A String of Positive Drug Tests: Could it Hurt the UFC?

By Kaleb Page

February 9, 2015

A competitive advantage.

A statement heard over the past few weeks involving the Patriots and ‘Deflate Gate‘ where there was debate on the competitive advantage gained from deflating footballs. Now in a different sport the statement ‘a competitive advantage’ was mentioned in a different way.

It was revealed this past Tuesday that one participant in the main event of UFC 184 was taking performance enhancing substances. What makes it more surprising is that it is someone who is thought of as (probably) the greatest fighter to ever step in the octagon. That person being the legend Anderson “The Spider” Silva. This test was taken as part of a practice done by the Nevada State Athletic Commission to test fighters on an out-of-competition basis. This ‘out of competition’ is meant by any sample not taken within 12 hours of competition.

Even though the sample from Silva was supplied on January 9th, the results were not reported until February 3rd. His opponent Nick Diaz also tested positive for Marijuana and those results were released on the same day. Quite the gap in time to not tell the results of such a test. This is leaving some to wonder if there is some back deals between the athletic commission and UFC to delay the findings of results in order to save fight cards. The reason for such speculation is that the Nevada State Athletic Commission receives 6% of the total gross receipts from live events and anywhere up to $50,000 depending on broadcasts of events (pay-per-views). Even though those claims of tampering between the commission and UFC are made, the leader of the commission Bob Bennett said the claims are “outlandish.”

It is hard to look at this instance and not wonder a bit about some type of issue involving hiding the facts. Especially with how the sample was done on January 9th and then results taking until February 3rd to get released; when they knew the fight was coming up on the 31st of January. It also is something interesting to note with the above mentioned payout for the commission from successful events.

Now I don’t want to make it some ‘witch hunt’ of sorts to figure out if this sport is dirty behind the scenes with handling performance enhancing policies and the fighters. However it is something that must be noted since this is not the first time that a fight has been compromised after the fact with positive drug tests.

You can even go back one event to see that. After UFC 183 it came out that light heavyweight champion Jon Jones had cocaine metabolites in his system. However it wasn’t a test that was taken after the fight that found it, it was a test taken a month prior to the fight taking place on January 3rd (just like with Silva and Diaz). Then last August the UFC had a problem with a fighter, Cung Le, showing in a post-fight blood test elevated levels of growth hormone.

The list of incidents I could go on and on about but it brings me to one point. Will this problem of positive drug tests (drugs, PEDs, etc.) end up hurting the UFC? If people start to think the product is tainted with cheating and people taking anything they can to go in the cage and feel less pain or be stronger; this could bring a bigger problem than anyone at the UFC could imagine.

I am a big fan of the UFC and the sport of mixed martial arts, but if they aren’t careful with this problem we could see a possible boxing scenario. At one point boxing was one of the biggest sports in this country, but once things started to get dirty (plus other sport popularity growth and head trauma concerns) the nose dive began to where the sport of boxing has never been the same. Yeah there is Mayweather, Pacquiao and the Klitschko brothers but other than that I doubt any casual fan could name you another boxer right now.

That’s what I fear for the UFC they could lose the casual fan and hurt their brand with more things like this happening. Especially if an icon (Silva) is proven to be a cheater, it could be a big blow to what was supposed to be a big year for the organization. As an avid fan of the sport and the organization I hope it isn’t the case where we see a crumbling sport/organization, because if the UFC goes down then pretty much the whole sport goes down with it.

Now this is all talking in the worst case scenario, but the UFC better take more proactive steps to keep the sport clean. Also they better think of how they are trying to make the sport more mainstream and something everyone watches just like football, basketball or baseball. If they keep this up with scandals of drug use and/or cheating with PEDs then they might as well kiss that idea goodbye.

Just be careful UFC. Nobody is too big to fail.

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