BE Community Roundtable: VADA Testing


George Halvatzis, Jr: With what I've heard about PEDs and MMA, it is a cycle that has to stop. Whether that comes from a source like VADA or what have you, however, is a point that's hard to make.

Personally, I wouldn't be comfortable with a third party group involving itself with UFC events. Sure, they may be looking for the best interest of fighters and of the sport, but the way they run their testing could be very detrimental to the business side of the UFC. As BJ Penn himself pointed out, it could ruin matchups that had been promoted for a long time, with results coming out before the actual fight. While a PED using fighter should be penalized and not allowed to compete, having that happen just prior to a match would only be bad for the sport.

At the same time, it is hard to say that I'd prefer for the UFC to do their own testing. Their methods have been proven as ineffective in mainstream sports, and they still have yet to adopt new methods. I don't think of the UFC as corrupt now, but anything is possible in the future, and that is also something to consider if they are in control of drug testing.

I think there is a fine line that would involve the UFC collaborating with an independent company for their drug testing. There would have to be very specific guidelines that must be followed for it to work. I highly doubt that this could be introduced in the IMMAF, it is just too much to keep track of and too much money.

benten20: To me there is no better system then an independent third party testing these fighters because there will be no room to question the results. Their word will be final and everyone will know that fighter A is clearly using PED's. What the UFC has to realize is that when your goal is to legitimize the sport of MMA and publicly proclaim how big you want to make this sport, then allowing the usage of PED's in any form cannot happen. Period. It is one of the many obstacles that will prevent any non-fan from wanting to become one in my opinion. In any other sport using PED's is not allowed. Dana won't stop yapping about wanting to be mainstream so here's a way to prove it. Get independent testing to ensure nobody is cheating and get rid of TRT.

My thoughts on whether it will ruin matches is simply that I don't think it should have any bearing on this situation. Obviously there would have to be system to at least pay fighter B who got screwed compensation or maybe fine fighter A and give his opponent the money. There will be no greater deterrent for a fighter to not use PED's then knowing that if he is caught, not only will he make no money but will LOSE all the money he spent on training camp. I believe with those rules in place, very few fighters will continue to use PED's and the sport will definitely be cleaned up alot.

wonderfulspam: First of all, there is not one single doubt in my mind that whether we're talking about TUEs or random drug testing, this should never, ever be handled by the UFC themselves. It's not that I don't trust White & the Fertittas, it's a simple matter of checks and balances to make sure that no promoter is ever put in a situation where they can choose between publishing a positive drug test or letting a fight happen.

I don't know what the role of the IMMAF is going to be. I know August Wallen is in the US right now having discussions with all sorts of people from the MMA community but I wonder what their primary focus will be. Down the line, however, they are the perfect third party in my mind. Unlike athletic commissions, their only allegiance is to the sport of MMA. I'm not suggesting they be in charge of collecting urine but I'd love it if they replaced the state ACs as licensers. I don't know much (if anything at all) about how state commissions work and how other US sports are regulated, but there is something intrinsically illogical about having to jump through different hoops depending on which country or state a fight is promoted in.

The short term solution is getting VADA involved. The idea that having to cancel a fight on days' notice because of a positive drug test is bad for the sport ... I can't get behind that at all. Regardless of my stance on PEDs/TRT/etc., I don't like cheaters. If something is illegal, you don't do it. Period. Sure, the UFC would lose a ton of money if fights were cancelled at the last minute and the fans would suffer too, but that's a small price to pay if it leads to a cleaner sport. Besides, if you introduce random testing then there should be a decent chance that cheaters get caught during their training camp as opposed to on the day of the fight.

discoandherpes: It's unrealistic to expect that VADA testing will be done in every UFC fight for both financial reasons and the fact that the amount of fights that will be called off would probably do some real damage to the UFC in general. If we were to see VADA testing done in the UFC on a consistent basis, it would be for big "money fights" and title fights unless fighters offer to pay for it out of pocket (which I believe BJ Penn is doing currently).

I like it personally. I'm actually on the fence of whether PEDs should be allowed in sports in general, and haven't yet formed opinion. That said I'm consistently disappointed that there is an idea that using PEDs is easy to get away with if you try it hard enough. I think that rules should either be followed, or changed. I'm not a fan of this sort of a system that is easy to game, because it's unfair to fighters following the rules. Either punish cheaters, or legalize these drugs. Stop punishing "clean fighters" with incompetence. I think the UFC would be smart to implement this in title fights, if only for the good PR. Implementing independent drug testing that shows no bias would give them another discussion point to why they deserve to be considered legitimate sport in a world where most major sports do this in house. I think it could only help them get MMA legalized in places where it is not legal (even though MMA would probably be legal in New York if it ever went to a vote).

George: I am completely and unequivocally against PEDs, and in any form. I do not think TRT should be allowed for professional MMA competitors. If your body can not produce what it needs to fight at the levels you want it to, that should be a sign that this isn't the right profession for you. It's just like having any other "it" factor that allows for success in MMA.

