UFC star Thiago Silva was caught cheating at UFC 125, using a masking agent to hide drug use prior to his fight with Brandon Vera. He's not alone. Cheating is as old as athletic competition itself and many of today's top MMA stars bend the rules in a variety of ways. I don't recommend cheating: but if a fighter is doing it, this is how.
Cycling: This is how cheating was done in the old school. By carefully timing when they take steroids and other performance enhancers, fighters can be sure they are clean during fight week when they need to pee in the bottle. There is significant risk here, especially if a fighter is cutting it close. Here's some Steroid 101 from the aptly named Steroid.com:
When two or more anabolic steroids are used at the same time, it is called "stacking". The time period in which a body builder or person uses these anabolic steroids is called a "steroid cycle". Athletes stack anabolic steroids with other drugs to help maximize the results of their cycle. It has been shown that steroid stacks can cause an even more dramatic effect on the users muscle, than when taking only one type of steroid. Different anabolic steroids have different effects on the body, so when two different steroids are introduced (stacked) together, often times you will see the muscle gaining side effects of each different steroid! These steroid cycles may also include taking one particular anabolic steroid at the beginning of the steroid cycle and finishing up with a different steroid at the end, to better enhance the users desired result. Steroid stacks have been used for years and have proven to be a more effective way to build quality muscle than when using only one type of steroid. One very important thing to note: when using more than one anabolic steroid in a stack or cycle, the risk of harmful side effects increases. Within a steroid cycle, the users will often stack other non-anabolic drugs into their program to help minimize these steroid side effects.
Oil Change: If you don't have time to come off your cycle there's always the option of using someone else's clean urine to pass your test. Since someone actually watches the urine leave your body, there's no way to simply change out your sample with another's. That's where the oil change come into play. A doctor or medical technician (or a buddy who isn't squeamish) injects the clean urine into your bladder with a catheter (a thin plastic tube inserted into your urethra) before the test.
Some possible complications according to the Encyclopedia of Nursing:
* urinary tract infections and catheter obstruction
* trauma and/or the introduction of bacteria into the urinary system, leading to infection and, rarely, septicemia
* trauma to the bladder, urethra, and meatus caused by incorrect insertion of the catheter or forceful removal with the bladder inflated by confused patients
* scaring, stricture and/or narrowing of the urethra due to repeated trauma
* urine bypass around the catheter (A smaller catheter size may minimize leakage.)
* leakage around the catheter due to forceful bladder spasms that overwhelm the catheter's drainage capacity
Urine can also be injected into the bladder directly via needle. There is risk here, especially of infection and blood borne pathogens being transmitted via the alien urine. Most fighters use a friend's sample, but some athletes prefer to use a synthetic urine, hoping that enough of their own pee will mix in to show enough creatine and other hormones to fool the test into believing it is real urine.
Whizzinator: This device entered the national lexicon when Minnesota Vikings running back Onterrio Smith was busted with one at the airport back in 2005. Actor Tom Sizemore was later caught trying to use one to beat a drug screening. The device is essentially a prosthetic penis used to deliver clean urine into a cup while observed. Here's how it works, per their website:
As you can see, the elastic straps are adjustable. Any excess length can be taken up by going once around the belt before fastening. Try positioning the belt so that the end of the prosthesis hangs to the end of your own penis. That will make it much easier to find. Our clip valve, which releases the urine can make a slight snap sound when it is opened. Try disguising the sound by clearing your throat or coughing as you open it. To operate The Whizzinator, hold the prosthesis with one hand and pinch it just behind the head to prevent any flow as you open the clip valve with your other hand. Then, take the sample cup, relax the pinch and Whiz. This operation will approximate the natural way that you would urinate into a cup. Remember, practice makes perfect.
Masking Agents: Masking agents are taken with the purpose of hiding or "masking" the presence of illegal drugs in mind. Masking agents include epitestosterone and plasma volume expanders, but the most commonly used masking agents in the combat sports arena are diuretics because they serve two purposes - hiding drugs and cutting weight. The National Strength and Conditioning Association explains:
Diuretics have been placed on the prohibited list for some time because of two reasons: 1) they facilitate weight loss via their ability to enhance rapid water loss via urine excretion and 2) they have the potential to rapidly dilute the urine by increasing renal flow. When utilized as a "masking" agent diuretics dilute the urine, which results in lower levels of the banned substance being excreted from the body. This can therefore make it more difficult for the laboratories conducting doping controls to detect.
Human Growth Hormone: The drug of choice, especially for fighters who can afford it. HGH not only helps in building muscle, it helps the body recover quickly after a hard workout, allowing more and better training. It's also very hard to test for in a urinalysis, making its use nearly undetectable as the BBC explained:
HGH occurs naturally in the body, which makes it hard to distinguish between what is produced regardless of outside interference and what is an administered dose.
And it is almost impossible to set a blood level of HGH that would be considered unnaturally high and indicative of doping, because levels of naturally-occurring HGH can vary... in response to factors such as nutritional state, sleep and exercise.
Blood Doping: Although not as common on the MMA scene, the most effective drug for top level athletes in cycling, running and other endurance sports is erythropoeitin, better known as EPO. The Science of Sport explains how it works:
EPO is a hormone that is normally produced by the kidneys. It then has its effect on the bone marrow, which produces more red blood cells. So the effect of injecting synthetic EPO is to increase the body's natural production of red blood cells. Why would you want to do this? Well, the theory is that the red blood cells, which carry oxygen, are an important determinant of performance ability. That's because the oxygen is required by the muscles and the theory for fatigue during exercise is that if your muscles do not get sufficient oxygen, they rapidly fatigue. Connecting the dots, you get the logic that if you can increase the body's oxygen carrying capacity, you increase the ability to exercise before fatiguing.
The World Anti Doping Agency banned blood doping in the early 1990's, but testing is tricky. Most synthetic EPO is undetectable after several days, so its use in training is almost impossible to stop.