Steroids and performance-enhancing drugs have become a big part of any sport you could possibly name in the last couple of decades. Whether it is baseball, football or mixed martial arts, the use of these substances has been an epidemic that has plagued the sports world.
MMA is certainly among the more dangerous of the sports overwhelmed by steroids. Steroids give athletes more strength and therefore a more inherent ability to hurt their opponent. There is no doubt that this is true, but it’s only true up to a certain degree. Then there are those who compare the use of these substances with a fighter brandishing an actual weapon in the cage. Take former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre’s comments, for example.
“A performance-enhancing drug is the same thing, it’s a biological weapon,” St-Pierre said. “It’s an advantage that you have over your opponent that you should not be able to compete with. Because you put the health of the competitor in jeopardy.”
St-Pierre went on to elaborate on how fighters who use these substances are endangering someone. St-Pierre isn’t wrong, but where he goes wrong is in his comparison to a scenario where a fighter brings a knife into a fight. St-Pierre’s coach, Firas Zahabi, described what would happen very bluntly.
“It’s unbelievable that they let them fight,” Zahabi said. “Me personally, I would like the sport to be cleaned up. Because one day, a guy is going to die in the Octagon and we’re going to find out that the guy who killed him tested positive after the fact.”
Really? Let’s back up a minute here. These drugs don’t exactly take a fighter and turn him from a lowly Steve Rogers type into Captain America. It gives the fighter a strength advantage, sure, but not to the level where that fighter is literally a lethal weapon inside the cage. This isn’t Rocky IV. Drago isn’t walking out to the ring to bludgeon Apollo Creed to death in an exhibition match.
Steroids help, sure, but it doesn’t extend as far as to make one a human killing machine. Punches still need to land to be effective. It helps with added strength, but in the realm of training and game-planning for a fight, steroids provide slim benefits. Mastering the sport still comes down to talent and the ability to learn. Currently, there are no steroids to increase the brain’s ability to process and learn tasks at a ridiculous rate.
Take, for instance, Anderson Silva. Silva is currently in the news for his steroid usage. Steroids didn’t help Silva’s fluidity in his striking defense. It didn’t help him become unhittable. It helped him with the power in his hands, and, when you think about, he still would have won without the power advantage. Silva would be more akin to MMA’s version of boxer Floyd Mayweather. Both men have the ability to put on an impeccable defensive show and outpoint their opponents to decision after decision.
I’m not going to sit here and say we should make steroids a completely legal part of sports. We shouldn’t. I actually agree with the idea of stronger testing. But in a culture that glorifies success and accomplishments, there will always be this form of cheating. Whether it remains as widespread as it is today or not, it will always be there.
However, like in baseball, where you still need to put the bat to the ball, here you still need to land the punch to the head. Taking a knife into fight almost assures the prospect of killing the other person.
It’s difficult to understand the thought process that goes into subjecting one’s self to steroids. There are just too many downsides that come later in life from taking these substances. It is also cheating in its purest form, and we’ve seen that it’s almost inevitable that cheaters will get caught and their legacies will be diminished. Look no further than athletes like baseball’s Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez. Or cycling’s Lance Armstrong. Or, now, MMA’s Anderson Silva. The costs outweigh the benefits.
But that form of cheating won’t turn a fighter into a literal killer in the cage. The strength boost steroids provide won’t kill a person inside the cage, it’ll typically give them just the slightest edge they need in order to win. The only thing taking steroids is going to do is lead to more busted cheaters, cause them shame and create hyperbolic comparisons after the fact.