Performance Enhancing Drugs in Combat Sports- What is Going On?!
By: Greg Houghton
Is it just me, or is it starting to get really frustrating continuously hearing about yet another star in combat sports testing positive for performance enhancing drugs?
It seems that, sure as the wind blows, we repeatedly hear of yet another pro athlete in combat sports who has been banned for using performance enhancing drugs.
If you look across the top ranked athletes in combat sports (in fact- contact sports in general including American football and rugby), most of those who are dominating their sport in this day and age are genetic freaks of nature that tower over their competition. In boxing, out of our world champions in the heavyweight division we’ve currently got Joseph Parker as our smallest who stands at 6”4 and weighs in at around 245lbs.
Arguably at the top of the heavyweight tree we have Anthony Joshua, at just shy of 6”7 and who came into the Wladimir Klitschko fight north of 250lbs. Anyone who saw that fight will be fully aware that this was over 250lbs of pure muscle.
In turn, the power that AJ is able to generate through his freakish genetics is such that he was able to do what only three before him had done in stopping ‘Dr. Steel Hammer’, a man with a professional record spanning over twenty years.
Size seems to be a prevalent thing as todays combat sports divisions are filled with huge athletes, with the bigger guy seemingly almost always having the upper hand. This is not just in the heavyweight division, anyone who saw Saul ‘Canelo” Alvarez fight Amir Khan last year will have struggled to comprehend Canelo weighing less than 175 in that fight, despite meeting their 160lbs weight limit the day before. We all remember how catastrophically this fight ended for Khan, although I doubt very much that he does.
So, it seems that for the most part, size is an advantage when in competition in combat sports. As we’ve established, the majority of the dominant forces across almost all contact sports today are genetic monsters who have been conditioning their cardio skills throughout their entire lives with the bodies they were born with. One way in which athletes, who have not been blessed with such rare genetics, can at least try to compete at this level is with a little help, so to speak.
As the doping tests become more and more vigorous and difficult for athletes in combat sports (throwback to how irritated GGG was at the Kell Brook weigh in on September 9th 2016, after a reported 11 hour shift with VADA in his hotel room the day before), we are seeing more and more athletes getting caught out. The annoyances resound right the way across combat sports as in MMA we’ve recently seen Jon Jones getting banned for an astounding third time!
A third time?! How on earth has this been allowed to happen?
Is a ban of a few months really enough? Granted, I’m not a professor in sports science, but it’s difficult to see how an athlete who was able to push their body’s cardiovascular and hypertrophy capabilities beyond it’s genetic potential through taking drugs, would not have an advantage over another athlete who was natural, sometimes as soon as six months later. Is this morally right? Should athletes who were caught doping be allowed back into the sport at all? It certainly doesn’t seem to be the populist view, we only have to observe the reaction that Justin Gatlin received time on time when facing Usain Bolt in competition. This very competition was labeled a number of times as good vs. evil.
It was with a very heavy heart that I read of Shannon Briggs’ testosterone levels measuring absurd times over the normal limit earlier this year. In fact, by being such a fan of the transformation that he’s made in his life (you’ve only got to hear his story on the Joe Rogan show to appreciate this), as well as his tongue-in-cheek promotional strategies which in turn made idiots of his competition, I and many others felt personally let down by hearing this news. Shannon ‘The Cannon’ Briggs joins Alexander Povetkin, Dillian Whyte and Lucas Browne as boxers from the heavyweight division alone, who have been banned for the use of PED’s in recent times.
Also as a huge fan of Jon Jones in the UFC, I… well, you know where this is going.
Evidence suggests that these days, the sports which we know and love, are seemingly dominated by the bigger guy. Therefore it stands to reason that this must affect the phycology of the fighter who faces them in the ring or the octagon. As these sports evolve, evidently so too does the genetic make up of those who reign within them. It’s easy to view performance-enhancing drugs as an attempted ‘leveling out’ of the genetic insufficiency, which many athletes today find themselves having. However, we must consider that if the shoe was on the other foot and todays naturally big athletes were the ones taking PED’s, the likes of Anthony Joshua would continue to develop their power beyond their genetic potential, lord knows to what effect.
And so, for the moment things will remain the same. Those who use performance enhancing drugs will continue to break the hearts of their loyal and adoring fans and be given as little as six months to go and think about what they’ve done, all the while training on the gains that PED’s could have initially given them. I’m not suggesting for a minute that these very athletes don’t work just as hard as those who are clean and don’t deserve to be where they are in their own sports. However, you have to feel for those who have grafted their whole lives without the use of performance enhancing drugs and have fallen slightly short because of this. If this is such a prevalent thing that combat sportsman must insist on defying their genetics, then perhaps it would be an idea to open a league of ‘natural’ boxers and MMA fighters, parallel to a league of those who insist on juicing.
