Performance enhancing drug use in major sports has been a heavily debated topic for decades in the United States.
Should PED’s be allowed? Should they be banned? Are some okay? How do we decide what drugs are acceptable?
If PEDs are illegal and banned from sports, how should cheaters be punished? Should they be suspended? Should their records be null and void?
Questions of fairness and level playing fields, have enveloped all sports, even amateur and high school level.
Two major sports have taken on more scrutiny than most others, though: baseball and Mixed Martial Arts.
Baseball, with it’s rich history and iconic records, has received tons of negative publicity for rampant PED use amongst it’s players. On the surface, to casual baseball fans, most of the greatest players of the last 25 years were cheats. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark McGwire all have sordid pasts when it comes to PEDs.
Creating an even playing field and keeping the integrity of the game intact became such a big deal that several Major League Baseball players were actually called to testify in front of the United States Congress about their rumored steroid use.
In retrospect, this was a big waste of time, money, and resources. So many man hours were spent trying to figure out which players used and which ones didn’t. In the end, did it really matter if Clemens won 300 games or Bonds hit 700 homeruns? Was all the work, effort, investigations, and legal proceedings worth it?
The simple answer is: No.
It doesn’t matter if Bonds broke the all time homerun record or if McGwire broke Maris’ single season homerun record. If any MLB record is broken, no one really gets hurt. Maybe the previous record holder loses his spot as an all time great, but physically, and usually mentally, everyone is okay no matter what happens in the record books.
In MMA, though, it’s much different. MMA ped use is potentially deadly.
Cagefighting is dangerous. More violent than any of the major professional sports.
The goal in MMA is to either knock your opponent out or to make them submit via a choke or some sort of joint manipulation. It’s not always pretty.
The UFC, for years, offered it’s fighters bonuses for “best knockout” and “best submission.” These UFC fighters were actually encouraged to try and hurt their opponent. This is, of course, the nature of the beast, in MMA. No doubt about it, MMA promotions and their fans want to see exciting fights and wild finishes.
Typically, two highly trained, skilled fighters are stepping into a cage, with the same goal: to win, either by knockout or submission. If Fighter A defeats Fighter B, Fighter A earns double their salary. In addition, if Fighter A is exciting or wins the fight dramatically, a $50,000 fight or performance bonus check is doled out to them at the end of the night.
Winning fights and beating your opponent is the key to success in MMA.
Elite, professional fighters train year round in gyms across the world with other top tier athletes. They practice head kicks, uppercuts, rear naked chokes, armbars, and anklelocks on a daily basis.
Some of these fighters were NFL football players, ADCC World Champions, Olympic judokas, and NCAA wrestling champions. These are real, highly skilled athletes who train daily to get better at taking each others’ heads off with punches, kicks, and elbows.
Let’s be real, getting punched in the face by anyone sucks.
Imagine getting punched in the face by a trained UFC fighter.
Now, imagine that trained UFC fighter is all roided up. Not only is that unfair, it’s excessively dangerous.
Adding PED’s to their daily regimen would only make MMA more unsafe.
Simply put, ethically, MMA fighters should not use PEDs. The sport is inherently dangerous. All combat sports are.
Knockouts, and consequently concussions, are commonplace, more so if the competitors are pumping artificial testosterone into their bodies.
MMA and other high impact sports are the only sports where PED usage truly matters. Permanent injury can be incurred at any moment, but the likelihood increases when the fight features chemically enhanced, PED using athletes.
To the fighters, coaches, and analysts who say, “Let the fighters do what they want. This is America, it’s a free country. Let everyone use! We want to see exciting fights.” Please remember: concussions are bad, homeruns aren’t. There is a difference.
In most sports, steroids, HGH, EPO, et al really don’t matter. It may create an unlevel playing field in other sports, but severe head injuries will not be incurred if Lance Armstrong is juicing and rides his bicycle up a mountain really fast.
In MMA, PEDs do matter. Fighters’ brains are literally on the line.
The UFC should be applauded for it’s recent adoption of year round, unannounced drug testing, with harsher penalties for fighters who have violated the rules. There will be kinks to be ironed out, but but hopefully for all the fighters’ sakes, UFC’s competition will follow suit.