Dana White and the UFC have the opportunity to follow the NFL's lead and implement HGH testing to create a more level playing field. (Photo by Michael Cohen/Getty Images)
In the battle between performance enhancing drugs and the testing methods to catch athletes using them, the PED's have always had the lead. While that isn't really going to change, there have been advancements that make HGH testing much more accurate. This development does change the game though as each level of drug that can be detected makes those athletes who are cheating up their game along with it, increasing the price of being in the business of cheating and the risk of being caught.
David Castillo has been doing great work at Head Kick Legend and he recently wondered if Zuffa would take notice of the advances in testing, bringing up Zuffa head figure attitudes toward the subject of HGH in the past:
While Lorenzo Ferttita has been a bit more direct (by comparison at least) than Dana White on the issue of drug testing, Dana himself always falls back on the "our hands are tied behind our back" defense, pretending that athletic commissions are omnipotent (despite frequently overruling their judgment with win bonuses for fighters who lost*), and Zuffa is helpless. Zuffa is many things: "helpless" is not one of them. While TRT has been the topic 'de jour' in relation to performance enhancement, it neglects the buffet of PED's at an athlete's disposal: namely HGH.
The recent NFL lockout saw many changes, both big and small, come to the game of football. But one of the most shocking was the addition of actual HGH testing for the league. Something that should start as soon as the opening of the regular season. Via the Washington Post:
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Friday he's confident that the league and players' union will agree to testing procedures in time for players to be blood-tested for human growth hormone in the opening week of the regular season.
"I think that's what we want to work through in the next few weeks but we're both committed to getting it done by the start of the regular season because we do believe in the integrity of the game," Goodell told the league-owned NFL Network. "We do believe that's a critical feature. We think it's best for the health and safety of the players, also. So we're going to get it done but we want to get it done right."
The NFL is also going to be testing recruits at the scouting combine starting in 2012.
Given that Dana White's stance is that the UFC is not in competition with other MMA promotions, but rather with the major pro sports leagues like the NFL, they have a chance to push for their sport to be held to the same level of increased testing as the nation's premier sports league.
There are conflicting feelings on if the testing is truly cost prohibitive for athletic commissions. But given that we have seen the UFC and Strikeforce have implemented their own testing in situations that necessitate it, the UFC could take the major step of introducing their own testing for their athletes.
Given their reaction to Nate Marquard and the TRT situation, one would think that there is a high premium on having a clean sports league. Unless the true crime was ruining a main event as opposed to "cheating."
The move by the NFL sets a new standard for what is expected for sports at the highest level. The UFC could continue to do huge things for the sport of mixed martial arts by looking to step up its own drug testing regimen and working harder to establish a more level playing field than we've yet seen.