Leading up to UFC 235, the narrative has not been around the athletes competing but whether Jones is as good a fighter as his record implies. Why is that? Because of a failed performance enhancement drug (PED) test.
I want to look at this steroid conversation as it relates to a fighter’s legacy. The UFC was an organization that didn’t do steroid testing and allowed TRT (testosterone replacement therapy) at one point. As a fan of mixed martial arts, I would hope that a fighter wouldn’t use PEDs as their usage could possibly allow permanent injuries and the possibility to kill an opponent inside the Octagon.
Steroids/PEDs/TRT are what I call shortcuts that allow a competitor to get a leg up on the competition.
UFC started out-of-competition drug testing on July 1, 2015 in conjunction with local athletic commissions. As a fan, I was happy to hear this because you would want all athletes to be clean and competing on equal grounds. Also on this date, the organization banned TRT.
So how should we look at fighters prior to July 1, 2015?
The is no doubt, UFC had some great fighters as most transitioned from Pride Fighting Championship. Fighters included Ken Shamrock, Vitor Belfort, Rampage Jackson, Randy Couture, Royce Gracie, Tito Ortiz and the world-renowned Chuck Liddell. Although these men set the groundwork for the UFC as we see it today, do we question their legacy as most of these guys fought when there were no drug testing and TRT was allowed, per a doctor’s review?
I would say no we don’t, we just appreciate what they did for the sport.
Today’s athletes are looked at through a different scope now that USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency) testing is conducted more often and the test can detect the most minute steroid use or steroid masking supplements. Once a fighter is “popped” he/she is labeled a cheater, be it right or wrong. Once labeled a cheater, its badge of dishonor a fighter must wear from the day the news is made public and most likely till the day they retire.
But, is this fair?
This is where I think we as fans go too far, if a fighter has been around prior to USADA testing, should we condemn their record prior to testing as all fighters were on the same playing field even though some may have used and some may have not? I think that opinion normally is swayed one way or the other depends, if you like a fighter or not. When Cristiane “Cris Cyborg” Justino failed a drug test, most detractors were quick to say that’s why she was winning and so dominant. What was the excuse after she served her suspension? She was just as dominant and became more of a fan favorite.
I have an answer, it goes back to my premise of depending on the fighter and if you like him/her. Sometimes fans overlook a failed test quickly whereas other times the fighters never seemed to be able to get past it.
I will move to the most controversial figure in the UFC to date, Jon “Bones” Jones. Jones tested positive for clomiphene and letrozole (June 16, 2016), prior to his fight against Daniel Cormier ahead of UFC 200, and he served a year ban. Fans gave him a pass as his skills in the Octagon were simply second to none at this time. As he had beaten the likes of Rampage Jackson, Rashad Evans, Vitor Belfort, Shogun Rua, Ryan Bader, Lyoto Machida and the unbeaten Daniel Cormier. He had become the youngest champion in UFC history and in my opinion one of the most dominant also.
We shift forward to the night of July 29, 2017 after he had beaten Cormier again, this time via knockout. Hours after the fight, Jon tested positive for turinabol. So once again he had to go through the process of proving his innocence. As a fan, I felt he had to be the dumbest guy in the world if he would use a banned substance knowing he would be tested before the fight (test came back negative) and after the fight (failed test) coming off a one-year suspension.
Turinabol been found in several supplements by USADA over the past few years. On September 18, 2017 he was suspended for eighteen months, even though USADA stated “the violation was not intended nor could it have enhanced his performance.” Again, it’s up the public to form their own opinion of Jones. For those that like him, they would defend him and his legacy. For those that don’t, they will forever label him a cheater.
In closing, we as fans have the right to believe what we want regardless of the facts presented to us. PEDs are bad for the sport and shouldn’t be allowed, I think we all can agree on this. What makes us human is our opinions. Some of us choose to make opinions based on objectivity and others make opinions based on emotion and feelings.
PEDs and legacy can be tied together, but that depends on if you like or dislike a fighter which happens to be your personal decision.