by Jeff Cain – MMAWeekly.com
Current UFC Heavyweight Champion Randy “The Natural” Couture doesn’t think steroid use in mixed martial arts is any bigger of a problem than it is in any other professional sport. He attributed much of the issue to the culture of a society always looking for a shortcut.
You cannot turn on a news telecast lately where the topic of steroids in sports isn’t being discussed. If it’s not Chris Benoit and professional wrestling’s policies on steroid use, it’s Barry Bonds breaking Hank Aaron’s home run record and Bonds’ alleged steroid use stemming from the Balco debacle.
But how big of an issue is it in MMA? Couture commented, “I don’t think it’s any bigger of an issue in our sport than any other sport, and I think of all the sports out there, mixed martial arts, and the UFC in particular has chosen to run toward regulation. The commissions deal pretty harshly with these athletes that come up positive.”
Couture continued, “Unfortunately, our society, we’re always looking for a shortcut. Athletes are always looking for a shortcut. They want results now, and they don’t always want to pay the price. As long as that’s the case and there’s a lot of money at stake, guys are going to take the risk.”
The media spotlight and steroid coverage turned towards MMA after Royce Gracie and professional football player turned “fighter,” Johnnie Morton, tested positive following K-1’s June 2 card in Los Angeles; mainly due to Johnnie Morton being a recognizable name to the mainstream media.
Twenty days later, Phil Baroni tested positive following his Strikeforce middleweight championship bout with Frank Shamrock in San Jose.
The media attention intensified when UFC Lightweight Champion Sean Sherk and his opponent, Hermes Franca, tested positive following their UFC 73 title bout in Sacramento.
The UFC heavyweight champ stated, “It’s odd to me that a lot of these positive tests are happening in the state of California. So I’m curious to see how Sean Sherk’s appeal comes out and what exactly are the testing procedures in California that so many of these guys in California are coming up positive. I don’t know if their protocol is different, or what the deal is going on in California, but something seems to be up there.
“I think overall our sport and our athletes are doing a good job. Can you imagine what would happen if they tested every football player that played in every NFL game? What kind of mess would there be?”
Ten out of Randy’s last eleven fights have been for a UFC title. He’s provided his fair share of samples to athletic commissions to be tested. That coupled with his extensive background in international wrestling competition and the U.S. Olympic wrestling team makes Couture somewhat of an authority on testing procedures and policies.
Asked how MMA steroid testing stacks up against international doping policies, Couture answered, “The protocol isn’t nearly as strict. My experience with random testing and the handbook that you get from the U.S. Olympic Committee on banned substances and the explanation of the testing procedures, the out of competition and in competition testing that’s done is very, very rigorous, very strict.
“The commissions do a pretty good job. They’re basically attached to you. As soon as you finish that fight you have a commissioner that’s right by your side and he follows you everywhere you go and watches everything you do until you give that sample in the cup. You’re right there. You witness them sealing everything up and putting everything away. I’m not saying it’s faulty or that it’s bad. I don’t think that it is. It’s certainly not nearly as strict as what I’ve seen with the USCO.”