Huge debate has opened up across forums everywhere in the light of recent failed doping tests in the UFC. I’ve seen advocates, anti-dopers and even marijuana advocates weigh in on the debate, it seems everyone has an opinion. First admission must be that we have a drug problem in MMA, where our athletes perception of what they can achieve in the gym is skewed by unnatural athletes they admire, the top guys with rigorous training schedules who proceed to tell everyone they are natural. Go to a local MMA show and you’ll see plenty of amateur and semi pro’s who are all on the “juice” but when the precedence for the top organisation is ambivalence and failure be decisive what do you expect the trickle down to be?
Recent scandals with GOAT Anderson Silva, Nick Diaz and Hector Lombard, respect is rapidly lost for fighters and their host organisation. I often wonder what effect this has on other athletes and the apparently normalisation of doping in MMA. The UFC’s fence sitting is seriously at risk of tarnishing their product and endangering athlete safety especially when their is apparent lying and covering up. Its something I discuss with the fighters I train with a lot.
GSP himself has come out stating “I am not interested to compete if the sport is not clean, that is one of my major concerns.” It’s important that athletes at the top of the sport make such statements.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I find it hard to relate to pro doping coaches and athletes and their are plenty of them, at that moment you decided to dope our personal experience of training has diverged. Worse yet if you continue to base your athletes training or training/nutrition based opinion off doped experiences then I just cannot take you seriously. You are deceiving people and potentially encouraging athletes to engage in that behaviour too. We know all too well doped athletes who have competed well past their prime, the TRT that was rampant for a long time allowed, the like of Chael Sonnen and Dan Henderson to stay in a sport they probably should quit far earlier.
People in my position as a strength coach know the difference in training stress that can be applied if someone natural vs doping, but often the athlete doesn’t and those who write their own programs and schedules will often try to mimic their heroes to potentially disastrous effect. When there are studies showing that steroid use made non exercisers stronger and gain lean mass without effort (7lbs in one study), plus growing evidence of permanent epigenetic change post use, meaning some positive change will stay with you even after coming off. It becomes hard to buy the “hardwork” required nonsense of those who do dope or are fence sitting on the issue, we all work hard! It’s what natural or not ‘successful’ athletes do!
Why anti doping? Why not just legalize it all?
To quote Ross Tucker for the excellent www.sportsscientists.com“As for the complete legalization of doping, that is a post or a series all of its own. What I will say is that I’m not fond of the idea of watching sport when the result may be determined pharmacologically. The problem is that drugs don’t affect people the same way. Just as some people respond well to sleeping tablets, or pain killers, the effect of doping on performance is likely to be highly variable. Now, if a drug improves performance by 0 to 5%, and the natural/physiological differences between athletes is 1 to 2%, then you have a situation where a drug can make a bigger difference than the normal differences between athletes. It would be much like Formula 1 Motorsport, where the difference between cars is larger than the difference between driver ability. The result is that the best (human, anyway) is often undiscernable. Then there is the matter of those who don’t wish to dope. “
Lets face it most people don’t understand steroid usage for performance especially when contrasted to sports like athletics where the impacts of doping are obvious resulting in faster times and greater jumps or bodybuilding where the result is extreme hypertrophy. Sure doping won’t effect skill set, but it allows you to get through those 2 or 3 a day training schedules. You may say ‘its their body they can do what I want’ if you are an influencer just be aware of the ripple effect you have, the same goes with those who just say “everything should be allowed”. But in the case of sport like the UFC it is fighter safety of both the doping and opponents of doped athletes that are at risk. And that is the Key point the way we train in MMA and the way we approach drugs needs an enormous culture shift or this will keep happening. I am in favour of 2 or 4 year bans, enough for an athlete to really consider the risk of their doping activities. Some have called for lifetime bans this is probably too much as it takes an athletes livelihood away from them.
To Quote Vernon Gambetta “No shades of gray regarding drugs, you cannot walk the line. You either are on the side of drugs or opposed to it. For me there is no place for performance-enhancing drugs in sport or anything that remotely resembles them.”
At the end of the day we want a sport that is clean, fair and safe. Being pro drugs or ambivalent about them is being pro rule breaking and you would let someone who was blatantly soccer kicking, head-butting and eye gouging get away with it.
This is an ongoing series of blog posts from guest blogger and Strength & Conditioning coach William Wayland of Powering Through, who works with UFC, Cagewarriors and other high level combat athletes based in Chelmsford, UK. Facebook