Alistair Overeem getting caught with spiked testosterone levels at a random drug testing was just the latest chapter in the saga of testosterone-related controversy in MMA.
It seems each week that another fighter is testing positive for synthetic testosterone, registering elevated T:E ratios and/or being questionably placed on testosterone replacement therapy. With more and more experts (like Victor Conte) pointing to this as a problem and the volume of questions being asked growing louder, the issue of testosterone use in MMA looks to be coming to a head.
With Overeem’s case, the hulking Dutchman was surprise tested along with the other UFC 146 competitors present at the event’s pre-fight press conference by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Overeem’s sample returned a testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio of 14:1, well above the allowable 6:1 limit in Nevada — a high mark itself considering WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) sets the level at 4:1, with the actual average being 1:1.
Where it gets a little murky is that Overeem, while scheduled to face Junior dos Santos in Nevada, was not yet licensed with the state (Overeem had only been conditionally licensed in Nevada for his New Year’s weekend bout against Brock Lesnar because of drug test controversy).
It appears that Overeem has filed for licensure in Nevada now. With the UFC remaining cryptic about a possible replacement for the Reem, it’s looking like the UFC might be willing to keep Overeem in the title fight if he can squeak past the NSAC through a loophole — or somehow explain his elevated T level — regardless of the fact that he had such a high ratio.
There are many arguments present within such a messy issue. On HDNet’s Inside MMA, host and former UFC champ Bas Rutten, UFC color commentator Joe Rogan, “The Voice” Michael Schiavello and active Strikeforce heavyweight Josh Barnett, who’s tested positive for steroids three times, illustrated a few of the angles taken when looking at PED use/abuse in MMA.
Michael Schiavello: You know, while we’re talking about the subject here Kenny, I just wanna chime in with a couple of things that’ve been playing on my mind over the last week or so, since the news of Alistair broke, is that A: Alistair’s not under license with the Nevada State Athletic Commission. So, how are they testing him in the first place, when he doesn’t have a license with them? By what jurisdiction are they testing him? And B: everybody seems to be hanging Alistair out to dry, seems to be nailing him to the cross and crucifying him, but it’s still two months away from his fight and he hasn’t technically cheated. Because, unless he pisses hot actually on the fight night, how has he possibly cheated? I mean, there’s still an opportunity he can get from fourteen-to-one down to the allowed six-to-one level by fight time. But we’re calling him out as a cheat two months out from a fight?
Bas Rutten: Yeah. Using is using. You simply don’t use. Once you use, you’re a cheater.
MS: But what if he comes in clean for a fight?
Joe Rogan: It’s almost as if you’re conceding that guys are using. They’re gonna use and you’re almost giving them, like, an out.
MS: Well, who’s to say? You talk to most of the fighters and off the record most of the guys will say that ninety-nine percent of the guys out there are using. … I’m not gonna name fighters who I’ve spoken to, but they’ve said most ninety-nine percent of the guys are using at least something.
Josh Barnett: Can’t talk to me. Can’t talk to me.
BR: Those are fighters who got caught, right? Because that’s the way they’ll justify it, by saying other people do it as well. I’ve got Alistair Overeem fans now tweeting me going, ‘Oh, but you used yourself.’ Never, ever in my whole life! Bring a lie detector in, let me test. It’s for losers is what I said. I can’t look at myself in the mirror if I would. Not! I hate that. BJ Penn is the same as me, also very, very against it. Guaranteed that he never used anything and we got titles! It worked out.
JR: There’s obviously an issue. You know, and the number of 14:1 that’s been reported online of testosterone to epitestosterone — obviously there’s something going on. If there is a logical explanation for it that we’re not aware of, you know, he has his chance. He has his hearing and you’ve gotta let the man talk. … It doesn’t matter if he does it for a fight. If a guy tests for a banned substance in the random drug test, that’s the purpose of having random drug testing.
MS: Under a commission he’s not licensed to?
JR: Well, that’s where it gets questionable. That’s where it gets tricky.
JB: He is getting ready for a fight, so maybe that’s how they rationalize their ability to test him and having it count towards his licensure and also the upcoming fight which will occur in Nevada. I think that’s likely what they’re using.