Doctor visits must be so terrifying when you’re a famous athlete. The second you hit it big as a fighter or baseball player or track and field star, it seems there’s always some medical professional trying to shoot you up with one mysterious injection or another. Happens all the time, if you believe the version of events offered by athletes like UFC heavyweight Alistair Overeem or baseball star Barry Bonds.
Think you’re getting some harmless vitamins? No way, pal. To hear some athletes tell it, they can hardly walk down the street without being pumped full of performance-enhancing substances against their will. These poor, poor souls. All they want to do is stay clean, and this cruel world of ours just won't let them.
Isn’t it funny how this never seems to happen to normal people? Most of us just don’t seem to receive free pharmaceuticals with such regularity. Most of us could go our whole lives and never run into the kind of doctors who, when questioned under oath, are suddenly unable to recall whether they told us what was in the shot they were about to give us. Then again, most of us aren’t looking for those sorts of doctors.
According to what Overeem and his counsel told the Nevada State Athletic Commission during a hearing on Tuesday to address his recent failed drug test, the Dutch fighter ran into this familiar brand of trouble when he received what he thought was an anti-inflammatory injection from Dr. Hector Oscar Molina. The chemical cocktail that Molina administered to treat a rib injury also contained testosterone, the good doctor told the NSAC, though he was conveniently unable to remember whether he’d mentioned that fact to the enormous man whose body he was about to inject it into.
If that seems odd to you, you aren’t alone. There are a lot of oddities at work here. The NSAC also thought it strange that Overeem -- a man who knew he was subject to random testing as part of his conditional license -- wouldn’t want to know more about exactly what was in that syringe. Medical professionals such as MMA Junkie columnist Dr. Johnny Benjamin also thought it was strange that Overeem’s doctor would mix testosterone in with an anti-inflammatory, which is, to say the least, not a standard practice among reputable doctors.
Then again, reputable isn’t the first word that leaps to mind when you look at Molina’s track record. Almost as soon as he was finished stammering his way through a series of non-committal, unconvincing answers before the NSAC, a few quick Google searches revealed that he’d previously been fined $25,000 by the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners for supplying prescriptions to strangers through online pharmacies. He’s also involved in something called the "Men’s Performance Enhancement Clinic," which boasts on its website of its "anti-aging, wellness, weight loss programs and testosterone replacement therapy for men of all ages."
There’s nothing there about his expertise treating rib injuries, but how could you go wrong with a doctor who was, according to reports, sued just last year for improperly performing a plastic surgery procedure known as the "Brazilian Butt Lift"?
Interestingly enough, Overeem doesn’t seem particularly ticked off at the man whose creative syringe use cost him absurd amounts of money and did untold damage to his reputation. While most people might be looking to sue the person who snuck enough testosterone into their system to elevate their levels to more than twice the NSAC limit (which is, let’s not forget, already uncommonly high), Overeem said he didn’t feel betrayed by Molina since there was "no evil intent" on the doctor’s part. Presumably Molina didn’t have any evil intent when he allegedly screwed up that Brazilian Butt Lift either, but it didn’t stop the victim of it from holding him accountable.
And let’s be very clear: accountability is what we’re after. It’s also what’s completely missing so far. Overeem refuses to take any real responsibility for his testosterone levels, since it was all his doctor’s fault. The doctor doesn’t want the blame, so he claims he can’t remember whether he and his patient had a conversation about the course of treatment they were about to begin. Overeem’s lawyer tried to convince the NSAC that it wasn’t a big deal anyway, because he was only using the mystery injection to treat an injury, which, by the way, he sustained while entertaining the masses. In other words, stop worrying about what’s in the man’s bloodstream and just enjoy the show.
What’s really amazing is that, despite its decision to keep Overeem out of action for at least the next nine months, the NSAC seemed partially moved by this argument. Commission members actually referred to Tuesday’s ridiculous buck-passing session as a "superlative" presentation, and they couldn’t stop praising Overeem for being such an all-around good guy through it all. Yes, he tried to avoid yet another drug test, according to NSAC executive director Keith Kizer, but he had a good excuse. Matter of fact, he had several. And sure, he engaged the services of a doctor most of us wouldn’t trust to treat an ingrown toenail, but at least he showed up at the hearing and didn’t call any of the commissioners ugly names on Twitter afterward. Apparently that counts for a lot.
There’s no way for us to know for sure exactly how all that extra testosterone got in Overeem’s system, or whether he knew it was there. At the same time, circumstantial evidence suggests that if he didn’t know, it was only because he didn’t want to. If you’re a pro athlete who doesn’t ask what’s in the syringe that’s about to be plunged into the body that is your meal ticket, you’re either too stupid to be trusted with your own medical decisions or too smart to ask questions you don’t want to hear the answer to. And Overeem may be a lot of things, but I don’t think he’s stupid.
He must think we are, though. He must think MMA fans are either too dumb to realize how ludicrous his defense was or too jaded to care. I hope he’s wrong about that. Or maybe I’m just afraid of what it will mean for our sport if he turns out to be right.