In baseball, for every Alex Rodriguez or Manny Ramirez that test positive for steroids, there are other stars like Derek Jeter or Madison Bumgarner who submit clean samples to dig their sport out of unanimous criticism for cheating. The same goes with every other major sport, such as the NFL -- where you have linebackers like Patrick Willis helping you forget about Brian Cushing or Shawn Merriman’s positive tests.
Mixed-Martial Arts doesn’t have that luxury. The UFC, the world’s premier MMA promotion, publicly touts Anderson “The Spider” Silva as the greatest of all time, only to see the superstar’s test come back positive for Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs). This is as crippling a nightmare for the sport as you could imagine. In such an intense sport, Silva has proven to be the alpha male, holding the record for most consecutive wins (16) and Championship title defenses (10). There is no one on the same level as the Spider to ease the notion of having to use substances to be the best. There is only one at the top in Mixed-Martial Arts, and that man used steroids.
Anderson Silva survived one of the most gruesome injuries in sports when he broke his leg in half checking a kick against Champion Chris Weidman in December 2014. In his first fight back he faced Nick Diaz at UFC 183 on January 31, 2015. “The Spider” won by unanimous decision but in the days after the fight it was discovered he had tested positive for two PEDs in a pre-fight screening that took place 22 days before the fight. Traces of both Drostanolone and Androstane, anabolic steroids used in bodybuilding during weight cutting cycles, had shown up in the test. Then 12 days after the fight, the Nevada Athletic Commission, which oversees the testing, reported that he also tested positive for Drostanolone in his post fight urine test. To top it off, he also tested positive for sleep deprivation medication Oxazepam and Temazepam which is not approved by the Commission’s laws.
This week, UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta announced plans on instituting a massive company wide testing policy on all of their athletes for steroids, drugs and other banned substances. This is not only a popular move, but it’s the right one. While the limits of the sampling has yet to be announced, every fighter, whether booked for an upcoming fight or not, is subject to a random test. He also expressed his support for a much stiffer and severe penalty structure for positive tests. Instead of a 6 month or full year suspension, he is urging commissions to institute a two or four year ineligible period for the athlete.
Since Major League Baseball has instituted random testing the sport has been cleaned up to a point where you now know who is using and who isn’t. There is no more guessing. From July, 2015 on, the UFC and the fans will know for sure who is using PEDs. Not only will this move save face with the critics and the fans of the sport, but it will also make the fight safer in the cage. Anderson Silva is a 3rd degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a black belt in judo, a 5th degree black belt in Taekwondo and one of the most accurate Muay Thai artists. He is dangerous enough with all of this martial arts skill, give him some artificial advantage, and he is down right deadly. It’s a good thing for the sport that the UFC has done this now before something very serious happened to a fighter in the cage.
There have been at least 46 professional MMA fighters who have tested positive for banned substances or elevated levels of testosterone, such as Thiago Alves, Ken Shamrock, Stephan Bonnar and Vitor Belfort to name a few, but why now is there a multi-million dollar commitment to testing for performance-enhancing drugs by it’s fighters?
When the greatest of all-time goes down, the franchise can’t go down with him.
The image of steroids in the mainstream media is portrayed by an athlete getting bigger, stronger and bulkier. The pictures of Barry Bond’s head growing at the same speed of Mark McGwire’s biceps leave fans thinking it’s all about size. That is not true in all circumstances. Athletes nowadays use PEDs to recover from injury faster or help them maintain a certain weight. That is where Silva’s situation comes up. He has fought at 185 lbs. for years. Getting bulkier and muscular wouldn’t help him maintain the weight of his fighting limit. What steroids might do is help him shred the fat and speed up the weight loss during his training camp. Drostanolone, which he tested positive for twice, does just that. It lowers cholesterol levels and drops weight with the loss of muscle. It is believed that when he is not fighting, Silva weighs between 225-230 pounds. The day before he steps into competition, he weighs in at 185 pounds, some 40-45 pounds different. Somehow through diet, exercise, sweating and equilibrium change due to sodium and carbohydrate intake, Silva is able to squeeze more water out of his body than what would seem humanly possible. While we can’t say he’s done this through steroids in the past, we do know that the measurements he took this past event and the means on how he got there was through anabolic steroids. A scientific rehydration process over night leads to him gaining much more weight back in the next 24 hours than his opponent before they actually fights.
Regardless of the reasons, and the physical abnormalities that come from taking steroids, there is an advantage a fighter gains from doing them. When fighters in the past had tested positive, they received a suspension and fine, and the UFC quickly covered up the story by announcing their next Pay-Per-View headline before fans cared to pay attention. When Josh Barnett tested positive for boldenone, Sportscenter didn’t care to mention it. With Silva, it was breaking news, and still a few weeks later, it’s constant news.
When the face of Mixed-Martial Arts is found guilty of cheating and gaining an unfair advantage, the entire sport gets a black eye. These measures the UFC is now taking is not just make up on a bruise, it’s a full-fledged face lift.
Anderson Silva may still be the Greatest of All-Time, but what’s more important is he may have just sparked the greatest movement of all-time in the world’s fastest growing sport.
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