Sunday, February 15, 2015

On his latest Fighter and the Kid podcast, UFC heavyweight Brendan Schaub addressed the #1 issue in mixed martial arts at present – Performance Enhancing Drugs. Schaub said he wasn't bothered by PED use by actors or even by athletes in other sports. Be he offered a sobering reminder about MMA.

“Anderson Silva landed some shots on Nick Diaz Those shots, I promise you, are going to catch up with Nick down the road,” said Schaub as transcribed by David St. Martin for MMA Fighting. “Now, we don't know how severe those shots were but I guarantee it's more severe when a guy's on steroids.”

Then Schaub compellingly made the case that given the current penalties for PED use, it makes sense to use them.

“Listen, I would love to hear an argument for why I shouldn't do steroids,” he said. “Give me one. Let's say I take steroids and test positive. Say I'm a young kid [getting to the UFC] and I ask my dad, 'Dad, why shouldn't I take steroids?' Can I say, 'Well, you'll never be world champ.' That's not true. Anderson Silva's world champ. 'Well, you'll never fight for a title.' That's not true.

“Chael Sonnen tested positive, fought for a title. 'Well, you'll never be 'The Ultimate Fighter' coach.' Nope, Chael Sonnen, Anderson Silva. 'Well, you'll never be a main event.' No, not true. Alistair Overeem's a main event. Bigfoot Silva's a main event. 'Well, listen, you might get fired.' No, not really. Guys pop all the time. If it's cheating, everyone else is doing it and they're getting rewarded for it.”

“You know what's infuriating to me? It's not that I'm not champ. It's not that I've lost some fights or won some big fights. It's more that there's just no reason everyone shouldn't take steroids. There's just not. In the UFC there's no reason. Someone give me a legit reason why you would tell a young fighter not to take them. I would love to hear a good argument. 'Well, you'll get fined $3000 and you'll have to sit out six months, maybe nine.' I fight every six months anyway.”

“I fought a guy named Lavar Johnson. At the weigh-in when he weighed in I went to Dana White like, 'That guy's on roids.' They laughed. Everyone's like, 'Come on.' Are you kidding me? The guy is jacked. He could go win Mr. Olympia. My team's laughing. I'm not laughing. I've got to fight him.

“So then I fight this guy. I don't stand with him. I take him down over and over. I just kept taking him down because I knew he was jacked on steroids. I'm not going to play that game. I took a lot of heat for that. Everyone from the company, outside the company, fans, everyone. 'Why didn't you stand and bang with him?' Well, I'm all natural and this guy's jacked out of his mind on steroids. It doesn't make sense for me. Make it a level playing field and I'm the Leonard Garcia of the heavyweight division.”

Johnson failed a post-fight screen and conceded he had been on Testosterone Replacement Therapy, and failed to inform the California State Athletic Commission. He was suspended for nine months. When he produced proof that the TRT was administered under the care of a physician, the suspension was reduced to six months.

Before the Schaub fight Johnson did not fight for 273 days. After the fight, under suspension, he did not fight for 223 days. The current penalties for using PEDs are too lenient to discourage breaking the rules.

In mixed martial arts the standard penalty for failing a Performance Enhancing Drug test for the first time is 30% of purse, a nine-month suspension, and if the fight was won, officially changing the result to a No Contest.

Those penalties are insufficient to successfully discourage the use of PEDs.

Fighters in the UFC compete on average twice a year, so the nine month suspension is practically speaking just 90 days more than they would have taken off already. Due to injuries, countless fighters take off nine-month stretches. It is an easy bid.

Having a fight changed to NC is not a big deal. Dennis Siver tested positive for human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) last year, and had his unanimous decision over Manny Gamburyan changed to an NC. Ten months later he beat Charles Rosa, and then he got the biggest fight of his life, vs. Conor McGregor at UFC Fight Night 59 on Jan 18. Barely a year had passed since he failed the test.

Siver made $66,000 ($33,000 to show, $33,000 to win) at UFC 168. His fine was 30% of the purse, or $19,800. Siver still made a lot more than he would have if he lost.

That doesn't make sense.

In what field does getting caught at cheating leave you better off than if you lost? If you cheat on a test at school do you get to walk away with a C? If you cheat on taxes, do you have to give back just some of what you illicitly got?

At bare bones the penalty should be all of your win money, or at least 50% of the purse.

Last year the World Anti Doping Agency upped the penalty for first time PED test failures from two years to four. The second failure is a life ban.

If fighters knew they would get suspended for four years if caught, it would not make sense to use PEDs. With a functional suspension of 90 days, setting ethical considerations aside, it makes sense to use PEDs, and time their usage so that you get caught only very rarely. Further, if you believe your opponent is using PEDs, what then are your ethical considerations?

Because mixed martial arts is a hurting a game, failing a PED test should have harsher penalties that other sports, not gentler ones. If you take PEDs in Tennis, you win by whatever to Love quicker. If you take PEDs in MMA, you are going to hurt another person more. If you are both on PEDs, you are both going to get hurt more. You play other sports; you don't play MMA – it is a real fight, and you can get real hurt. Every reasonable step should be taken to lower injuries; severely penalizing PED use is one of them.

At an absolute minimum, failing a PED test in mixed martial arts should result in at least a two-year suspension, and a fine of at least 50% of purse. Make the fine 100% of purse and a four-year suspension, and the sport would be very nearly clean within weeks.

Contrary to popular belief, the UFC does not administer penalties for PED test failure, State, Provincial, and Tribal Athletic Commissions do. When the UFC is forced to self regulate, they follow the standards set by the leading ACs. Thus it is incumbent on the leading Athletic Commissions across North America to get far stricter with PEDs. The regulatory system in MMA is the glue that holds the sport together. Expect to see stricter penalties coming during the coming year.