It’s never a comfortable subject, but more than a few times in recent years, MMA fighters have tested positive for drugs. Illegal substances from marijuana and steroids to cocaine and morphine have been rearing their ugly heads from surprise drug tests given by the California State Athletic Commission in an effort to curb their use by fighters. My question is this: Why strive to become the best you can be when the end result is partially artificial?
Granted, with random testing it’s hard to fault a fighter for taking Benadryl for allergies or taking prescribed Vicodin for pulling a ham string. Fortunately for them, an appeal can usually rule out habitual use. But of all the drugs, steroids distress me the most simply because they harbor an unfair advantage. It could easily be equated to flat out cheating. If the primary objective is bulking up, then where is the honor in using a syringe instead of lifting more weights or training as hard as the others?
Let’s use Affliction’s Josh Barnett as an example. Barnett was previously stripped of his UFC heavyweight title in 2002 after testing positive for 3 different kinds of steroids. As if that wasn’t enough of a deterent, he recently tested positive again before his scheduled bout against Fedor Emelianeko set for August1st. Because his previous fighting license had expired, he wasn’t even fined and could get his license at a later date provided he passed a test then. He’s even been allowed to retain his 3rd place heavyweight ranking. So, his punishment? He simply could not fight. Is that supposed to teach him some sort of lesson? And as far as a 6 month general suspension, that’s bogus. Fighters usually train at least 3 months between fights anyway, so that leaves plenty of time to juice up and clean up. What kind of penalties should REALLY be in place for this behavior?
Part of what has drawn me to MMA in the first place is the hand-to-hand combat, a mixture of primal instinct, courage, and resiliency. It’s a test of strength, talent, survival, and personal substance in the face of another human being. How does any real fighter allow themselves to feel pride when they’ve done something illegal to win? Is it about the fame and fortune more than knowing they earned it honestly?