UFC NEWS – Nothing to Hide: Voluntary Drug Tests to Clean Up the Sport?

December 27, 2011 5:30 am by Dan Harvey

Margaret Goodman, founder of The Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA), recently created a program for boxing and MMA that allows fighters to sign up for unannounced drug testing by the organization. Test results would be forwarded to state commissions whom would review and penalize fighters for extraneous substance violations.

The former ringside doctor for the Nevada Athletic State Commission knew the fight game’s regulation of PED’s was shabby to say the least. “When I first started talking to people, I saw that (doping) was rampant and largely ignored by many state commissions, who do little to no testing.” Goodman’s adamant stance stems from the fact that out-of-competition drug testing is rare in combat sports, and that athletes are allowed up to three days’ notice before being reviewed, allowing them to clean out their system in time to avoid repercussions.

VADA, a nonprofit organization, looks to change the standard of drug testing by using more effective methods of screening. Many state commissions test fighters for TE levels (testosterone vs. epitestosterone in a human body). Simply put, the use of a synthetic testosterone boosts testosterone to abnormal levels, while epitestosterone levels remain the unaltered. Rather than use this less expensive procedure, VADA will use a more costly carbon isotope inspection that can detect the use of steroids up to two weeks before a fight event (blood tests will also be included to check for human growth hormone and hematocrit levels).

The suggestion of using carbon isotope testing ironically stemmed from Victor Conte, founder of the Bay Area Lab Co-Operative (BALCO), who was notorious for supplying steroids to professional athletes such as Barry Bonds, Bill Romanowski, and Marion Jones. After serving four months in prison for his illegal actions, Conte took the positive out of the negative from his life decisions.

“Because of difficult lessons I’ve learned from personal consequences, I’ve been a strong sports anti-doping advocate for more than five years now… I did an interview with Dr. Margaret Goodman about 18 months ago regarding the rampant use of drugs in combat sports. This is when we first discussed the idea of a voluntary anti-doping program such as VADA. I’ve been an enthusiastic and vocal supporter of this groundbreaking concept from the beginning.”

VADA uses UCLA’s Olympic Analytical Laboratory, a renowned lab accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency. One of VADA’s highly regarded scientists, Rodrigo Aguilera, was responsible for testifying in Floyd Landis’ appeal of his positive doping test that denied him the 2006 Tour de France victory. With athletes’ drug tests being in good, honest hands, Golden Boy Promotions signed a deal this week to test welterweights Victor Ortiz and Andre Berto for their upcoming rematch on Feb 11th in Las Vegas.

“I think this is going to explode on to the scene, and I see it taking over,” Tony Morgan, Berto’s trainer, told FOXSports.com. “We are excited to be the first event VADA is working.”

VADA isn’t just looking to regulate a level playing field. “There are cheaper way of doing things, but we also care about the health of the fighter,” Goodman said. With pressure to perform, mixed with the health risks involved in using PEDs (including death), some athletes are unable to stop and save themselves. In light that the organization is voluntary to join, hopefully many athletes will take part in VADA’s testing to make sure they are healthy, and to put pressure on those who are abusing combat sports.

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