The Savage Truth: Getting Worse Before it Gets Better

By Greg Savage Jul 20, 2016

Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed below are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of, its affiliates and sponsors or its parent company, Evolve Media.

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When it was reported that Brock Lesnar had been flagged for a potential performance-enhancing drug violation shortly after UFC 200 the first thought that crossed my mind was Ultimate Fighting Championship brass stating that bringing in United States Anti-Doping Association to test UFC fighters would likely lead to some tough times before things started to get better. Well, I can’t think of a rougher stretch for the promotion than the last couple weeks. Along with Lesnar, Jon Jones --one of the biggest stars and hands down the best fighter the sport has ever seen -- also found himself adrift in the Sea of PED Shame after his pre-fight test got him bounced from the historic July 9 card.

Let’s face it, mixed martial arts, like every other sport in the world, is chalk full of athletes looking for every advantage they can get. Now I wholeheartedly agree that both Jones and Lesnar should be afforded due process before being skewered and set atop the USADA pyre. That said, it is not shocking in the least when anyone, and I mean absolutely anyone, pops anymore.

In the case of Jones, we’ve learned that he has tested positive for a pair of estrogen blocking substances that can help elevate testosterone levels in users. They can also offset the effects of other steroid use that can elevate estrogen levels. They can also help ward off gynecomastia, lovingly known as “bitch tits,” another awesome side effect of testosterone-based PED use.

It seems we’re going to be heading down the “tainted supplement” path with Jones shortly. He’s been temporarily suspended by the Nevada Athletic Commission and is expected to appear before the panel with attorney Howard Jacobs in September or October. Word is, he’s sending supplements he has been taking to be tested to see if they contain the substances he tested positive for. It is hard to see how his supplements would contain not one, but two banned substances that are used for similar purposes.

But, like I said earlier, he should be afforded a chance to defend himself before we all pile on. Either way, he is going to be on the shelf for a few months if he can show supplement contamination or two years if he cannot.

Lesnar, on the other hand, has not revealed what he tested positive for. Speculation is focused on the use of an inhaler for asthma-like symptoms. This seems like a much more winnable case if you ask me. If that is actually what he popped for that is. Additionally, Lance Pugmire of the LA Times reported Tuesday that Lesnar tested positive for clomiphene, one of the substances alleged to be in Jones’ system.

Still, the ingestion of a banned substance is going to carry a penalty. Not disclosing the use should be enough to garner a six-months suspension, if not more. If it is something else, something like metabolites of anabolic steroids or testosterone usage then I am guessing we will have seen the last of Mr. Lesnar around these parts.

Which leads us back to how this affects the UFC and their brand.

Truthfully, this is a short-term hit with potential for long-term gain. I know it stings to have a couple of your biggest stars labeled PED cheats -- and yes, no matter what the outcome of their cases they will be remembered, fairly or not, as PED users -- but let’s look at the alternative. If they had not contracted with USADA and hired Jeff Novitzky to combat PED usage they would not be given the benefit of the doubt they get, at least from me, today.

For every fighter who gets ensnared in the web of testing the UFC has spun, the hope is another will decide that the juice (pun intended) isn’t worth the squeeze. Now it will never be 100 percent and we should all know that going in, but by creating a strong deterrent they are doing a lot to try to create as level a playing field as possible.

What better way to do that then to make sure your superstars aren’t above the law?

Novitzky has proven time and again that he doesn’t care how big of a star the athletes in his crosshairs are: just ask Lance Armstrong or Barry Bonds. I didn’t expect that to change when he gave up a lucrative career to come work for the UFC and it has proven to be true.

Big stars, unknown prelim fighters and everyone in between know that they are at risk if they decide to try to circumvent the rules. Along with stiffer sentences, the year-round testing protocol will have a lasting impact on the UFC and MMA as a whole but it is going to take some time and even more high-visibility targets before we see the positive tests start to taper off.

Cheaters will never be gone -- where there is a will to cheat, there is a way -- with so much money and fame on the line, the appeal of a shortcut will always be too strong for some. I do believe the USADA deal will continue to stem the tide and create a safer environment in the long run. That will be the day when things truly start to get better when it comes to PEDs in the UFC. Executive Editor Greg Savage can be reached by email or via Twitter @TheSavageTruth.
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