The winners of the ‘not natural’ competitions could perhaps be part of a men’s support group, along with the ‘not natural’ bodybuilders of today and exchange ideas on how to inject safely. Either that or exchange ideas on safe Viagra consumption, in Jon Jones’ case…
Povetkin Hits a New Low in Moscow; In L.A., Hopkins Couldn’t Stay Away
Povetkin Hits a New Low in Moscow; In L.A., Hopkins Couldn’t Stay Away
By: Eric Lunger
It was a weekend of regret, as two bouts on different continents made a mockery of professional boxing. Karl Marx once observed that history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce. In Russia, Alexander Povetkin, by failing PED screening for a second time in less than a year, made a farce of whatever governing body sanctioned his heavyweight bout. And at the Forum in Los Angeles, veteran Bernard Hopkins was literally knocked out of the ring for the second time is his career, in what was supposed to be some sort of triumphant farewell/ retirement fight.
The Povetkin debacle was hard to fathom from the moment stories broke that he had failed another drug test. Seven months ago Povetkin was caught with meldonium in his veins, a now well-known PED employed systematically, it seems, by Russian athletes. There is something particularly vile about drug cheating in boxing: its one thing if the Russian bobsled team gets a faster start, and quite another thing when a heavyweight boxer has an unfair advantage. Boxing is dangerous enough as it is. Bermane Stiverne, Povetkin’s opponent, had worked very hard to position himself back in line for a WBC title shot, having lost a tough twelve rounder to Deontay Wilder in January of 2015. It also takes guts to enter the lion’s den by traveling to Moscow to face Povetkin in front of a home crowd, so imagine Bermane’s frustration and disgust when he awoke, on fight day no less, to the news that the WBC had withdrawn its sanction for the bout, which, by the way, is the only ray of light in this dark hole.
It appears that the WBC did the right thing immediately by withdrawing their sanction for the bout. Povetkin was on a voluntary random testing regime, a result of his previous violation under the WBC, which is trying to implement a rigorous anti-doping regime by partnering with VADA, the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association. Bizarrely, Povetkin was immediately provided with a replacement opponent, Johann Duhaupas of France, though no one knows why he was in Russia and available. It takes no giant leap of imagination to suppose that World of Boxing, the Russian promotion company that represents Povetkin, was holding Duhaupas in reserve for just such an eventuality. And to end the whole sordid story, Povetkin knocked out Duhaupas in the sixth round, with a vicious and presumably steroid enhanced left hook. Congratulations to a drug cheat.
The Hopkins vs. Smith fight was farce of a different nature, less malevolent but just sad. Sad to see a legend of the ring end his career on such an unnecessarily low note. After being dismantled and slightly embarrassed by Sergey Kovalev in November of 2014, Hopkins just couldn’t stay away. He had something to prove to himself, I suppose, because I can’t imagine anyone in the entire boxing world would have begrudged him his retirement at that point. So Saturday night, after needlessly disrespecting Joe Smith, Jr. at the prefight press conference, we were treated to the ridiculous executioner show, the silly hoods and fake axes, etc. I guess I’m just not a fan of the elaborate ring walk and masks and costumes. And the fight itself was hardly a fight, rather a boxing exhibition – and a bad one at that. Hopkins’s footwork was slow and ponderous, and the head butt in round two looked to me to be intentional, a dirty and unbecoming foul that was depressing to see from such a great champion. I don’t want to bash Hopkins, and I think I can understand how hard it must be for a proud, professional athlete to finally give up a sport that has defined his identity for so long, but when Smith bludgeoned him through the ropes and out of the ring, it felt as though boxing itself had ejected Hopkins from the sport. Only a man as competitive as Bernard Hopkins would argue that Smith pushed him through the ropes. But then, only a man as competitive as Bernard Hopkins would be prize fighting at age 51.
There were several good fights this weekend, and congratulations to Oleksandr Usyk, Joseph Diaz, Jr., and Sullivan Barrera, all of whom put on excellent shows and won technically fine bouts. But shame on Povetkin, and a sad farewell to Hopkins.
