Friday, November 12, 2010

Random PED Testing and Punishment Guidelines Needed in the UFC


With Chael Sonnen's recent positive test for elevated levels of testosterone, the world's largest MMA promotion, the UFC, needs to put its foot down. Fighters under contract should be randomly tested throughout the year by an outside testing agency for performance enhancing drugs. In addition, the UFC needs clear, unambigious punishment guidelines.

Random testing is essential to ensuring that fighters cannot use performance enhancing drugs during competition. All fighters should designate one hour per week in which they could be randomly tested, with at least one test weeks before every fight. That way, fighters cannot plan in advance for drug tests, cycling in and out of steroid use. The tests could be performed through the World Doping Agency.

While state commissions do a good job punishing offenders of their drug policies, the UFC should set up independent punishment guidelines to run alongside these policies. As it stands now, punishment is not uniform with the same offenders suffering different fates – with some fighters cut, some immediately back after suspension, and some on the shelf long after their suspension has ended.

For example, Josh Barnett was cut from the UFC and stripped of his recently won heavyweight title after testing positive for three anabolic steroids after UFC 36. Sean Sherk tested positive for anabolic agents at UFC 73, only to return to competition at UFC 84, less than a year later, fighting for the title. Chris Leben and Stephan Bonnar each returned to competition less than a year after positive tests.

The UFC needs to send a stronger message to its fighters, and prospective fighters, that PED use will not be tolerated. Fighters entering the UFC would know they would have to run a clean camp leading into fights. Fighter health and safety would be better protected with random drug testing.

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