Opinion & Analysis
JARSULIC'S BLOG: More on Steroids
By Mike Jarsulic, MMATorch Columnist
Jul 20, 2007, 11:40
Updated: July 20, 2007 - 11:40 AM
Steroids are in the headlines again. Yesterday, it was announced that Sean Sherk had failed his drug test for Nandrolone Metabolite, a byproduct of a steroid commonly sold as Deca-Durabolin. The news comes as a pretty big blow to the UFC as Sherk has been suspended for one year and will probably be stripped of his title as UFC Lightweight Champion. As I pointed out with Royce Gracie's drug test failure last month, Deca, while a relatively safe steroid, is one of the worst steroids to use in competitive sports due to the fact that it has a 15 day half-life. Thus, it can take more than a year to completely clean out your system after a cycle of Deca.
As the day progressed, I also learned that Sherk's opponent, Hermes Franca, had also failed his drug test for Drostanolone, a steroid more commonly known as Masteron. Masteron is a steroid used as a cutter, similar to Winstrol. Other than building lean muscle, Masteron can also be used to increase aggression and is normally stacked with Testosterone.
While Sherk's failure is more newsworthy since he is the Lightweight Champion, I find Franca's failure to be more interesting due to his statement that was released yesterday. According to Franca, he took the drug for theraputic purposes, particularly to help him get past an ankle injury and compete. In my opinion, this raises an interesting question about whether steroids should be legal in MMA if they are prescribed for theraputic use.
As with most competitive sports, steroids are illegal in MMA. However, no one has yet to prove that the use of anabolic/androgenic agents provide a competitive advantage in MMA other than circumstantial evidence. For example, is it really a valid argument that Gan McGee would have beaten Tim Sylvia at UFC 44 if Sylvia had not taken Winstrol? Until someone can present a valid data-driven analysis proving that the use of steroids plays a factor in the result of a fight, I will continue to have a hard time considering the use of steroids to be cheating.
What should be done in this case is the continued testing of fighters for anabolic/androgenic steroids. However, the tests should not be used to punish fighters, but to conduct a study on the effects on the outcome of the fights. If the study yields that the use of steroids give fighters a competitive advangtange, then I have no problem with them being banned throughout the sport. Until that occurs, I do not see how anyone can be angry, upset, or disappointed about the use of steroid use in the sport.
Updated: June 23, 2007 - 12:30 PM
After watching last night's Strikforce/EliteXC pay-per-view, I was thoroughly entertained by almost all aspects of the card. The only thing about that Showtime presentation that continues to disappoint me with each outing is the announcing, particularly Jay Glazer. Throughout last night's show, Glazer's commentary was both inaccuarate and degrading to the fighters. In some cases, Glazer tried to get himself over as a tougher man than the actual competitors.
In the opening match of the pay-per-view broadcast, Glazer ran down Victor Valenzuela when he criticized him for tapping out to a heel hook. He explained, doing his best Bas Rutten impersonation, that the heel hook is only a painful hold and cannot do much damage. It's too bad that Glazer got his leg locks shuffled somewhere inside his head, since a heel hook is actually a very dangerous lock. A lot of Jiu-Jitsu schools have banned the use of the heel hook in training because there is a high probability of injury to the knee from the hold. The real danger of the heel hook lies in the fact that the pain in manageable to most until serious damage occurs.
The other instance of Glazer's ineptitude as a color guy occured during the fight between Josh Thomson and Nick Gonzalez. In this case, Glazer criticized Gonzalez for tapping out to a rear naked choke in the first round. Even though it was obvious that there was no escape for Gonzalez, Glazer was adamant that he should have held on until he passed out and insinuated that tapping out was not honorable. A few years back, I attended a seminar ran by Prof. Pedro Sauer. After demonstrating a technique (I forget which one), I asked him to show me the best escape for it. He responded by tapping the mat and explained to me that it is better to work on avoiding a position in the first place rather than to spend hours drilling escapes. I rewatched the Thomson-Gonzalez match this morning and have determined that Gozalez was stuck and had the choice of tapping out or passing out. I'm not sure what Gonzalez would have proved if he has just allowed himself to be choked unconscious.
