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Georges St-Pierre: Recent PED busts are ‘just the tip of the iceberg’

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

In light of the recent news that Anderson Silva popped hot for steroids in an out-of-competition test a month before his fight with Nick Diaz, the sport’s staunchest critic on PED use in the UFC isn’t exactly saying I told you so.

Longtime UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre decided to cede his title and, at least temporarily, walk away from the sport last December after defending his title against Johny Hendricks at UFC 167. Citing stress and mental exhaustion as the key reasons, St-Pierre grew disenchanted by what he considered a rampant drug problem in the sport. He made it clear that he would only be interested in coming back if attempts were made to clean the sport up.

Thirteen months later, out-of-competition testing is beginning to prove his theory right. Silva was latest casualty of a random drug bust, and perhaps the most shocking. Silva defended the middleweight title a record 10 times, and had been vocal himself about PEDs being a detriment to the sport.

As we await Silva’s B sample to be tested, it was learned that Jon Fitch -- whom St-Pierre defeated at UFC 87 in 2008 -- failed a drug test for his fight with Rousimar Palhares. St-Pierre appeared a special guest on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour, and said we’ve barely scratched the surface.

"I was not surprised that a lot of guys got busted, I’m not surprised," he told Ariel Helwani. "It’s going to be other names coming up. That what’s you guys don’t understand. If they keep doing the right testing, it’s going to be other guys coming up. I’m not a rat. I don’t want to say any names, but I want to change the system. And what it shows is now we’ve got a big problem, and they need to do something with it.

"My desire is to make real good anti-doping testing by an independent and competent agency that would scare a competitor from using performance enhancing drugs. I don’t wish nobody to get caught for performance enhancing drugs, I wish that people just don’t use it…and they’re afraid they’re going to get caught if they do, and the sport gets cleaned up. There’s a lot of clean up to do in the sport. And I think it’s only the beginning."

The 33-year-old St-Pierre defended the 170-pound belt nine times before taking a break from the sport. In his last fight against Hendricks, he wanted to ramp up the testing through VADA (Voluntary Anti-Doping Association), but received little support from the UFC or Hendricks in the matter. Embittered, St-Pierre has become vocal about the need of independent testing since then.

Still, he says that he believes the Silva bust was a sad reminder of the problem -- but this is not something that should tarnish Silva’s legacy.

"Yeah, it’s really unfortunate, and I feel bad for everything," St-Pierre said. "Even for Anderson. I don’t elevate myself when people are getting dragged down by something like this.

"It’s not something to be happy about -- it’s sad and unfortunate. And like I said, I don’t elevate myself when something like that happens. And for me, it doesn’t change the fact. I still think that Anderson is still the best pound-for-pound in the world, of all time. It’s just unfortunate for his reputation, and also his health."

St-Pierre stopped short of saying that PED violators should be subject to a zero tolerance policy that some have suggested. But he did say that he thought the punishment should be more severe.

And he also said that fans might want to buckle in, because the drug issue will get worse before it gets better.

"I think it’s the tip of the iceberg to tell you the truth," he said. "I believe there’s a lot of guys who are going to get caught. A lot of fighters in MMA know it’s a big problem. The guy that knows MMA well and they are in competition, they can tell you it’s a big problem, even if they don’t want to admit it. And it’s probably the tip of iceberg. It’s a big problem, and they need to find out what to do with it."

He also said that he understood the broader conflicts going on.

"It’s not like a race or a game," he said. "You put your life in jeopardy every time you step in the Octagon. It’s a fighting sport, a full-contact fight. They need to do something. They need to find a solution for the safety of the competitor. But what I wonder is, is the safety of the competitor more important than the financial [side]."