Thursday, March 29, 2007

Steroids in Mixed Martial Arts

By Holli Hearne

Arguably the bout having the most impact to UFC popularity was the one fought between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar on April 9, 2005 at the Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas, NV. This fight was to determine who would win a six-figure UFC contract and earn the title of The Ultimate Fighter. This fight raged for three full rounds with Griffin named the winner and Bonnar also given a contract because the fight was just that close and just that exciting.

The two would meet again on August 26, 2006 at UFC 62. It wasn’t the headliner but it was the most anticipated
rematch to date. The fans were not disappointed. Both fighters were aggressive but the win would again go to Griffin. Following the event, four of the 17 total fighters that night were picked for post-fight drug testing: Bonnar, Griffin, Chuck Liddell, and Renato Sobral. Of the four, only Bonnar failed when he tested positive for Boldenone, an anabolic steroid used for treating injured horses. The steroid is so potent, the FDA issued a warning that it should not be used on horses intended for human consumption. The Nevada State Athletic Commission, the same commission that sanctions the Ultimate Fighting Championship organization, suspended Bonnar for nine months.

Unfortunately, Bonnar isn’t alone. In 2002, Josh Barnett also tested positive for the same anabolic steroid as Bonnar. For Barnett, it cost him the title he had just won from hall of fame legend Randy Couture.

In July 2006, Kimo Leopoldo was pulled from a WFA event after failing a pre-fight drug test. He tested positive for Stanozolol, another form of anabolic steroid. This, however, was not Kimo’s first time at the rodeo with regard to steroids. He was suspended and fined by the NSAC after failing a post-fight drug test following a loss to the legendary Ken Shamrock, another UFC hall of fame alumnus.

October 26, 2006 saw the return of the now drug free Josh Barnett when he was cleared by the NSAC to fight Pawel Nastula on the Pride: Raw Deal card in Las Vegas. Barnett took the win over Nastula who tested positive for Nandrolone in a post-fight drug screen. Fighting in that same event was Vitor Belfort, who tested positive for Hydroxytestosterone the same time as Nastula. Both fighters still await a decision from NSAC as to what disciplinary action will be taken.

Contracts are on the line with big name fight leagues such as UFC and Pride each time a fighter loses. For some, this makes the chance of being selected for random drug testing worth the risk. Ironically, of the four fighters who tested positive for banned substances in 2006, one tested positive pre-fight causing him to forfeit his opportunity and the other three lost the fights they were later busted on. Despite the hype about steroids potentially offering an unfair advantage, it would seem they aren’t necessarily effective in mixed martial arts, where skill is often more determining than muscle size.


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