Mixed martial arts has been the subject of much controversy over the past year and more, due to the massive amounts of drug busts in the sport. The UFC in particular has seen numerous athletes popped for steroids, marijuana, cocaine and elevated testosterone levels, and of course the time that Thiago Silva gave a dog pee sample. We’ve been subjected to stars such as Anderson Silva, although that is now conflicted, Hector Lombard, Jon Jones and Nick Diaz all failing drug tests in 2015, and last year Pride and UFC legend Wanderlei Silva literally ran away from a random drug test.
One name that has never really been out of the loop in regards to PED (performance enhancing drug) use in MMA is Vitor Belfort. The Brazilian knockout artist and former UFC champion saw a fantastic 2013 while, perhaps coincidently, using the controversial TRT (testosterone replacement therapy). ”’The Phenom’ used an array of flashy head kicks to destroy Dan Henderson, Michael Bisping and current number one contender Luke Rockhold. Color commentator Joe Rogan tells Bloody Elbow’s Steph Daniels that he has seen many years of drug abuse in the sport, in this extensive interview:
“I think PED use is much more common than we know. When Vitor Belfort was tested while training for Weidman and his testosterone levels were four times higher than Weidman’s. This is a guy that was taking TRT because he had low testosterone. So now he’s off the TRT, but yet, when they test him, his test still shows a level of testosterone that’s four time higher than Weidman’s? Explain that.”
“It’s all madness. I hate the idea of anybody cheating in martial arts, because I like to think that martial arts is all about using your character, your will, your determination, and your discipline to better yourself as an athlete and a fighter. I like to think it’s about going in there and doing the very best you can, so that each performance is not just a victory over an opponent, but is also the culmination of all of your discipline, work, preparation and strategy. I like to think that’s what fighting is really all about, not who has the best doctor or the best chemist, or who knows the guy who can get stuff that doesn’t show up on tests.”
There are massive advantages to having hyper-human levels of hormones. We know this. It’s a fact. There’s no denying it whatsoever. Are those advantages enough to beat a guy like Chris Weidman? A guy who is natural and who is just incredibly disciplined, talented and gifted? I don’t know.
“If we saw Vitor in his TRT prime, like he was against Rockhold or Bisping, compete against Weidman, would we see a different result? We would certainly have seen a different body. His body was shockingly different when he faced Chris Weidman compared to when he faced Dan Henderson or Luke Rockhold, especially.”
“I mean that Rockhold fight, Jesus Christ! He looked like a fucking alien! He had muscles on his teeth. He had muscles on his eyeballs. He looked incredible. Then for the Weidman fight he looked much older than his chronological age. Compare Vitor to Randy Couture when he fought Tim Sylvia. He was into his forties and he looked fantastic.”
Belfort’s modern struggle in the media is somewhat overwhelming. Whether he likes it or not, the Brazilian banger has become synonymous with steroids, but Rogan recalls many of the golden years of JMMA and Pride FC being marred by blatant PED use:
“You have to realize that Ken didn’t just come up in the UFC, but he had some of his finest fights in Pride. Ken Shamrock was a part of two of the greatest organizations of all time in the UFC and Pride. But during the Pride days, the reality of Pride is that it was a dirty league. By dirty I don’t mean that they were spiking each other’s drinks or anything, I mean they were taking performance enhancing drugs. They didn’t have laws against it.
Enson Inoue was on my podcast and he talked about this. His contract in Pride openly stated that they’re not going to test for steroids. He was not joking about it. They’re basically telling you to go and take steroids. That’s where Ken had some very good performances. That’s where a lot of guys had fantastic performances. A lot of those guys didn’t really look the same when they left Pride.
I also think, if you get two guys like Shamrock and Kimbo – and they both agree to let each other take PEDs – why can’t you make an exception and let these guys take that stuff? TRT is a perfect example; if you have the NAC that doesn’t allow TRT, that’s their prerogative, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with an athletic commission saying, ‘As long as these two fighters both agree not to take anything outside of what is prescribed by doctors, and we’re going to randomly test you make sure your levels stay below X, you can take TRT.’ I think it’s neither illegal, nor unethical, as long as they both agree to it.”
Stricter drug testing has certainly started to get more results; Gilbert Melendez recently got popped for elevated testosterone and received a one-year ban, but how long before we see steroid cheats once again being able to play the system?
In summary, steroids in MMA have been abused for years, and they continue to be to this day. Stricter testing is now in place, but will that just accelerate more modern and undetectable methods of scumbaggery?