Can MMA fighters be using steroids and never get caught?
January 22, 2012 11:20 PM   Subscribe

MMAfilter: The recent news that Cris Cyborg has been using steroids has caused her whole career to be called into question. But that made me question - how often are MMA fighters tested for steroids?

Now, I asked google this question, and it appears that there is random drug testing all the time, and immediately after every fight, alongside the usual STD and communicable diseases tests. But then if that's the case, her story about taking a dietary supplement and not fully investigating all its ingredients is true because she's never shown up before as having used steroids. My question is - is there a way to use steroids that "fools" the testing? Is there a way to take steroids where it's completely out of your system by fight time? Just because Cyborg has been caught this time, could ALL of her fights have been under the influence of steroids? Is there a foolproof way to test all fighters to ensure they are on a level playing field?
posted by Sully to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
In theory, you can beat a test in one of three ways -- by taking a drug that is not tested for, by taking a masking agent, or by cycling the drug. Meaning, taking it in specific intervals so it passes out of the system before the test (assuming, of course, that you know when the test will take place). Google "steroid cycle;" there is no shortage of advice on this matter.

You also want to cycle steroids for other reasons -- they're obviously quite damaging. Manny Ramirez of the Dodgers was caught not by a steroid test, per se, but because his test showed he was taking a drug usually prescribed only for women in order to balance his hormone levels.

Also, there are other ways to beat tests that involve messing around with the sample, such as using someone else's urine (via a hidden, external bladder; or even by adding clean urine to your own actual bladder via a catheter), or just damaging the sample (e.g. dip your finger in bleach prior to the test, then cleverly dip your wettened finger into the sample cup). The test proctor should prevent most of these kinds of shenanigans, though.

Is there a foolproof way to catch all the cheaters? Not really. Year-round random testing is the best way (it's what the NFL does, for example). But it's a constant arms race, as new drugs and new tests are developed.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:31 AM on January 23, 2012

Seconding Cool Papa Bell, people only get caught using steroids when they don't know how to cycle or they cycle incorrectly. The only way to catch a smart user is through random testing which the UFC does not currently have.

The UFC's latest move to require a drug test before they are signed to the promotion is just a way to weed out fighters who are too incompetent to cycle correctly which helps them avoid the media embarrassment that occurs when you have fighters like Cyborg and King Mo get tapped for gear.
posted by Loto at 6:02 AM on January 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

He wasn't involved specifically with MMA (as far as anyone knows), but Angel Heredia cast some light on the absurdities of the current system, and the ubiquity of doping in probably all sports, after being caught as its foremost facilitator...

Angel Heredia interview on sports doping
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 9:15 AM on January 23, 2012

Thinking on this some more -- one of the problems with drug-testing UFC fighters (and boxers, for that matter) is that the fighters are all licensed, independent contractors. This is different from the NFL or other major pro sports leagues, where there is an employer/employee relationship. The UFC is not a "league" like the NFL, the NBA, etc.

Because you're never an employee, unless there's a contract that specifies otherwise, you're free to tell the UFC to go pound sand. Therefore, the UFC potentially has to work out unique contractual language with everyone separately, or develop blanket language they'll have to enforce with every contract. Each fighter will attempt to work out the best deal for themselves, and they'll want some kind of assurance that's independently verifiable that other fighters are toeing the same line. This will be difficult on its face, and doubly so when the top draws -- your champions -- have significantly more bargaining leverage.

On the other hand, if you left verification up to the (often underfunded) state commissions, now you have multiple agencies in the mix, which just compounds the issue.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:16 AM on January 23, 2012

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