Apparently Team Alpha Male could keep a secret. That’s got to be one of the lessons drawn from the fallout of TJ Dillashaw’s recent USADA drug test failures. The former bantamweight champion relinquished his title after testing positive for the performance enhancement drug Erythropoietin (EPO). An initial positive test from a sample collected in the lead-up to Dillashaw’s superfight against Henry Cejudo prompted the retesting of an earlier sample, which also came back positive for the substance. Dillashaw has been suspended for two years in the wake of the findings.
The reaction from those who have worked and trained alongside him? It seems that at least several former Alpha Male teammates knew about Dillashaw’s doping long before anyone else did. After news broke of Dillashaw’s suspension by the New York Athletic Commission, Urijah Faber spoke to ESPN, telling the outlet that he’d been ‘surprised for six years, that nothing’s been found.’
Former training partner, former champ, and recent rival Cody Garbrandt has been even more forceful for the last few years, about Dillashaw being a drug cheat—going all the way back to Dillashaw’s time with the Sacramento-based fight camp.
“Oh yeah, the guy’s on everything. He’s on everything. You showed everyone how to do [PEDs] on Team Alpha Male,” Garbrandt told Dillashaw during a promotional event for their UFC 217 showdown, which Dillashaw won by KO.
While both Faber and Garbrandt have been making these insinuations for years, stretching back to Dillashaw’s much-publicized departure from the team, in a recent interview with MMAjunkie, Joseph Benavidez added his voice to the chorus of critics. Benavidez left Alpha Male back in 2016, and has trained on and off with Dillashaw in the years since (transcript via MMA Fighting).
“I wasn’t surprised at all that he finally got caught,” said Benavidez. “Wasn’t surprising at all. There’s nothing I can really say as far as, like, that hasn’t already been said. I’m not gonna sit here and say the guy is this and that because if you look at the internet and everyone, it’s already been said. So there’s nothing worse you can say than what everyone already thinks, which I think is warranted. Everything that people are out there giving him, it’s 100 percent warranted for what he did.”
“It just goes to show, there’s consequences for what you do and you can’t hide who you are forever,” Benavidez said. “I’m surprised it took that long for him to get caught, and hid what he’s about this long. But you can’t hide that stuff forever. It’s great that it came out. There are consequences and if anything, I don’t think the consequences are that much. It’s not that bad. Get some surgeries. You got paid the day after the fight anyway. So it’s not like you’re getting suspended for the year. But like I said, it’s all the other things. All the disgrace and everything that is warranted, and maybe hurts more.
While the acrimonious split between Duane Ludwig and Urijah Faber – and the competitive rivalry with Garbrandt – may have sapped some of the credence of both men’s accusations in the past, in light of Dillashaw’s test failure and suspension, and comments like those from Benavidez, it’s hard not to feel that a picture has been painted of an athlete who has been gaming the system for the majority of his UFC career. However, along the way, it also suggests a culture among athletes that is more than willing to let that kind of cheating go unchecked, as long it’s between training partners.