For the better part of the last decade, former welterweight and lightweight champion B.J. Penn has been one of the most outspoken fighters whenever the subject of drug testing in MMA came up.
The Hawaiian fighter championed the idea of more stringent testing and stricter rules for those competing in MMA, often asking for additional testing for his fights such as those provided for his bout against Rory MacDonald in 2012 where both fighters provided multiple urine and blood samples through their training camps.
When the news broke over the weekend that Chael Sonnen had tested positive for human growth hormone (HGH) as well as recombinant human erythropoietin (EPO), it was shocking for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that both substances are impossibly tough to detect even with a blood test. While Penn counts Sonnen as a personal friend and colleague, he was ultimately excited to hear that the substances were discovered because long term he just wants an even playing field and a clean sport.
Penn also admitted that he’s been suspicious for years that fighters were probably using HGH, but not until a test comes out like this does it prove his point.
I’m really excited that they can test for the HGH and the EPO. I’ve always suspected that people were doing those things and not just the steroids.
— B.J. Penn
"I’m really excited that they can test for the HGH and the EPO. I’ve always suspected that people were doing those things and not just the steroids. So it’s very exciting and very gratifying to finally see that the playing field (is even). People are going to start thinking twice about what they put in their body and the playing field will be much more equal," Penn said on Monday.
"Chael Sonnen’s actually a personal buddy of mine, it’s sad to see what Chael Sonnen’s going through, but if you want to talk about the future of the sport, the safety of the fighters, I’ve always spoke out against it."
Sonnen also tested positive a couple of weeks ago for two different anti-estrogen drugs that help jumpstart the production of natural testosterone in the body. Sonnen was one of a few fighters on the UFC roster that were taken off testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) when the Nevada State Athletic Commission banned the treatment earlier this year.
Now with this latest test revealing both HGH and EPO, Sonnen has more explaining to do about why he was taking the drugs while at the time preparing for a light heavyweight bout against Wanderlei Silva originally scheduled for this weekend’s UFC 175 fight card.
Following the initial test results, Sonnen spoke out about the changes he endured after being taken off TRT while also working to conceive a child with his wife. The drug regimen worked because his wife is pregnant with their first child, but ultimately it still cost him his career because Sonnen retired just a day after the tests were revealed.
Whatever the excuse may be, Penn just can’t justify it for himself personally. While he won’t go as far as to condemn Sonnen or anyone else who uses drugs, Penn doesn’t plan on ever being one of the people lining up for an injection or taking a pill to extend out his fighting career just a little while longer.
"The EPO probably gives them better endurance in bed, right?" Penn said with a laugh.
"For me, I’m only speaking for myself, I’ve been around the sport, I’ve been around all the different gyms, I’ve seen all kinds of different stuff so I’m only speaking on what I believe, on my own personal morals, everybody’s morals are different. Everybody has the ends justifies the means. If I didn’t do it, I would have got cut and I wouldn’t have this big house or whatever it is. I’m old fashioned and that’s just me."