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Thursday, 04/05/2012, 01:00 pm

Editorial Spotlight | Overeem's Failed Test Brings PED Problem In MMA To Light


I have been a fan of K-1, MMA, and of course the UFC for a long time. There is nothing a true fight fan likes more than to watch the biggest, the baddest, and the most technically skilled fighters go toe-to-toe. For those of you that train in the martial arts and aspire to be a fighter, you know how difficult it is to break into the biggest mainstream promotion, the UFC. New young fighters, veterans, and even the average gym tough guys want their shot at proving themselves in front of the world. The UFC is home to only the best fighters in the world, a motto that they pride their promotion on. Getting the recognition and building your fight record to make it to the UFC is not an easy task. There are critics around every corner, dissecting your every performance, questioning whether you have beaten worthy adversaries, or whether your performances were the result of an unfair advantage.

There is one man, that with more triumphs than struggles, has broken into the UFC with enormous momentum behind him. Alistair Overeem, the newest high-profile UFC heavyweight, has done what a legend like Fedor Emelianenko has failed to do: make it to the UFC.

After receiving his conditional license from the Nevada State Athletic Commission following a missed drug test incident, the former Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion, K-1 World Grand Prix Champion and Dream Heavyweight Champion, battered former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar with a first round TKO to earn his shot at the title. This was Overeem’s first UFC fight, and his first UFC victory.

The sky was the limit for Overeem, arguably the most menacing striker on the planet. He was to face standup expert and current UFC heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos for the title on May 26 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The matchup was a fans’ dream, seeing two of the most skilled strikers stand and trade for the heavyweight title. Would Overeem’s K-1 style or Dos Santos’s boxing prevail in what was sure to be an explosive main event on a stacked all heavyweight card. I knew I wanted to buy tickets and book a flight for this war, how could I miss it?

But when I heard Wednesday that Alistair Overeem had failed his random drug test due to a 10:1 ratio of excessive testosterone, I was glad I didn’t make the purchase. As a fight fan, my dreams were shattered. I have been an “Ubereem” fan for years, watching him smash opponents with the left-hook, the huge knees, the brute strength, and the scary arm shaking walk-down he does before he throws a devastating combo. He was just too powerful and too technical for any opponent, and they knew it. I wanted him to win the title. I wanted him to show the doubters that his horse meat diet was to blame for his success, not PEDs.

UFC President Dana White is furious with the situation and the Dos Santos camp has stated it is up to the Nevada State Athletic Commission what happens next. It is doubtful Overeem will be allowed to fight for the title and may even face a possible UFC cut. Even if Alistair Overeem magically solves this situation and can still fight in the UFC, I’m unsure if it would be the same Alistair. This kind of stress, embarrassment, and controversy is going to follow him for the rest of his career. His recent charge with battery was one thing, but PEDs are frowned upon by fighters and fans, or are they?

A who’s who list of popular fighters have tested positive for PEDs: Chael Sonnen, King Mo, and now Alistair Overeem, to name some recents. Sonnen almost defeated a legend, tapping out to Anderson Silva in the final minutes of a middleweight title fight only to test positive for PEDs afterwards. But as you may know, he is slated to have a rematch against Silva at UFC 147. The nature of his PED use has to do with alleged low levels of testosterone and the incident was blamed on testosterone replacement therapy.

If a man has low testosterone levels does that mean he should be given the key of exception to the rules? In Sonnen’s case, he was simply suspended and slapped on the wrist, but his career remained unharmed. The argument is that testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), which Sonnen and other fighters are administered by their physicians, only brings testosterone levels back to normal ranges. The Nevada State Athletic commission allows a 6:1 level of testosterone, and Overeem had a 10:1, which is above 1:1, which in theory would be normal. I’m no doctor, nor a hormone expert, so I digress.

Do I believe Overeem will eventually blame his failed drug test on testosterone replacement therapy? Eh, maybe, maybe not. I am not saying TRT is considered an “excuse” by no means either, but you might be hearing that term thrown around more than usual in the future.

Dana White and UFC are for sure going to be doing a company crackdown on drug testing after this incident. Too many high profile fighters have been failing drug tests, whether it be for marijuana or testosterone. My question for the future of the company is: are you going to continue to allow fighters to participate in testosterone replacement therapy? It would only sound logical that if you continue to allow TRT, fighters will continue to either miss drug tests or fail them all together. That kind of unreliability is detrimental to the sport, not to mention bothersome for the fans. We’re here to watch fights. I long for the day I can stop being glued to Twitter, hoping a fighter isn’t pulled from the card because of a failed drug test.

The UFC, state commissions, and fans alike either need to accept the fact that fighters are going to be administered TRT and may or may not pass their random drug tests, or they need to have a zero tolerance policy. The UFC shouldn’t give select fighters a chance after a failed drug test because of a mishap with TRT because they almost beat a legend. Just like in the education system, a failing grade is a failing grade, regardless if I “forgot” to use my calculator.

Overeem now is bothered by the same critics’ question that Chael Sonnen is bothered by: would they be the same fighter without PEDs or TRT?

I can’t answer all these questions for the fans, for the UFC, or for the commissions. But I can bring these questions to light for the industry to think about in a time where “PEDs” and “TRT” are more common words than “title shot”.

I wish the best for Overeem and his team. He has worked very hard to make it to the UFC and I would hate to see an incident such as this ruin his future and potential shot at becoming UFC heavyweight champion. There is much work to be done to make the fight game a fair, reliable, and drama free industry. We can only attempt to start now.

- By Edward Fernandez

Editors Note: Welcome Edward Fernandez to the Penn Nation people. He is a new writer here at BJPENN.COM so remember the name and show him some love!

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