I am also against any other forms of PEDs in MMA, and I don't see how anyone can say otherwise. First of all, it is a very unfair advantage. To those that claim making PEDs legal across the board would make it more fair, words can't describe how wrong that notion is. To make this not only about the sport itself, but an arms race for the best PEDs on the market would completely delegitimize the sport, and lead to a slew of health problems.

In any combat sport, or any sport where contact can damage another person, PEDs are not acceptable in the slightest. To use anything that can enhance your ability to hurt another, outside of hard work and elbow grease, is not what humans are designed for. We are limited to a certain plateau of strength, speed, and physical fitness, and pushing that natural boundary will not have good results.

I want MMA to be as honest of a sport as possible. Having legions of engineered freaks ruling over it would be detrimental to its growth. Hopefully good drug testing can help to bring the sport to a new level of athleticism and natural ability, and not reliance on chemicals to make you better than your competition.

Spam: I don't think it's that clear-cut. What about surgery to remove scar tissue? Supplements in general? If steroids are administered to aid injury recovery, does that make the fighter who shoots up an "engineered freak"? I firmly believe we need a complete rethink of what is safe, what can be administered and monitored by a separate entity and what is potentially harmful. The usage of steroids is tricky because opening up the floodgates might lead to fighters using more and more until their bodies fail them. We've heard of plenty of cases, especially in pro-wrestling, where steroid use leads to permanent damage. This doesn't mean that it's fair to state that steroids are bad, mmmkay.

One issue I think is being overlooked is that UFC ≠ MMA. Very few, if any, other promotions will be able to spend the kind of money it costs to set up a VADA programme. If random drug testing becomes the norm in the UFC, Dana White will be tooting his own horn like crazy, saying (among other things) that the UFC promotes the safest fights in the business. What would that do to other promotions, then? How would it look if a fighter got cut from the UFC for doing a banned substance and then subsequently fought for a promotion with no random testing?

Ben: Of all the points made so far, I think most of us can agree that PED's should be illegal in our sport. It is very clear cut in my mind. MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL etc. all do not allow PED's in their sport. To reach the lofty goal of becoming a mainstream sport, MMA must follow the same guideline and the UFC, as the largest and most influential entity in the sport, must lead an all out crusade against PED's. However the time for this is now and I think if it isn't done now, the window of opportunity will close for a very long time in making MMA a legitimate sport. To allow TRT to be used as an excuse to pretty much juice up and cycle down as the fight comes around is completely ridiculous and detracts from people taking this sport seriously. To have guys like Overeem, who looks like he was carved from stone and was quite clearly using PED's, get suspended and be guaranteed a title shot on his return is completely ridiculous! I understand this is a business but to let the business side take away from the sporting aspect of MMA will ruin it in the eyes of the masses. Look at what happened to Boxing as proof of business before sport. Do I think what happened to Boxing with the likes of Don King will happen to MMA? No not necessarily but I do believe that people are looking and searching for reasons to stop MMA from growing at all costs. Frankly, I'm amazed the people who are against MMA haven't blasted the sport on this topic. Do I think VADA is the best long term solution? No but I do believe short-term that is is the fairest and most legitimate option available and the UFC should sponsor it for all ME, not just title fights. The time to clean up the sport is now, not after they book a massive FOX card that might get ruined because of a positive test.

Zachary Kater: Spam touched on the thing that matters most to me in all of this, the fact that the idea of VADA testing is only economically viable to a promotion such as the UFC. My big concern with PEDs is that the unfair advantage a person can gain as a result of using them can be unsafe against opposing competitors. Well, many regional promotions already have a notorious history of mismatches, shoddy regulation, etc. and would be in no position to start implementing blood testing through a third-party provider. The places I feel it's most necessary for fighter safety is where it's least possible to exist.

Also, just imagine if a title contender in the UFC got popped off for PEDs due to VADA testing. It may be okay for a middling fight to get cancelled and to pay the other fighter their show and possibly their win money as well. But paying GSP 1 million dollars or whatever he makes, when you now have no fight available to make that revenue back, really puts you in a bad spot. On the other end of the spectrum, a low-paid guy may get compensated his show money even though his opponent tested positive, but what if he depends on his sponsors' money as well to provide for his family? It's in the UFC's best interest in my opinion to turn the other cheek to all of this, pretend they can't do anything about the way the commission operates or use a third-party alternative, and keep making that money, business as usual.

George: That is a good point Zach. Regardless, I just don't think it is wise to just look the other way when this is an issue that presses the legitimacy of the sport. VADA is the gateway to having less hearsay and rumors about fighters juicing, and we'd finally get to root out those that continually game the system. Alistair's Overeem run since putting on heavy muscle mass (which for some reason many people still consider legitimate) would likely never have happened. Sean Sherk got popped after being the champion, and who's to say he ever would've gotten anywhere near that position if the UFC had adopted a better drug testing system earlier (although it may not have been practical at that time)? Fighters who eventually get caught by the current weaker system we have today would be picked off way in advance, and that would be much better for fair competition.

