 32, four and a half years later. (See: Belfort, Nastula)
In his own words: “I am a fighter, not a lawyer. I am innocent, and I should be fighting right now.”
Repeat offender: Barnett actually tested positive once before, for two different anabolic steroids, following his submission via strikes victory over Bobby Hoffman at UFC 34 in November 2001. Josh was let off with a warning (which went unheeded, apparently) and the incident was never officially reported — but according to Sherdog’s Mike Sloan, Barnett’s first positive steroid test is what inspired Nevada to begin regularly testing UFC fighters for performance enhancing drugs.
Caught: 10/7/03, following his first-round knockout of Gan McGee at UFC 44.
Tested positive for: Stanozolol
Punishment: $10,000 fine and a six-month suspension from the NSAC. Sylvia voluntarily vacated his heavyweight title following his positive steroid test.
In his own words: “[A]fter I fought Ricco [Rodriguez], I was in for a long layoff. I decided to try some things and maybe change my physique a little bit and get in better shape. But whatever I used, it came back positive. I don’t know how that happened. I did it so long ago and I was way off it before I fought McGee. I think they found it in my fat cells. I guess it stays in there for a while, huh?…I heard what Josh [Barnett] had used, so I used something different and I was only using it to trim my physique. I thought that what I was using, it was going to be out by the time I fought McGee. I fought Gan and apparently it wasn’t out.”