Drugs – Zero Tolerance

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I’ve been hammering away on this subject all week, but I think this needs saying. I feel that as sport and as a community, mixed martial arts needs to adopt a proactive, zero tolerance approach towards drugs. All drugs. Performance enhancers and recreational drugs together. Testing must be made more watertight (random, out of competition) and punishments must be standardised.

The notion that recreational drugs shouldn’t be punished as they are not performance enhancing is wrong headed, but so is the concept that performance enhancers are OK so long as you’ve got a doctors note and/or compete somewhere that the oversight isn’t as testing.

Every time someone gets banned for testing positive for weed, I see a million campaigners filling up the forums and Twitter bemoaning that marijuana shouldn’t be illegal anyway, isn’t a performance enhancer and that it’s just unfair that one of them gets punished for having a fly smoke.

I feel like I’m bashing my head against a wall when I say this, but whatever medicinal effects weed has, it also has negative effects which are more observable in the bulk of users.

Oh, yeah and it’s mostly illegal all over the western world. Small detail, but pertinent.

(Edit due to fair point in comments.)

As a sport which struggles with its public relations image all the time, mixed martial arts cannot be seen to endorse or accept any forms of deviant drug use. In order to validate its position as a positive sport and healthy lifestyle it needs to distance itself from controversial and illegal practises.

This includes smoking dope. It doesn’t matter that ‘everyone does it’, or ‘it’s maybe a cure for cancer’, ‘I’ve got a doctors line for it to keep me chilled out’ or that ‘hemp is a wonder textile with many many uses’ – its still a habit forming, psychologically harmful substance, frowned upon by mainstream society that (thanks to current trends in government regulation) tends to fund organised crime.

Yeah, the UFC need to be more accepting of that…

At the same time, the TRT issue needs addressed. Allowing fighters to inject steroids isn’t cool. It’s just not right. The argument basically boils down to ‘I need steroids because my testosterone is low’ which in effect handicaps ‘clean’ fighters who have to live with their inbuilt reserves of testosterone and don’t benefit from the muscle growth and recovery time advantages of TRT.

Given that there is a strong suggestion that reduced testosterone that GETS you a TRT exemption can be caused by prior illegal steroid use that didn’t come with a doctor’s note and the idea of rewarding cheats and effectively punishing fighters who do it right gains ever more weight.

The bottom line is this – MMA needs to be clean. It needs to be about skills and training facing off in the cage. It needs to be about heart. It needs to be a beacon for martial arts as a positive, healthy lifestyle. Being in any way permissive of recreational or sports advantage drugs isn’t going to move the sport forward, and that’s what we all really want, right?

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2 thoughts on “Drugs – Zero Tolerance

  1. As a sport? Absolutely. As a community? I think you go too far. Personal responsibility over community policing would be my line, so that if someone chooses to indulge in recreational drug use, that’s fine, but they don’t then get to compete against those who have kept themselves clean for the purposes of competition.

    I do think you are conflating two (possibly more) issues in the post. The community would be far better served to keep the issues of drug use that affects competition separate from drug use per se. It’s when an individual chooses to compete professionally that the two overlap — and then that individual knows that they have a choice to make. Professional sport is about sacrifice. And it seems to me that one of the sacrifices that must be enforced is the necessity of forgoing recreational drug use that one might otherwise have indulged in in order to be eligible to compete on a level playing field with other professionals.

    Finally: demonising recreational drugs by cherry-picking outdated studies that support your view of their pernicious effects helps no one. The logical fallacy of pointing to current global illegality of specific drugs (which is not, in fact, true) as evidence for truth (the ‘naturalistic fallacy’) also undermines your argument, and serves only to confuse the message.

    • Good points Rob. I don’t actually demonise recreational drugs, indeed I’ve often commented on how I think all drugs should be legal for personal use. I’ve partaking of them myself and spent the majority of my adult life in a social circle where weed and class A’s weren’t exactly rare.

      My judgement on the negative effect of weed is almost entirely based on my own observational evidence, but is secondary to the point that I was making, which was that – drugs are broadly frowned upon by mainstream society, ergo for MMA to be seen to be permissive towards drugs undermines its attempt to become more socially acceptable, financially rewarding for its practitioners etc.

      Of course, PEDS and recreational drugs deserve different approaches, but I believe it’s in the spirit of martial arts that we pull together to stop the rot.

      It’s not about community policing (nobody likes a clipe) but more positive encouragement to do things right.

      If nothing else, as a pro wrestling fan, I REALLY don’t want to see MMA follow the path of ageing stars dropping dead of cocaine/steroid induced heart attacks.

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