Former bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw is currently serving a two-year USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency) imposed ban. The 33-year-old was busted in one of the worst cases of cheating in MMA history.
In the build up to the UFC flyweight title fight with Henry Cejudo, Dillashaw was caught taking recombinant human erythropoietin otherwise known as EPO. According to USADA, the drug is “a synthetic hormone used to stimulate the body’s production of red blood cells, thereby increasing oxygen transport and aerobic power.” Despite his vigorous attempts to cheat his way to victory, Dillashaw came up short in against Cejudo. In just 32 seconds “Triple C” took out his challenger and retained his title in emphatic fashion.
A failed drug test quickly followed for the defeated Dillashaw, who hasn’t been allowed in the octagon since.
He’ll be eligible to return to the UFC in the early part of 2021, but should the UFC allow him to?
The case for his return is a simple one. First and foremost, he is an elite-level talent who has showcased immense ability over many years. Dillashaw is also one of the biggest and brightest stars in the UFC’s lower weight divisions. From a talent and commercial perspective, of course they’ll want to retain his services no matter what he’s done. The former Alpha Male fighter will be involved in massive fights on his return that will generate the company millions. Match-ups against Urijah Faber, Dominick Cruz, Henry Cejudo and Jose Aldo all await the shamed star next year. Despite his crime, once his time has been served, he should be free to do whatever he likes. After admitting his cheating, accepting his ban and serving the sentence handed down to him, many will believe he’s repented for his wrongdoings.
However, not everyone is of this thinking and with good reason, here’s why.
This is one of the most blatant cases of cheating. Dillashaw has been praised for owning up to his wrong doings but in reality, he had no choice. EPO is not something you find in a tainted supplement, there is no other reason than cheating that this substance would be in his body. His confession was more a case of being caught red handed rather, than someone who is truly sorry for what they have done. Whilst two years may seem a sufficient amount of time served to some, this is actually a very lenient ban.
Whilst it may only be Dillashaw’s first offence, the magnitude of his cheating should have been taken into consideration when handing down his punishment. Fighters spend more than two years out of the octagon with injury or contract issues all the time. Dillashaw has openly admitted to using his suspension to heal up nagging injuries, it appears to him to be some well-earned time out for recovery rather than a serious sanction that will convince him or any other athlete to fight clean moving forward. He’ll now return fresh, well rested, with his injuries healed and head straight into top level fights. Make no mistake, Dillashaw will make millions. More eyes than ever before will be on his next fight, as unfortunately controversy sells.
The case of Dillashaw is a difficult one that will continue to cause much debate in the MMA community. Whatever side you come down on, with under a year left until his return, it’s time to accept he’ll certainly remain with the sports leading promotion.
But, USADA should think about imposing more harsh punishments in future, as I doubt the case of TJ Dillashaw has made him or anyone else reconsider cheating in the future.