When former UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre decided to step away from the sport he dominated for so long in late 2013, he cited rampant performance-enhancing drug use as one of the main reasons for his extended absence.

“GSP” wouldn’t name names to the media, but he warned of a windfall that would shake MMA to its core. And not even a month-and-a-half into 2015, it appears that St. Pierre’s prognostication is coming true at an alarmingly fast rate.

After Vitor Belfort failed an out-of-competition (OOC) drug test in February 2014 following the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) and UFC’s ban of the highly controversial testosterone-replacement therapy (TRT), his UFC 173 title with Chris Weidman was postponed (and still hasn’t taken place).

That instance was followed by the highly publicized PED scandals surrounding The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) Brazil 3 rival coaches Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva. Both were effectively banned from ever competing in the UFC after Sonnen tested positive for a cocktail of various banned substances and “The Axe Murderer” famously ran from an NAC representative sent to administer a random test.

The commission’s clampdown and increased testing was obviously having an effect, but none more than when longtime middleweight champion and living legend Anderson Silva sent the sport into a veritable frenzy by testing positive for drostanolone and androsterone in an OOC test leading up to his UFC 183 win over Nick Diaz.

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Mired in incredible controversy, “The Spider” denied any PED use as his second test came back clean (and a day before the first one, oddly enough).

Anderson was previously known as a staunch PED opposer, even going as far as to insinuate that those caught using them should no longer be allowed to fight in the UFC. His positive test was followed by the news that fellow “PED opponent” Jon Fitch had failed for elevated testosterone prior to his WSOF 16 loss to Rousimar Palhares .

Today (Tues., February 10, 2015) we saw another high-profile UFC fight fall apart due to PEDs, as news broke that Hector “Showeather” Lombard had been forced out of his pivotal UFC 186 showdown with Rory MacDonald after testing positive for designer steroid desoxymethyltestosterone during his UFC 182 decision win over Josh Burkman.

It’s become painfully clear that the UFC not only has a PED problem, but is dealing with a full-blown epidemic.

St. Pierre praised the NAC’s efforts to clean up the sport but also believes there is still many improvements to be made. Indeed the problem of steroids and other PEDs in MMA may get worse before it gets better, as the commission appears highly committed to rooting out offenders with their more stringent testing standards.

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The NAC certainly hasn’t handled all of the UFC’s drug problems with the utmost accuracy, but they have shown they are ready to stop fighters from using PEDs as frequently as they do now.

And the UFC needs to follow their lead by taking a stance and making a strong anti-PED statement to hold their fighters accountable with more severe punishments. They say they didn’t know about “The Spider’s” failed test until a few days after his fight with Diaz, but this time they pulled “Showeather” from his big fight when they learned about his positive test.

However, they did not announce just why Lombard had been pulled, news that was certainly going to be released in today’s fast-paced media world anyway. The UFC played it similarly safe in handling light heavyweight champion Jon Jones’ failed drug test for cocaine where he checked into rehab for one day.

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Only when Jones’ seemingly nonchalant attitude about his “rehabilitation” become public did they issue him a slap on the wrist in the form of a $25,000 fine.

It’s clear that the NAC will be dealing with drug testing on a much more serious basis going forward, and it must be noted that the UFC is giving them funds to do so after they scrapped their own random testing plans in the wake of the botched Cung Le test failure fiasco.

But that’s only the tip of a large and ominous iceberg, so the UFC needs to take it a step further and admit that they have a problem. That’s the first step towards recovery. Dana White may believe that PEDs aren’t much of a problem in MMA, but that simply isn’t true anymore.

St. Pierre wants the UFC to take a stand and lead the sport into a much cleaner future, and that’s exactly what they should do. They don’t have any other choice.

Perhaps then, and only then, will MMA’s grandest stage feature a more level playing field the exact opposite of the PED-riddled wasteland the UFC has become.

Photo Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports