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Why the Current PED Testing Policies in MMA Are Bad for the Sport


(My advice? Put on this song, hold each other tight, and remember why you fell in the love in the first place. / Photo via @lorenzofertitta)

By Jon Mariani

Responding to Georges St-Pierre’s news-making claim that the UFC didn’t support him when he did VADA drug-testing for UFC 167, UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta told Yahoo!, “It was extremely disappointing to hear Georges make those comments because I don’t think any organization has embraced drug testing as we have.”

Fertitta also went on to state in an interview with ESPN, “Maybe Georges didn’t understand the level of drug testing Nevada was doing. They are the ultimate authority that handles drug testing, medicals and everything else — and they are very capable.”

The first problem with Fertitta’s statement is that the UFC didn’t exactly embrace drug-testing when GSP tried to bring VADA into the mix. As UFC President Dana White stated, “It’s a little weird,” that St-Pierre wanted the enhanced testing. White went on to say that “He doesn’t have to do it, but I guess he wants to do it. What are you gonna do? Knock yourself out, Georges. Good luck.”

Clearly, that’s not the kind of “support” St-Pierre was looking for.

The larger problem is that when Fertitta says “they are very capable,” referring to Nevada’s athletic commission and drug-testing standards, it couldn’t be further from the truth. The current testing employed in Nevada is a joke, and here’s why…

The State Of Current Testing In MMA

First off let’s look at the current testing being employed. Fighters are rarely tested before fights. Nevada has a occasionally done some “random” testing of fighters, but for the most part, testing is done either immediately before or after a fight takes place. And that “random” testing Nevada does is mostly performed at press conferences held by promoters. As Fight Opinion’s Zach Arnold stated “That’s not exactly ‘out of competition’ testing by traditional standards.” If you look at it, Nevada isn’t employing truly random testing, which makes you realize just how ridiculous it is that Alistair Overeem was busted in March of 2012, following a UFC 146 press conference.

There is a reason that in 2011 Tyler Tygart, the chief of the United States Anti-Doping Agency, called drug testing in MMA “horrific,” and “inadequate.” Part of the reason for his statement is that testing in combat sports is not random. Balco founder Victor Conte recently said, “I consider in-competition drug tests to be more IQ tests than drug tests because athletes can simply taper off before competitions and easily avoid testing positive. I believe that random out-of-competition tests are a far more effective use of the available resources.”

Why Enhanced Testing is Necessary

Athletic commissions do not currently employ the most sophisticated testing available. Tests such as the Carbon Isotope Ratio test, the most effective deterrent of exogenous testosterone usage, is not currently utilized due to its high cost. There is a reason Vitor Belfort did not get caught when he was illegally using testosterone. In 2012, VADA busted boxer Lamont Peterson for illegally using testosterone. When asked point blank if the NSAC would have caught Lemont Peterson, Keith Kizer admitted, “Probably not from the facts that I know.” Peterson’s T/E Ratio was 3.77 to 1, while the NSAC has a 6 to 1 ratio.

Kizer went on to say, “My understanding is that his level was 3.77 to 1… and I don’t know if that was a purposeful attempt to conceal [his use] by keeping it under 4 to 1 or not. That’s a question for someone else and not for me. But regardless, the CIR was able to catch it without the level being high.”

What he is essentially saying is “I don’t know if the fighter was trying to cheat, but if he was, we wouldn’t have caught him.” If that isn’t a complete indictment of your testing, I don’t know what is.

When Lorenzo Fertitta says, “Hopefully, because the penalties for being caught have gone to the extent they have — monetary, suspensions, revocations of licenses — it’s convincing these guys it’s not worth it,” he is wrong. To beat the current testing, all you need is a large bank account to afford the performance-enhancers like EPO and HGH that the commissions don’t test for, and a little bit of knowledge of when they do the tests. A far more effective deterrent would be to implement random enhanced testing — that is, if the UFC and athletic commissions truly “advocate for the most rigorous drug testing possible.”

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