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The Case Against Random Steroid Testing? Really?

steroids2.jpg
(Nothing could console him after the tanning salon burned down.)

When the Nevada State Athletic Commission announced that it would begin random drug testing of MMA fighters, rather than just testing them immediately before and after a fight, this was generally hailed as a good decision. If anything, some of us wondered why it took this long. Giving dirty fighters a solid date for their drug tests lets them plan their steroid cycles just a little too efficiently.

But over at Bloody Elbow, Michael Rome doesn’t agree. In an article posted on the site yesterday, he had this to say about the oppressive fascism of drug-testing professional athletes:

Recently, NSAC has started a policy of random drug testing, in which fighters are tested for drugs randomly before fights. NSAC is a branch of the Nevada state government, meaning the government is conducting drug testing completely at random without any probable cause (“being a fighter” is not probable cause).

I’m shocked to see writers across the MMA spectrum approve of this gross abuse of basic rights. Everyone justifies this because it is for the fighters own good, a rationale that is generally used to justify any oppressive government tactic. Is there anybody out there willing to fight for the fighters? From random testing to the presumption of guilt upon a positive test, the entire system is completely bogus and one-sided.

I respect Michael Rome’s opinions, and normally I’m the first guy to complain about the government. God knows they’ve made my life hell with their stupid laws about how many wives I can have or how much of my paycheck has to go to supporting the many illegitimate children I’ve sired. But this argument doesn’t hold up.

Drug testing for professional athletes is a good thing, and here’s why: 1) steroids are illegal, not to mention potentially very dangerous to the user, 2) in a sport that involves men using their bodies as weapons against one another, steroids provide an unfair advantage and create a potentially dangerous situation for both combatants, 3) we want to believe that our athletic competitions are as fair and safe as reasonably possible.

I don’t think Rome would argue in favor of no drug testing at all in MMA (at least I hope not) so I’ll assume that we agree on the basic premise that some testing is necessary.

That said, I’m going to go one step farther and assert that it is also a good thing that the state athletic commission is the one doing the testing, and not a private entity like the UFC.

Is the NSAC a branch of the government in some awkward sense? Yes. But this isn’t the FBI knocking on your door to do a retina scan because you checked out The Communist Manifesto from the local library. This is done to promote fairness and a level playing field.

We want the commission to do it simply because we don’t want the UFC to be in charge of it. Self-policing doesn’t work well in these scenarios. Just look at the WWE. Look at Pride. Look at any organization where there’s no oversight from an unbiased organization. Things get bad in a hurry. Baseball can survive a widespread steroid scandal, but MMA can’t. It’s in too fragile a state. Just as the UFC ran to regulation of their rules and competitions, the same is necessary when it comes to performance-enhancing drugs.

Rome seems particularly bothered about the random aspect of the testing, which is done, he says “without any probable cause.” My question is, if he’s unhappy with random testing, which type would he prefer? Essentially, your options for answering that question are a) none at all, b) before and/or after fights, or c) only when there is “probable cause.” Which would be what, exactly? Having traps that come out of your ears?

Random testing is the only type that works. It works because it instills a constant fear of being caught into anyone currently using banned substances. To anyone not using them, it’s merely an inconvenience.

As soon as you apply for a license to fight professionally in the state of Nevada, you are essentially agreeing to take a random drug test. If you don’t want to do it, that’s fine. Don’t apply for the license. Or, when they ask you for a urine sample, just refuse. They’re not going to send you to Guantanamo Bay for it. You just won’t be allowed to fight professionally in Nevada, which is not a guaranteed right in the first place.

Equating random drug testing in sports with “oppressive government tactic[s]” only serves to make you sound like an alarmist while at the same time cheapening real accusations of oppressive government tactics, like warrantless wire-tapping. This is a question of how to make our sport as fair and legitimate and clean as possible, not a question of civil rights.

Drug testing is good for the fighters, and it’s good for the fans. The best drug testing is the kind that detects and deters most effectively. Testing randomly is the only way to ensure that guys are not only competing clean, but training clean as well.

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Crazy Cathy- June 22, 2008 at 5:48 pm
Funny stuff love it.
Martin- May 8, 2008 at 1:57 am
Yes def. for random tests...and they do not test random, they test fighters they think has grown fast i size and so on....we here in sweden hate dopers. It not okay, its like i could be big as brock lesnar......but is he good..no just big, and about 20 years his body will react to doping, just like arnold scharznegger (done by-pass operation on his heart)....doping makes the blood sugar higher and that is dangerous for the blood vessel. Thats why we have isulin that lowers the blood sugar, but i you take steroids it will be higher than normal. It is as dangerous as high fatlevels in the blood. It will block the blood vessel.............................so brock lesnar is just a belgien blue cow..
Kelly- May 7, 2008 at 2:36 am
Mr. Rome makes his case against the government invading basic rights, what if the testing was done on a private basis what then would his argument then be, nothing. Everybody loves a conspiracy.
Guest (bb.com)- May 6, 2008 at 11:37 pm
That is Markus Ruhl in the picture.
tim sylvia's pussy- May 6, 2008 at 10:08 pm
it looks like he's trying rub one off to himself, but is too buffed out to reach his penis...
"damn u steroids!"
High Roller- May 6, 2008 at 7:47 pm
Alternate Caption:

