In any other sport, the UFC’s current position on their athletes getting permission to use anabolic steroids would attract a scorched-earth level of scorn from the press.
The last week has been history-making for the UFC — and not in a positive way. Dana White is actively lobbying Keith Kizer & the Nevada State Athletic Commission for an anabolic steroid pass to be given to Vitor Belfort so he can fight the winner of Anderson Silva vs. Chris Weidman II in Nevada in 2014. This move has officially positioned the UFC as the first modern semi-major professional sports operation to be openly pro-steroid.
Whenever Belfort fights, people online get furious when he wins because he’s a testosterone user. Whenever other testosterone users like Chael Sonnen or Dan Henderson fight, the reaction is much more muted. Nationalism undoubtedly plays a role in the way fans reaction to Belfort using anabolic steroids, unfortunately.
On Wednesday, Johny Hendricks did himself no favors with comments he made regarding Georges St. Pierre and drug testing for their title fight on Saturday. Hendricks ignorantly parroted UFC & Keith Kizer-esque propaganda about the drug testing protocols that VADA (Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency) uses to test fighters. He also, in a round-about way, gave the press some proverbial rope to insinuate that St. Pierre has used drugs in the past and that GSP’s body shrunk while undergoing VADA testing. It’s a classic case of hypocrisy and cognitive dissonance; Hendricks thinks VADA testing isn’t on the same level as Nevada’s drug testing but yet comments that St. Pierre has gotten smaller while undergoing random VADA testing. Which would lead one to ask if Hendricks is suggesting that St. Pierre isn’t using drugs this time around as opposed to his previous fights. You can’t have it both ways.
The elephant in the room is that Keith Kizer, in my opinion, has a pathological hatred for Dr. Margaret Goodman and has felt threatened by the VADA drug testing program since its launch. VADA’s success is a direct indictment about the efficacy of Nevada’s standard drug testing.
The problem here for the media that cover combat sports is that going after individual fighters for drug usage may make for a good headline but it completely absolves the individuals who are responsible for creating the environment for drug usage in the first place. The UFC is pro-anabolic steroid in specific instances for certain fighters. The athletic commissions are actively lobbied, both in public and private, to give fighters permission to use anabolics. And yet when it comes to issues of drug usage in combat sports, writers spend their energy targeting certain fighters — mainly fighters who fail the standard IQ (drug) tests rather than fighters who are actually admitting to using anabolic steroids.
The focus on drug usage in combat sports should be entirely placed on the television networks who finance the promoters that put on fights and the politicos who have their job security thanks to political fixers who often have friendships with said promoters.
Where are the questions towards Fox Sports executives for financing a pro-steroid operation like the UFC? Why aren’t writers aggressively investigating the activities of men like Keith Kizer or Sig Rogich, the ultimate political fixer in Nevada who runs UFC’s stalking horse promotion in World Series of Fighting?
Some writers won’t target Fox because they hope to get a writing or TV gig with the media empire. Some writers won’t focus on the biggest enablers of drug usage in combat sports because they simply don’t care about steroid usage. However, the majority of writers covering combat sports don’t focus on the right targets when addressing anabolic steroid usage because they don’t see the drug issue as a big enough problem to warrant spending free time to crusade against it. Sure, plenty of writers think drug usage in combat sports is not a good thing, but they aren’t motivated enough to politically take a stand against such usage because they see it as just a natural part of the business.
The problem for combat sports writers in 2013 is the same problem that baseball writers had in 1998 when Mark McGwire & Sammy Sosa were belting out massive amounts of home runs. McGwire got caught by writer Steve Wilstein for using Andro, which is a precursor to testosterone when consumed by the body. After Barry Bonds broke the all-time home run record & the BALCO scandal hit baseball, suddenly everyone was turning towards the baseball writers and asking them why they were actively ignorant about what was going on with drug usage in their sport. Many professed ignorance and got crushed for doing so. A handful came out and defended steroid usage in baseball, stating that fans liked seeing the home runs and that it was good for the sport. Obviously, fan & media reaction in 2013 towards steroid usage in baseball indicates that steroid usage by players remains polarizing & damaging to baseball’s credibility. With better drug testing, baseball has seen fewer home runs and in turn declining ratings. And yet, whenever a player gets busted for steroids, it’s still a big deal. A “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation.
And that kind of problem could very well happen in the world of combat sports. The difference is that we have a major promoter like the UFC actively & publicly lobbying and supporting fighters getting permission to use anabolic steroids to fight in locations like Nevada. Right now, most fight writers aren’t willing to address the troubling situation in blunt terms. There are plenty of media writers who defend steroid usage in combat sports, and I give them credit for at least having the courage of their convictions to state their case in bold & blunt language. The problem is with the majority of combat sports writers who will talk about the problem with anabolic steroid usage in the industry but only touch the edges of the problem rather than attacking the main enablers with vigor.
It is time for the press & fans on social media to start changing the way they approach anabolic steroid usage in combat sports. Forget about any hopes of getting a media gig with Fox or Showtime or HBO. Forget about getting credentials from promoters you cover. If you care about the health & safety of fighters in combat sports, then it’s time to go on the record about where you stand on the issue of anabolic steroid usage and directly point the finger at who is responsible for the mess we have now in the industry. The UFC is on the record — and disappointingly is making no bones about being pro-steroid for some of their fighters.
In any other sport, such a pro-steroids stance would garner screaming headlines in the New York Times, Washington Post, or New York Daily News. In combat sports, the silence is deafening.
Zach Arnold is the Editor of FightOpinion.com.