To combat a growing problem not only in MMA, but also in the sports world as a whole, the UFC instituted a new set of rules and testing pertaining to the testing for performance-enhancing drugs.
The USADA testing has already begun to do part of its job by catching fighters out of competition. Tim Means lost his headlining spot opposite Donald Cerrone by potentially violating policy. Abdul-Kerim Edilov was caught before he could step foot inside an Octagon.
These are great strides for a sport that many have complained about wanting to clean up. The effect of losing a headlining spot monetarily hurts Means. It’s also significant in that it caught somebody like Means, who was closing in on being one of the better fighters in his respective weight class after a 5-1 run and two “Performance of the Night” bonuses. These sort of things help make the sport better by making sure to maintain a level playing field.
While the testing is a good move for the sport, what will be the overall impact?
Well, the one thing the testing doesn’t cover is human ingenuity. The testing will stop many future fighters from daring to dope, that much is undeniable, but it won’t stop the select few from cheating. There are many stringent testing regimens in sports — take the Olympics, for example — where athletes still get caught doping. The overall impact on PED use will be significant enough to where we can view USADA testing as a success. However, there will always be some athletes looking to get an edge that will ultimately find a way around these tests. There will be new drugs created that don’t register on the tests and still create the same effects as any recognizable PED that the testing covers. Technology is a constantly changing and growing beast. No matter what, there will be innovation.
Fighters do stand to lose a lot by testing positive. They risk their credibility. They can end up being seen as a cheat. Then the question arises of whether anything they have achieved in the sport has been legit. Take Alex Rodriguez or Lance Armstrong. Sure, the lengths they went to cover up the allegations make it worse, but overall it all comes back to testing positive. These men were considered to be among the greatest athletes in their respective sports, but they will always have a cloud hanging over their head. Just how many of their achievements were aided by the usage of performance-enhancing drugs?
Athletes are always going to look for an extra edge. The USADA can’t catch each and every cheating fighter. The new testing protocol won’t scare everyone into adhering to the rules. Some people will feel they can get around the rules and not get caught. What the out-of-competition testing will do, though, is make the playing field more even than it ever has been. Getting popped will have heavy repercussions from here on out against a fighter’s credibility and their checkbook. It will take them out of big fights, too. Don’t look for the USADA to be the perfect answer to the steroid problem. Nothing will ever be perfect, but this comes close.