"Fritz just wasn't the same after he permanently lost sight of his penis."
Method- May 6, 2008 at 6:27 pm
Thank you potato, this is a well written counter to a pretty ridiculous argument.
Jemaleddin- May 6, 2008 at 6:13 pm
@Haven68rs : good point, though it would still reduce the total number of drugs that could be taken, AND the total duration of use (and thereby effectiveness) of the drugs with shorter detection times.

My fear is that you don't want testing to be onerous - once a month might be a lot for some of these guys, especially if the commission expected them to fly out to Vegas for testing. If they could agree to use any of the nationwide lab chains for testing, monthly testing would be fine (though it doesn't address fighters that live abroad), but with so many fighters under contract, the costs could be too high. That's why random (or near random, since you can still target folks like Sherk or Barnett or Sylvia who have popped positive in the past) works out pretty well.
Go back to your cave- May 6, 2008 at 5:59 pm
Luke Thomas needs to go suck rome's dick some more, so he won't have time to waste space on this site trying to rationalize crappy opinions
Abidon- May 6, 2008 at 5:56 pm
What are those? Like DD or something?

That is fu*king horrible
Haven68rs- May 6, 2008 at 5:52 pm
"@CP: The other method of testing, which I’d advocate, would be regular testing on a monthly basis, or more likely, every three months."

That would be good for many of the Steroids types however there are 6 types of roids that have detection times of under three weeks. this would allow a dirty fighter to run a 8 week cycle then clean out for 1 month and test clean.

Remember Ben Johnson the olympic sprinter? He was on Winstrol, short detection times have nothing to do with the strength of a steroid.

Ref:http://www.steroid.com/detect.php
TheFeniX- May 6, 2008 at 5:41 pm
I am randomly drug tested at my company as are all other employees (and I know of numerous other jobs that require random drug tests for employment). There are some sites I work at where you can't even drink alcohol 3 days before going out due to safety concerns.

Why shouldn't a fighter risk fines and the loss of a job from failing a drug test when many other jobs have the same risk? Know the rules, know the risks associated with breaking those rules, and accept it. Otherwise, find another field of employment. By being employed in certain fields, you can't stand behind the "without cause" issue. Just being employed IS cause enough.

I wouldn't go as far as to say this article is particularly stupid, it's just that it's looking at things from a strictly libertarian ideal (which I can agree with on certain levels). But not all protections granted under the law apply to private industry. Sure, the "government" is handling the testing, but the UFC (and other MMA organizations) CHOOSE to be associated with the commission. If you don't like it, find an organization that has no affiliation and take the pay cut.

I'm sure if I was a pot-head I could find employment that didn't require drug testing as par for the course. I just wouldn't consider it "gainful" in most circumstances.

Oh and I agree with Tertio: SFC would be pretty lame as those guys get winded just walking around.
Clutch- May 6, 2008 at 5:25 pm
LOL i totally agree i thought that looked like mark coleman "MR.FAIL"
Jemaleddin- May 6, 2008 at 5:25 pm
@CP: The other method of testing, which I'd advocate, would be regular testing on a monthly basis, or more likely, every three months. And I think that organizations like the UFC ought to have as part of their contracts that anyone who fights for them has to register with the NSAC - meaning that they can't just keep guys like Sherk or Lesnar fighting in England or something. This would end the cycling, and since MMA guys don't get paid like baseballers, they couldn't afford to join the cat-and-mouse game of getting the newest most undetectable roids.

@Luke Thomas: My problem wasn't with Michael's point - it's that he isn't really making it. He's not distinguishing his general argument (which seems to be about how he's against steroid testing in general) from his specific case against random testing. It's like he's trying to use the argument against random testing as a wedge issue (the way that pro-life folks use third-trimester abortions) to attack steroid testing. But he really needs to develop that article

However, I don't think it's your business telling him what to write or not write - but as BE develops and improves, it'd be cool if you guys had a formal editing and review process - no matter how brief or cursory - just to protect against dupes (only happened a few times) and to help out with copy editing stuff. The big newspapers take their opinion pieces (like Michael's) pretty seriously and usually prepare them as a team. I understand the whole speed-of-blogs thing, but an opinion like that needs some developing, you know?

Regardless, I think I've made it clear that I love the BE - having people to disagree with is a perk, not a pain.
C-Bus Allstar- May 6, 2008 at 5:18 pm
Jesus, there's a more heated debate about an article about a subject than the actual subject.

