Three more steps the UFC could take to combat PEDs

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Lance Armstrong has done extraordinary good in this world. And he cheated.

As a result, he is utterly disgraced. The consequences of his cheating include
•Lifetime ban from Olympic sports.
•Loss of all seven Tour de France wins.
•Sued by the US Government to recoup the 40,000,000 American taxpayer dollars that the USPS paid to sponsor his team.
•Asked to step aside by the cancer charity that he founded, Livestrong.
•Had to confess to his own son, and say “don't defend me anymore.”

Lance Armstrong is now the poster child for PED abuse.

As a consequence, cycling cleaned up, as evidenced by dramatically lower times. For example, the winning time up the Tour de France's Alpe d'Huez was 41:57 in 2011. The same time would have placed 40th a decade before.

Armstrong was caught by among other things a combination of testimony and subjecting previous blood samples to more sophisticated tests than were available at the time they were taken. A summary of the case that finally forced Armstrong to confess can be found here.

PED abuse is far more serious in mixed martial arts than it is in other sports, because MMA is a hurting game. If a PED abuser beats a clean competitor in say bicycling, then it is an injustice – it's not fair. In MMA, beating someone means they got actual beating, in a sport that is inherently dangerous when it is all natural – it's criminal.

ZUFFA CEO Lorenzo Fertitta recently announced UFC financial support of thorough drug testing.

Before MMA gets its own Lance Armstrong, some beloved figure who falls into disgrace, there are further things still the UFC could do that could potentially end PED abuse in our sport.

The UFC could cooperate with athletic commissions in the holding of samples, with the understanding that those samples would be subject to testing on an ongoing basis going forward indefinitely, as more sophisticated tests become available. Should a sample test positive in future, the fighter in question would be subject to severe penalties.

If there was evidence of repeated abuse, the UFC would remove any titles retroactively that the fighter held, as happened to Armstrong. The UFC would seek the return of funds paid, as happened to Armstrong. The UFC would subject the figure to a lifetime ban, as happened to Armstrong.

Further, the UFC would cooperate with the office of the Nevada Attorney General, and seek criminal penalties again the offender.  Such a case would be sure to generate extensive media coverage, something that Attorneys General do not characteristically shun. And the case would be a lot more fun than the usual investigation of some crooked treasurer. The move would not be without precedent.

Hockey has seen a series of players charged criminally for cheating while playing, including:
1969: Wayne Maki of the St. Louis Blues and Ted Green of the Boston Bruins became the first NHL players sent to court after a stick-swinging duel at a preseason game. Green fractured his skull; Maki wasn't injured. Both were acquitted of assault charges.
1988:  Dino Ciccarelli of the Minnesota North Stars was convicted of assault for hitting Toronto defenseman Luke Richardson several times in the head with his stick. Ciccarelli was sentenced to one day in jail and fined.
2000: Marty McSorley was charged with hitting Canucks player Donald Brashear with his stick. McSorley was convicted of assault with a weapon, but he received an 18-month conditional discharge, meaning no jail time and no criminal record after probation. The NHL suspended him for a year, ending his 17-year career.
2004: Todd Bertuzzi of the Vancouver Canucks sucker punched Colorado Avalanche forward Steve Moore, concussing him and breaking his neck. Bertuzzi pled guilty to an assault charge after arranging a plea bargain with prosecutors.

Taking PEDs and then engaging in a combat sport is cheating every bit as much as a sucker punch or slash in hockey.

Further steps the UFC could take include:
1. Hold blood samples indefinitely;
2. Institute severe internal penalties for PED abuse; and
3. Enjoin the Nevade AG to pursue criminal cases against abusers.

Should they do so, the problem might be solved, before we have our own Lance Armstrong to be ashamed about.