“Everybody’s on Steroids” – The Concerning State of MMA
“Everybody’s on Steroids” – The Concerning State of MMA
By Jaime C. Feal
During the hype for his first fight against Conor McGregor, Nate Diaz said it best: “Everybody’s on steroids.” Diaz went on to stop McGregor at UFC 196, and then McGregor was pulled from a potential rematch at UFC 200 due to not fulfilling media obligations. That decision by Zuffa brass turned out to be a big error, as their replacement main event between Jon “Bones” Jones and Daniel Cormier fell through when Jones was pulled from the card due to a positive test for PEDs. Cormier went on to beat last minute replacement Anderson Silva in a fight that saw the crowd boo heavily due to a lack of action. Furthermore, the Cormier-Silva fight was demoted to co-main event and a woman’s title fight between Miesha Tata and Amanda Nunes ended up headlining UFC 200. And the return of WWE superstar and former UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar, the fighter that drew the most viewers, ended up testing positive himself as was revealed by USADA the week after UFC 200. Because of an exemption Lesnar received as a late addition to the card his results did not come back in time to stop him from competing, and he will not be fined by USADA or the UFC for his positive test. Lesnar’s opponent Mark Hunt has publicly demanded he be compensated and has blasted the UFC for “throwing him under the bus.”
To make matters worse, former Featherweight title contender Chad Mendes was popped for a positive test recently and suspended 2 years by USADA, just like Jones was suspended for 2 years. The fighters can appeal their suspensions and try to reduce them, but ultimately the UFC has an enormous problem on their hands with fighters using PEDs before competing against one another in the cage. The timing of the 4 billion dollar sale of the company amidst all the positive tests is also suspect. It could be said that Station Casino and Zuffa owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertita cashed out at the right time.
Not only are fighters getting suspended left and right, but other fighters who are theoretically clean are livid. Then you have superstar fighters like Georges St. Pierre who are prime for a comeback, but have expressed concerns about stepping in the cage against juiced competition. Finally, the fans can’t be happy to see their favorite fighter(s) and sport being tainted by steroids, masking agents, and PEDs. The crisis is similar to the steroid epidemic in the 90s in Major League Baseball where even the biggest superstars were using. Now that the UFC is under new ownership, the new owners and management have a chance to affect immediate change. The sport is inherently exciting, fast-paced, and action-packed. We don’t need to artificially increase the explosiveness of the sport as baseball did with the home run. When you have two athletes competing against each other in a combat sport fairness and safety are of the utmost concern. MMA as a sport has worked hard to become regulated and accepted, and a lot of that work can be undone if somebody is seriously hurt in the cage by an opponent who tests positive for PEDs. This epidemic needs to get cleaned up quickly in the interest of all parties. Let’s hope it does.
Truth Or Slander? The Tyson Fury Drug Test Scandal
Truth Or Slander? The Tyson Fury Drug Test Scandal
By: Sean Crose
“The world heavyweight champ is being probed by officials after traces of a banned anabolic steroid were allegedly discovered in a sample taken last year.”
These words appeared in Britain’s “Mirror” on Sunday. Since then, a scandal has erupted surrounding heavyweight champ Tyson Fury. In brief, it’s been claimed that Fury tested positive for having forbidden levels of a banned substance called nandrolone in his system during the winter of 2015. Nandrolone, for those who don’t know (and why would most people?) is a steroid which can enlarge muscle. Therefore, it’s easy to see why having significant amounts of the drug in one’s system would be deemed unsportsmanlike.
Yet it’s only fair to point out that rumors do not automatically equal truth and that Fury had adamantly denied being a doper. Sure enough, he’s come across as being a bit confused by this whole matter. Indeed, the thought of Fury as juicer comes across as somewhat absurd on the surface of things. For even at his most fit, the guy certainly doesn’t possess an Adonis-like physique. Regardless, appearances can be as deceiving as false rumors and no one, save perhaps a few, know what the truth really is at the moment.
For its own part, the team of one Wladimir Klitschko, who Fury won the heavyweight crown from after the reported test was taken, is being proactive, demanding the United Kingdom Anti Doping agency – otherwise known as UKAD – get to the bottom of things. Sure enough, Klitschko’s manager has already taken a shot at the agency, claiming it’s failed in its duties before. With that in mind, UKAD has refused to comment on the matter, as it claims is part of its policy as regards to privacy.
There is some urgency to the whole situation, of course, as Fury will most likely rematch Klitschko in the fall. Indeed, the two men were supposed to fight this summer, but the Englishman harmed his ankle while in training and the fight had to be postponed. Not only is the rematch anticipated because it will solidify the heavyweight pecking order, it’s being looked forward to because Fury and Klitschko are such polar opposites.
Klitschko, the former long reigning champion from the Ukraine, has always been known as something of a gentleman warrior. Fury, on the other hand, luxuriates, it seems, in being openly controversial. He’s received a lot of heat back home in England for his comments, and has even been reported for a hate crime due to his language (England just isn’t into the whole free speech thing – then again, it still has a queen). He’s also a world class bully when it comes to Klitschko, egging him on as if he were tormenting an underclassman in a school cafeteria.
