Mixed Martial Arts has become big business in recent years, with televised fights, big match ups, and cross overs from the WWE. With any new endeavor, the sport is still figuring out how to govern itself and recently, this has included addressing the growing issue of performance enhancing drugs in the sport. While mixed martial arts fighting doesn’t have the same prominence as major sports like baseball, basketball or football, they do have enthusiastic fans, money to be made, and participants who rely on their sport as a career. It only stands to reason that MMA will face the same troubles as other major sports with the use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), including steroids and, most recently, Human Growth Hormone.
In order to fight consistently and win matches, many fighters were rumored to rely on steroids in the past. Some of the sport’s stars even guesstimate that 50% of fighters use performance enhancing drugs, while one current champion puts the percentage closer to 90%! After all, if there is an advantage that will help fighters train harder and recover from injury, plus be undetected by current drug testing, it would seem silly by some not to take it.
This is where the PED issue in MMA fighting is starting to come to light. In the past, fighters who were accused of doping likely took steroids during training, then weaned off the substances as fight time approached and they knew there would be drug testing. With HGH, there is no urine test, and it’s been difficult to accuse fighters of using a substance that already occurs naturally in their bodies. There is no overarching governing body in MMA like there is in other sports – no Players Associations, or WADA, to bring consistency to the testing regimen. And with a blood test being the only accurate way to detect HGH use, that makes it all the more difficult to institute an effective drug testing program like the one used by Major League Baseball, for example.
Just like every other competitive professional sport, fans, players and owners want a fair and clean fight, one that showcases the athletic skill and ability of the participants. When players and competitors rely on drugs and enhancers in order to perform, it muddies the sport and pits one competitor unevenly against another. With that estimated 90% of competitors allegedly using some form of performance enhancer, how can any MMA fight be a fair one? For the future of MMA fighting to be assured and the sport’s organizations, such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship, to hold consistently fair competitions, the sport is looking to find a way to root out cheaters and get back to the hard fought thrill of victory and the legitimate agony of defeat.