As another legend is scrutinized, drug testing comes back in spotlight
UPDATE: Wanderlei Silva denies he ran from a random drug test.
Back in February, in his Las Vegas office, UFC president Dana White was holding court with reporters when the subject of drugs in the fight game came up. White already had talked about Alistair Overeem and Cris Cyborg, and his patience seemed to be up when a reporter suggested that there were indeed others on the roster who likely were taking performance-enhancing drugs, but had not been caught.
"Who hasn’t got caught in the UFC that’s taken drugs?" he boomed. "Who in the UFC hasn’t gotten caught? Give me names. I’ll test them today. I’ll f***ing pick up my cell phone right now and send somebody to their house to test them today. Who? Give me a f***ing name. One."
Nobody really spoke up, mostly because publicly accusing a professional athlete of drug use without evidence is a libel case waiting to happen; that doesn’t mean we and the rest of the world don’t have suspicions.
The insinuation of White’s harangue was that the fighters in his promotion are boy scout clean, yet there is a problem that cannot be ignored. True random testing barely exists in mixed martial arts, but on the handful of occasions it’s actually been used, it’s reeled in some pretty big fish.
The latest could be Wanderlei Silva, who allegedly purposely avoided an unannounced test that the Nevada athletic commission attempted to administer last week. "He literally ran" away, is how Silva’s scheduled opponent, Chael Sonnen, explained it on Wednesday’s edition of "UFC Tonight."
Commission executive director Bob Bennett and chairman Francisco Aguilar both confirmed to FOX Sports on Wednesday night that UFC 175 random testing was done last week, when several members of the card were in Las Vegas for a press conference to announce the show, but neither would comment on whether Silva declined to provide a sample. In a statement released by the promotion, the UFC said it was "forced" to seek a replacement "due to issues related to Wanderlei Silva’s licensing."
Now under potential scrutiny is Silva, who has yet to make any public comment except to tweet in Portuguese "What’s this???? I don’t believe it!!!!" shortly after the announcement of his removal was made. Since then it’s been total silence.
The reality of random testing in combat sports in 2014 is that it’s almost nil. Most commissions simply don’t have the money or resources to do it.
For all its faults, Nevada is at least making some kind of attempt to try, and in the few instances that it actually has enforced it, it already has made headway. Extrapolate this program across the country and beyond, and just how far does the problem reach?
Much further than we’d like to admit, probably.
Remember, this is real random testing, not the pre-fight or post-fight tests that amount to IQ tests. It nearly defies comprehension that fighters still are caught on those, even though they sometimes are. But unannounced tests have the element of surprise on their side, so they’re much more likely to catch someone with their hand in the cookie jar.
This thing has gotten so out of hand that now we have the once-officially busted Belfort, recently removed from a fight shortly after an "irrelevant" drug test, replacing Silva, removed after not taking one, against Sonnen, who just recently came off testosterone replacement therapy. What a tangled web.
That’s why in a way, White is both right and wrong when he focused on TRT as the scourge of the sport. Right because it opened a Pandora’s box that keeps on echoing into the present day, but wrong because it always has been overrated in the grand scheme of cheating.
Just because we got rid of TRT doesn’t mean we got rid of PEDs.
Back in his office on that February day, White continued railing against the idea that MMA had more PED users than other sports. In his defense, no one knows the truth. But TRT has been "gone" for months and his PED headache is hardly over.
To the UFC’s credit, it is sending Belfort in front of Nevada to face the music. Remember, he failed a test there in 2006, so Nevada’s not going to be the friendliest of faces. And with a major fight at risk, UFC executives will be sweating right alongside him. Whether he’s ultimately licensed or not, we know that it won’t be the last of these hearings.
Who hasn’t got caught in the UFC that’s taken drugs? If you wait long enough, you’ll get your answer.