Whether or not the man juiced, however, remains to be seen.
Performance Enhancing Drugs and Boxing
Performance Enhancing Drugs and Boxing
By: Matthew N. Becher
Performance enhancing drugs have been a problem in the sports world for a while now, but when it comes to the sport of boxing, it takes on a whole new level. In the end, if an athlete is taking a banned substance and hits a few more home runs or rides a bicycle faster than their opponent it is sad that an individual felt they needed to cheat, but in boxing the outcome could mean life or death. A fighter is already putting their life on the line when entering the ring, with the added incentive of a steroid being used by your opponent, the outcome could be catastrophic. In the past few months at least 3 major fighters have tested positive for banned substances. All have had different outcomes with their appeals and fights. Why does boxing not have an overall rule and punishment on the use of these drugs?
In March of this Year, Lucas Browne of Australia defeated Ruslan Chagaev in a Heavyweight fight that took place in Grozny, Russia. Browne won by 10th round knockout and later tested positive for the banned substance Clenbuterol, which is used to boost metabolism and lose weight. Browne, claimed he was drugged while in Russia, unknowingly. Browne did get drug tested prior to the fight, in his native Australia, and came up clean. This week his “B” samples came back positive as well, and the result of his fight will be overturned to a No Contest. He has also been stripped of his WBA “regular” heavyweight championship title and will be suspended by the WBA for six months (this really means nothing, since he can fight under any other sanctioning body and anywhere in the world, since Boxing does not have one almighty governing regulatory system).
Francisco Vargas is the undefeated WBC Super Featherweight champion of the world, and is currently getting ready for his highly anticipated showdown with fellow brawling Mexican Orlando Salido. In late April, Vargas, also tested positive for Clenbuterol. He tested positive while both fighters were under the VADA program (Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency), and Vargas claims that he is innocent. His excuse was that he must have gotten the drug in his system while eating contaminated meat in his native Mexico (an excuse that fellow Mexican fighter Erik Morales used in 2012.) Wildly enough, the fight is still scheduled to go on as planned. Salido did not question the result, and does not see it as being a problem. Since the California state commission did not perform the test, instead being tested by another party, in VADA, the commission cannot rule in Vargas’ fate. The fight will go on as planned, and we will see what happens after June 4th.
Finally, the fight for the WBC heavyweight championship of the world, which was to take place in Moscow, Russia between the champion Deontay Wilder and Alexander Povetkin has been cancelled. Povetkin has tested positive for the steroid Meldonium. Wilder was weary of going to Russia only for the fear of being drugged, as Lucas Browne has claimed, but instead it was the Russian who came up positive in his own Country. The WBC has not banned Povetkin, who denies knowingly taking the substance, and will start its own investigation into the matter.
The differences here are all similar with small changes. Browne did not test positive until after the fight. He was paid in full, won and went home. After the fact, his victory was overturned, he was stripped of his “regular” title and banned by the WBA (again, he can still fight, just not under any WBA sanctioned events). Vargas and Salido are still going to fight. The fact is, if a fighter does not fight, he does not get paid, which leaves the innocent Salido in a predicament. He has put in the work, hired the trainers and members of his team. If he does not fight Vargas, even though Vargas came up positive for a steroid, neither man will get paid, and that’s a lot of time and money to lose out on. Wilder, the heavyweight champion, seemed to make the easy decision and leave. For him, the money did not matter, since his wellbeing would be at an even greater risk, fighting a professional heavyweight in their own backyard. Wilder will not receive his multimillion dollar payday, but it will not be hard to find another fight to take this one’s place.
On another note, late last year, during the Klitschko vs. Fury heavyweight championship fight that took place in Germany, Fury refused to drink or eat anything until he was out of the country entirely. Germany is Klitschko’s second home and Fury was very fearful of any of his post-fight meals or drinks to be contaminated and being wrongfully accused of cheating and his upset victory being overturned. People saw Fury as being a bit of a “wacko” for even thinking that, but now looking back at the Lucas Browne story, Fury might have been really onto something.
In the end, penalties have to be put in place universally for fighters that test positive for banned substances. Too much is at risk for steroids in this sport. Not only should boxers have to serve lengthy suspensions and fines that will deter anyone else from taking the chance of using these drugs, but the fighters on the other end who did absolutely nothing wrong should be able to get compensation for the monetary losses that they endure. Remember this isn’t a man trying to run or swim faster than another man. This is boxing, where any punch can end your life. It’s not a joking matter when it comes to steroids in the sport.