I've seen countless MMA fans with lists of who they think is on steroids. Don't you think that is a little sad for a sport? So little faith in the drug testing system that they can just list fighter after fighter who could conceivably be abusing performance enhancers? Maybe VADA itself isn't the way to go, but there will definitely need to be some change down the line. Indifference is not an option.

Ben: I could not disagree more with you Zack. the UFC turning the other cheek is the worst thing they can do right now. The first year of the FOX deal is coming to a close. Now is the time to clean up the sport before it becomes any bigger. If they turn the other cheek, guys will keep using and what we will have are records and hall of fame careers that will have an asterisk next to it because everyone will either know/ suspect that the fighter in question was juicing. I for one have no interest in that happening and would prefer for the UFC to bring in third party testing to really clean up the sport at least at the highest levels. When it comes to even the lower levels of the UFC, VADA testing does not matter as much since bottom to mid tier fighters will generally never end up reaching the elite levels whether they juice or not because of the skill disparities (Alistair Overeem is one of the few exceptions along with Sonnen). The bottom line in my opinion is that the UFC is the biggest name in the sport and if they start implementing real testing procedures, then the sport moves that much closer to legitimacy in the eyes of the public.

Regarding your point on ruining title shots, I would rather have a few big matches ruined now in order to improve the sport in the future.

George: I definitely agree, big fights are not as important to the continuity of MMA's growth as proper drug testing to legitimize it. We can't be selfish about these kinds of things, but if you must, just think of the great fights we can watch when MMA is regarded as a true sport for legitimate athletes.

Disco: As for big fights getting called off because of drug testing, it's obviously a concern. Lamont Peterson and Andre Berto having both their fights called off because of testing positive immediately comes to mind. But I agree with Ben that ultimately it's good for the long term health of the sport.

At the same time MMA doesn't need drug testing at all. The sport can hide behind the incompetence of Athletic Commissions for a long time if they need to. Really, the reason that this was really brought up as a topic was because it's standard protocol for fighting Floyd Mayweather. There are tons of big fights in Boxing that don't involve any sort of supplemental testing.

Kater: I just can't believe we're even debating about the legitimacy of the sport being in jeopardy because of this. Just think of all the instances where sport has played back seat to business in regards to the UFC or anywhere Bob Sapp fights.

Besides, where do TUE's fit into this? If VADA testing makes it harder to cheat, top fighters will choose this legal avenue through the commissions to be able to perform better. And using a third-party isn't going to cure anything while middle-man commissions are still corrupt and incompetent.

I look at this battle of PEDs and anti-doping testing and have always compared it to the battle for/against piracy. There are those who are for piracy (those who want PEDs to be legal in MMA, or illegally use the PEDs as a competitor currently) and those who fight against it (athletic commissions, outraged fans, Dana White, et cetera). And no matter what methods those who try to stop it use, the ones who are exploiting it will continue to find new ways to get away with it. It's not that I'm in support of PEDs in MMA or other sports, I just don't see any viable solution in the horizon to stop it, especially not one that has as many economic downfalls as VADA.

Ben: Zack I think you are missing the point here. The sports legitimacy is founded on the UFC. That is the bottom line. The UFC is the NFL of MMA and nobody can debate that. This sport will become mainstream the second the UFC becomes mainstream and cleaning up the sport of PEDs is definitely one way to do it. Bob Sapp and other stupid things will have no bearing on the sport whatsoever as I doubt a single casual fan can identify Sapp. By bringing in the third party and showing that they are moving away from the AC's testing system will eventually mean that they will get rid of TUE's as well. In my opinion this is the first step to cleaning up our sport and I really want that to happen.

George: I don't think that just because they can find new ways to exploit systems is a reason to not go after cheaters. Doing this the proper way will root out some cheaters, and that is what really matters in the end. Eventually, it will become a chore to game the system, and there will be less cheaters as a result.

Ben: George got it right. By catching as many users as we can, it will scare off potential/current users. Sure there will still be guys using PED's and we can't expect everyone to get caught but by catching most, we can try and make the sport as clean as possible thus making the playing field that much more even.

Kater: So there you have it. While we may not see eye-to-eye necessarily on our viewpoints towards VADA testing, there is one thing we all share a common ground on. MMA is quickly becoming an arms race to get the most physical advantages on your competition, with fighters taking illegal avenues to get a leg up on their opposition, or even finding loopholes to do it perfectly legally within the regulatory bodies. If no action is taken in the near future, soon the integrity of the sport could be at stake. What's your opinion on this situation? Sound off in the comments below.

\The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Bloody Elbow readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloody Elbow editors or staff.

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