Will Alistair Overeem rule or bring down the UFC?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Performance-enhancing drugs are a huge topic in MMA. Top trainers will tell you that there are plenty of clean fighters, but usage in the sport is widespread. It’s readily accepted that the current testing procedures — in which most fighters are only tested on the day of their fights — are far too easy to beat. The ones who get caught are either lacking in sophistication or double-crossed by their bodies, which can emit a positive result even when the drug is supposed to have already cleared their system.

But in a culture where cheating is assumed to be widespread, two names are whispered about the most. The first is top female fighter Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos. No one was shocked when Santos, who is more muscular than all but a few of the male fighters, tested positive for the anabolic steroid Stanozolol after her December 17 win over Hiroko Yamanaka in San Diego. She was stripped of her women’s world featherweight championship and suspended for one year.

The second, of course, is Overeem.

“If the fight happens, I will fight with pleasure,” dos Santos told Globo.com recently in Brazil. “The ratio of testosterone in his body may increase by 30% his strength and aggressiveness, I was told by people who know the subject. It will really be an unfair fight, but as a fighter, I will be ready to face anyone.

Of course, dos Santos is right: Facing someone in MMA on steroids is very different than in other sports. It’s one thing when using performance enhancers helps you lift more weights, run faster, or a hit a home run that would otherwise be a fly ball caught in deep center. It’s another when it enables a fist to hit a face with far greater power and more easily knock an opponent unconscious. And that’s why, if Overeem is allowed to fight, as so many have speculated inside the industry, the biggest black eye won’t be on dos Santos, but on the sport itself.

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