“The minute you know when you'll be tested, it's very easy to make sure you don't test positive.”

Today, Keith Kizer, who is the Executive Director for the Nevada State Athletic Commission, confirmed that former Strikeforce (now owned by the UFC parent company, Zuffa LLC) Light Heavyweight Champion, Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, tested positive for the anabolic steroid, Drostanolone (most commonly sold under the brand name, Masteron) following his first round TKO win over Lorenz Larkin on January 7th at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this particular banned substance, Masteron is often used for “cutting cycles” and is notorious for helping athletes to increase strength and muscle definition, without adding very much weight—something that is absolutely necessary for any fighter who repeatedly competes in a specific weight class. With that being said however, Masteron is widely considered to be a “mild” steroid.

In the past, some fighters have spoken out on steroids and have even accused up to 90% of the entire Industry of taking various types of steroids or other performance enhancing drugs. This, of course, cannot be proven and is mere speculation.

Last week, female Strikeforce Flyweight Champion, Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos, tested positive for steroids (although she claims that the positive test was a result of something unknown that she may have unintentionally ingested via an over-the-counter supplement—an excuse that too many athletes who are caught cheating, often use), and was officially stripped of her championship belt.

Cyborg’s subsequent suspension immediately raised a few questions in the minds of many; are fighters then required to perform random testing throughout the duration of their suspension? Or are they then free to use these illegal substances (and possibly others) without any fear of getting caught during the time in which they are training and preparing for their next upcoming bout once their suspension ends? Fighters only compete on average of “1.6 times per year” according to the CEO of the UFC, Lorenzo Fertitta, therefore, a one year suspension seems like little more than an inconvenience at best for many of these athletes.

It should also be noted that it’s not all that often that fighters actually get caught using PED’s. Despite that however, the general consensus by fans and non-fans of the sport, is that it is very much commonplace in MMA, if only to help the athletes to recover from their injuries or to treat their hypogonadism (a medical term cited by UFC fighter, Chael Sonnen, for the decreased functional activity of his testicles, which many have speculated is the by-product of having used steroids throughout his entire athletic career—something that Sonnen oddly enough had publicly accused American cyclist Lance Armstrong of doing).

Given the commonality of steroids in all levels of professional sports (not just MMA), some athletes are under the opinion that steroids should just be made legal. Former UFC fighter, Sean McCorkle for example, summarized what many people had recommended in the past, by suggesting that the sport of MMA would be better off if drug testing were simply eliminated altogether:

“What you end up with is a situation of where the guys who are beating the test, where the guys who can afford to get a doctor to prescribe whatever they want, where the guys who have access to stuff—they have an unfair advantage already. I think we'd be pretty naive to think that every person who's ever taken anything was caught. So I think, to me, in all professional sports, I say, let guys do whatever they want to do and be done with it. I don't think anybody's going to make or break their career based on steroids unless you're talking about longevity, because to my understanding, the majority of them are used for recovery from injury.”

The problem with that thinking however, is that once you open the floodgates to performance enhancing drugs, there becomes no safe way to regulate the abuse of these substances, and all athletes would then be faced with the unfair decision of taking steroids, and doing whatever it takes to win at the detriment of their own personal health and safety. Like anything in excess, steroids abuse would ultimately be putting our athletes at a greater risk than I think Mr. McCorkle either understands or even cares about.

And it would seem that the UFC would agree with me on this. From now on (starting today), fighters will be screened for performance-enhancing drugs prior to signing with the UFC or Strikeforce, although frankly, I’m not entirely sold on how effective that would be considering the advanced levels in which many athletes mask the use of PED’s.

UFC President, Dana White had the following to say regarding this latest policy:

“The health and safety of our athletes is our top priority. We've seen the issues performance-enhancing drugs have caused in other sports and we're going to do everything we can to keep them out of the UFC and Strikeforce. Our athletes are already held to the highest testing standards in all sports by athletic commissions. Our new testing policy for performance-enhancing drugs only further shows how important it is to us to have our athletes competing on a level playing field.”

As great as this sounds, it should also be noted that the UFC, for the most part, especially when holding events outside of the United States, relies solely on their own in-house testing to catch steroid users—a system that Dick Pound (yes that’s his real name, and no, he’s not a porn star), a Montreal-based lawyer and former president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, says is “illusory (deceptive) and obviously intended to be that way. They're just trying to do enough to keep the Congress off their backs.”

He probably has a valid point.

I’ve never been a fan of the self-administered PED testing that the UFC and its fans seem so proud of, as I truly fail to see any actual incentive that the UFC might have to catch its biggest stars (money generators), thus tainting the name, image and earning potential of the UFC. And if it is an image problem that they’re so concerned about, I do believe that that ship has sailed a long time ago.

As much as I would love to see the sport of MMA cleaned up and steroid-free, I don’t believe that that day will ever come. There’s just too much to gain, and far too little risk or punishment to deter any of today’s athletes, which definitely is a real shame.



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