On a side note: Did anyone else think that the picture for this post looks a helluva lot like Mark Coleman's profile? I mean.. For a second I was like "WHOA DID MARK COLEMAN FALL INTO A VAT OF STEROIDS LIKE 2-FACE FROM BATMAN?"

It's gotta be the nose.. the Coleman nose.
Burns- May 6, 2008 at 4:59 pm
"I’m not running a magazine or newspaper. I run a blog and blogs operate in real time. The best blogs, be they sports or political in nature, incorporate real time thinking even when it leads to error."

This way of thinking is exactly why blogs aren't more respected. You are basically asking to be held to a lower standard. "Real time thinking" sounds suspiciously like spouting off without regard for consequences. That's what's wrong with internet journalism in general. Anybody can write anything, so nothing matters.

As for Rome's argument, I wouldn't say it's so bad that it needed to be deleted but it did need more than three paragraphs worth of thought put into it. Maybe that's where an editor could have stepped in.
Angry Retard- May 6, 2008 at 4:55 pm
Great article CP, it was a great read and compelling argument for the sake of random drug testing as well as polygamy.

P.S. Luke Thomas, when Sarah said, "congratulations, bloody elbow, that’s the dumbest argument i’ve read all week. " she was completely correct. You don't have to defend your site, she was merely congratulating your site for posing the dumbest argument she's read all week, not trying to smear bloody elbow's reputation or anything.
Luke Thomas- May 6, 2008 at 4:45 pm
"as an editor, isn’t it your job to publish quality writing on your site and, i don’t know, *edit out* articles with bad logic and spurious arguments?"

If this isn't a perfect example of the slippery slope problem, then nothing is. Yes, I do have an obligation to edit out articles...but not by your criteria. I'm not running a magazine or newspaper. I run a blog and blogs operate in real time. The best blogs, be they sports or political in nature, incorporate real time thinking even when it leads to error. My job as editor is only to refuse to publish those articles that are inflammatory or offensive on the grounds of racial, sexual and other forms of discrimination.

Granted, if a post was uniquely bad, then yes, I'd be forced to not publish it. But I don't think Rome's argument and post - even if ultimately wrong - qualify for that. He writes well and backs up his point in relevant libertarian concerns for the role and reach of state power. I think ultimately he doesn't support a pragmatic solution to the problem of steroids in MMA, but to suggest the concern he raises is idle is downright ludicrous.
Tertio- May 6, 2008 at 4:36 pm
"i wanna see an SFC

STERIOD FIGHTING CHAMPIONSHIP

have some monsters like that dude in the picture up there goin at it. now that would be fuckin payperview"

These guys would gas just walking to the cage.
Luke Thomas- May 6, 2008 at 4:35 pm
"Or if you don’t agree with the article then why not just say so?"

Even on the site yesterday I noted I was happy with the random testing policy as Tito Ortiz was tested and came up clean. But I'm not really ready to dismiss Rome's argument yet. On the face of it, I don't agree with him. However, I find some of what he's saying compelling and I suppose that I need a little time to think about them before I lay down any rebuttal.

People are making it out to be cut and dry, but the issue is complex and involves a host of factors that are normally not part of any debate involving MMA. I give Rome credit for taping into that.
sarah- May 6, 2008 at 4:30 pm
hi luke,

as an editor, isn't it your job to publish quality writing on your site and, i don't know, *edit out* articles with bad logic and spurious arguments?

i found that there's a big trend on the web these days of websites posting stupid or incendiary articles for the extra clicks and trackbacks (the ESPN Kimbo Slice editorial is a good example), and I find that very dangerous for internet journalism. you might not have written the article, but you did decide to publish it. and there's a big difference between a person having a different opinion than you do and a person having an opinion that isn't back up by fact or logic.

the reason i read MMA sites that have editors is so that I don't have to wade through the uninformed ramblings of random MMA fans. even though Rome is speaking for himself, he does represent your site since you chose to publish it.
Shaun- May 6, 2008 at 4:30 pm
Is this random drug testing for steroids only? What if you want to smoke some weed when you don't have a fight pending? Do they take your license for marijuana?
Burns- May 6, 2008 at 4:16 pm
Hmmmm, seems like Luke Thomas is trying to distance himself from that article. I agree that you can't condemn the whole site for one article, but if you're the editor-in-chief, Luke, you have to be willing to shoulder some responsibility there. Or if you don't agree with the article then why not just say so?
Tully- May 6, 2008 at 4:15 pm
i wanna see an SFC

STERIOD FIGHTING CHAMPIONSHIP

have some monsters like that dude in the picture up there goin at it. now that would be fuckin payperview
Tertio- May 6, 2008 at 4:02 pm
Could this lead to fighters applying for licences a lot closer to their fight dates ? Or is there a reglementation requiring fighter to apply for a license X months in advance ? what about last minute replacements ?

To me there seems to be a lot of loopholes juicers could jump through in order to keep cycling banned substances.
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