by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
In the first part of MMAWeekly’s series on the drug problem in MMA, we looked at the staggering number of fighters who continue to test positive, the growing sanctions by state athletic commissions, and with the possibility of MMA promotions starting to crack down on the fighters who do test positive.
With the revelation on Thursday that both Sean Sherk and Hermes Franca, the participants in the recent lightweight title fight at UFC 73, tested positive for steroids, the numbers continue to grow of high profile MMA participants who are falling back on drugs as a part of their training or recovery to prepare for fights.
In a prepared statement given to MMAWeekly on Thursday, Franca stated, “At this point I was desperate and needed anything I could to get my injury as close to healing as possible and be able to recover from the daily training regimen I was going through. I made the shortsighted choice to hopefully accelerate the healing process and allow me to keep training. Under the pressure of literally not being able to pay next months bills I made a choice. I had to fight and did whatever I could to do so.”
Franca and Sherk are just the most recent in an alarming trend of MMA fighters testing positive for drugs and recently the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) made available the numbers for fighters who have tested positive for illegal drugs from March 31st to July 6 (with Sherk and Franca’s positive tests now being added as well) from all combat sports in the state including mixed martial arts, boxing and kickboxing.
In this report released by the CSAC, it revealed that from 3/31 to 7/6 that mixed martial arts had 20 fighters come back with positive drug tests of some sort, with that number now jumping to 22 with Sherk and Franca. During the same time boxing came back with 5 positive tests and kickboxing had 2 fighters come back with positive drug tests.
Even more alarming than the high number of mixed martial arts fighters coming back with positive tests are the comparisons with boxing when it comes down to the total number of events held in the state and the number of events where fighters were tested. In the reported time period, the state of California had 40 boxing events to 26 MMA events. Of these events, the state tested fighters in 28 of the boxing events and they tested in 17 of the MMA events.
So out of the 17 events that mixed martial arts held in the state of California from March 31st to July 6th, a total of 20 fighters came back with positive tests, while boxing had 28 events where the commission tested fighters and only 5 came back with positive results. The ratio of fighters testing positive in MMA is on the rise and the tests prove this fact.
Also in this report, the state revealed that there were a total of 9 positive steroid tests (11 now with Sherk and Franca) and 17 with drugs of abuse (marijuana, cocaine, etc). 2 additional results were listed with 1 being an adulterated test (the fighter submitting the test altered it with tap water as confirmed by the lab) and 1 result where the fighter refused to take the testing. This trend of fighters coming back with positive tests cannot be ignored much longer.
The longer suspensions are starting to show up and with Sherk and Franca both testing positive with this most recent UFC, the organizations have to see the potential danger involved in letting this trend continue without making major policy changes. With the organizations being privately owned for the most part, they can institute any rules or contract changes that may affect fighter pay or compensation but as of yet, nothing like this has been handed down publicly from any MMA organization.
Within the last two months alone, we’ve seen high profile fighters like Sherk, Franca, Royce Gracie, and Phil Baroni all come back with positive tests, and something needs to change soon before this black eye attracts a government interjection or a sanctioning body like an athletic commission demanding changes before licenses are issued.
Only time will tell when or if these changes will happen. In the meantime, MMA fans everywhere continue to be disappointed by the results they are seeing.