I woke up this morning to the news that Matthew Riddle had failed another drugs test and had been cut from the UFC. This was followed by the usual tirade from stoner apologists that he had a pass for weed, that marijuana isn’t a performance enhancer etc. and a mass pointing out that fighters are allowed TRT (which IS undoubtedly performance enhancing) with a doctor’s line and the likes of Alistair Overeem and Thiago Silva have survived failed steroid tests without being cut.
There seems to be a double standard here.
First up, let me state my personal belief that all illegal drugs should be legalised as what you put in your own body is your own damn lookout, never mind that prohibition doesn’t work, adds a serious burden onto the state and a cash flow to organised crime.
Legalising pot, speed, whatever and taxing it, in the same way we tax booze and cigarettes would create a serious revenue stream for the state, standardise what you’re getting (no more kids dying from taking washing up powder, sold to them as a pep pill etc.) and generally minimise the negative social and economic impact of drugs if done in step with better education and healthcare, devoid of criminalised stigma.
That’s just my view.
However, it remains true that what is OK for private citizen Smith, is not necessarily cool for a professional athlete, who’s professional life is bound by a code of conduct designed to encourage fair play, safety and avoid embarrassing public relations nightmares for the sport/promotion.
Marijuana is banned in MMA, not because its a performance enhancer, but because going into the cage baked would jeopardise YOUR safety and also because a criminal conviction for possession would be damaging to the sport’s wider profile. Them’s the rules, deal with it.
I have to say, I get really annoyed when I read about cannabis being touted as a miracle cure for things, having no adverse health effects and generally being useful in making fuel, bags, cooking oil etc. The cure thing may be true, the no bad side effects is a damn lie and the other stuff definitely is true, but I’d have a lot more respect for stoners who just admitted they want to get baked rather than trying to make their 4:20 into something morally righteous.
So, I only have passing sympathy for Matt Riddle here, based more in the fact that other, bigger name fighters have failed similar tests and not been cut – look at Nick Diaz, who failed the same test, was suspended for a year and walks back into a title shot… – than anything else.
Likewise, while pot is banned for your own safety and the good of the sport, there are other drugs out there which are performance enhancing and a danger to both fighter’s safety and the name of the sport. What’s worse, is that their use is often prescribed by doctors and allowed by such governing bodies as exist.
Yep, I’m talking about TRT.
Now, I’m no medical professional but from my understanding TRT is used by ageing athletes to restore testosterone levels which fall naturally over time, to their peak levels.
That in itself is a little worrying as a forty year old athlete with all the zip and go of a twenty year old athlete, just isn’t natural and surely has further implications for the older athlete – such as exacerbating heart or liver trouble.
When you consider that testosterone can be depleted by the illegal use of steroids in younger years, then it’s more than a tad hypocritical that fighters who may have been cheating their way to success through their twenties and thirties are allowed to offset the long term cost of that (to their careers at least) by taking what amounts to legal steroids when they are older. How is that fair?
The fact that TRT can and according to the prevailing wisdom IS being used in excess as a performance enhancer – allowing athletes to recover faster from injuries, to train harder and longer etc. – before being cycled down in time to narrowly pass fight weekend drugs screenings is very concerning for the credibility of the sport.
In my view, drugs have no place in professional sport. Contests should be won and lost on your natural gifts, mental strength and the quality of your training, rather than the ingenuousness of your doctor.
In an ideal world, I’d see every MMA fighter registered with a gym and each gym gets randomly hit with drugs screenings on a regular basis. This might require a proper world governing body, but then maybe that is what MMA needs.
I don’t like the drugs. I don’t like the idea that fights are in any way influenced by such things. Much as I might sympathise with Matt Riddle and his being cut (albeit for a second successive failed test) for a drug which is not a performance enhancer, the rules need to be respected and enforced. That needs to count exponentially more for those substances which are in all likelihood being abused in the name of cheating. It also needs to count for bankable stars like Overeem, Sonnen and Diaz as much as it does for undercard fighters.
If that makes Matt’s cut for a chilling toke the thin end of a very thick wedge, then so be it.
I like my sport clean, and fair and believe that MMA as a whole should have a zero tolerance policy towards drugs.