The issue of PEDs in MMA isn't going away, but now, it's not only because of those who get caught using, but also due to the fighters who are fed up with the cheating and taking a hard-line, public stance against it.
Bellator welterweight champ Ben Askren recently became the first MMA fighter to partner with the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA), while Roy Nelson became one of the most outspoken critics of the current testing standards while at UFC 146. Now, the cavalry is coming. In fact, the good guys might have a new leader as the cause picked up its greatest ally this week when UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos called for random blood testing to clean up the sport.
In a press conference held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, dos Santos reiterated that he's gotten to the top of the sport as a clean fighter, and said he was willing to prove it by subjecting himself to random blood draws.
"I am champion and never have used anything, and I am proud to say that," he said. "It is unfair to use substances. With or without authorization, it makes a difference. A fighter who can do this kind of treatment is not himself in the octagon and using tricks to improve [his] performance."
As you probably remember, dos Santos was supposed to face Alistair Overeem at May's UFC 146, only to see Overeem pulled from the card after being suspended by the Nevada state athletic commission for a random urine test flagged for an elevated testosterone-to-epitestosterone level.
Instead, he drew Frank Mir, and knocked him out in the second round. It was only afterward when dos Santos and the rest of the world found out that Mir had applied for and received a therapeutic use exemption to use testosterone.
The situation clearly angered dos Santos, who effectively traded one fighter using testosterone for another, even though one was commission-approved. While the merits of testosterone replacement for fighters is a separate but related issue, dos Santos' speaking out on PED use in general is a welcome development for observers in favor of change.
His statements are more growing evidence of a movement from within the sport to tighten testing and police itself in instances were state athletic commissions are either hamstrung by budgets or simply incompetent.
Recently, UFC president Dana White finally acknowledged that the promotion would look into taking a more proactive approach to drug testing, saying, "You have to do this to save the sport."
The UFC has not released any specifics on the plan, which is still in the early stages of development, but dos Santos' support virtually ensures that the topic will not go away. In fact, he promised to up the ante if Overeem returns from his suspension straight into a title match against him, saying he would request random testing of both Overeem and himself to prove they were clean prior to the fight.
With a major star like dos Santos pushing the agenda, at least now we can say there is some real momentum behind the campaign to fight PEDs. With his statement on random blood testing, dos Santos proves himself to be a champion both by fists and example.
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