Hopefully, someone at Showtime with realize that Jay Glazer's ineptitude is both bad for their product and the sport of mixed martial arts. He is nothing more than a failed MMA fighter that has some experience doing sideline reports for the NFL. As a color commentator, he comes across as insecure with his place in mixed martial arts as Marlon Sims did on this season's Ultimate Fighter. On a final note, both Glazer and Sims have lost by submission before. There's nothing wrong with tapping out, unless you are a hypocrite about it.
Updated: June 16, 2007 - 2:30 AM
Steroids in sports has always been an issue that has interested me. While I do get sick of hearing the endless analysis of it when it comes to Major League Baseball at times, it is a topic that provides a lot of strong arguments.
After hearing that Gracie failed for Nandrolone, my response was "so what". Nandrolone is a steroid that can be used for building muscle, treating disease, and rehabbing injuries. There will be traces of Nandrolone in the blood stream for 18 months after taking it, which has made it unpopular among athletes that are drug tested. The real question that we should be asking ourselves is "Does it boost performance?" The answer to that question is that we really don't know. There is only a small sampling of athletes in any sport, let alone MMA, that have failed drug tests for Nandrolone, so it is impossible to compile any type of study to determine the effects on the performance in a fight.
One of the problems with the Major League Baseball steroid situation is the media reaction to the fact that steroids have tarnished the game. I laugh every time I hear some talking head say that steroid have allowed someone to hit a ball 15 feet further than normal. Last year, Baseball Prospectus did a study (http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=4845) on the effects of steroids in creating power spikes among hitters. The study was data-driven and provided interesting results. Through the application of historical data, the author was able to show that power spikes is the "Juiced ERA" did not deviate from other time frames throughout the history of the game. Due to the fact that we don't have a lot of historical data on MMA, it is impossible to do a similar study and come up with conclusive results.
Over the past several years, the steroid issue has really turned into both a government and media witch hunt to out players that have or may taken a performance enhancing drug. Some believe that Barry Bonds should have an asterisk next to his name in the record books, even though he has never failed a test for anabolic steroids. The Nevada State Athletic Commission determined, with evidence to the contrary, that marijuana aids your performance in MMA competition when they changed the result of the Diaz/Gomi fight.
While Gracie may have used performance enhancing drug prior to his defeat of Kazushi Sakuraba, we really have no evidence to question the outcome of fight.
Updated: June 11, 2007 - 7:15 PM
This past weekend, Tommy Morrison made his "MMA" debut by defeating John Stover in a glorified boxing match. While the fight took place inside a cage and the combatants used Vale Tudo gloves, the match was not really mixed martial arts in any way. The rules the fight was contested under prohibited ground fighting, kicks, elbows, and knees. In the end, Morrison was victorious via a knockout after about two minutes of action.
In 1996, Morrison was denied his boxing license in the state of Nevada for testing positive for HIV. For eleven years, Morrison sat out the prime of his boxing career. In December 2006, Morrison was granted a boxing license in West Virginia and had claimed that the test given to him by Nevada was a false positive. Apparently, Morrison had taken an HIV test by the Arizona Boxing Commission that came up negative. In February of this year, he returned to the ring at Mountaineer Racetrack in Chester, WV and defeated John Castle by knockout in the 2nd round.
Last week, The Arizona Republic reported that Morrison's former agent, Randy Lang, had quit his position because the Phoenix blood tests were falsified. There was also an incident in Texas in April where Morrison was denied a boxing license because his blood work did not arrive on time.
Do I think Tommy Morrison is HIV positive? To tell you the truth, I don't know. However, there are too many red flags for me to believe that he should be competing on events that are not regulated by a commission, such as the fight this past weekend that took place on a reservation. When Morrison tested positive for HIV, he was not suspended by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Instead, he was denied license to compete in Nevada. Being denied a license does not carry over to other states like a suspension would, but Morrison gave up his prime as a fighter and was never licensed in another state. Furthermore, the probability of a false positive HIV test is about 1 out of 1400, which is a very small probability.
It's sad that some promoters will put a lot of people at risk in order to make some easy money. A responsible promoter would look for Morrison to receive a license in a state with a powerful athletic commission, such as Ohio, California, or Nevada. Until then, both MMA and boxing promoters should err on the side of caution and refuse to use him on their events.
Updated: May 2, 2007 - 11:30 PM
Today on CBS Sportsline, Mike Freeman wrote an article praising boxing and calling MMA fighters a bunch of "thugs and ruffians". He also said that an MMA match is basically two bouncers entering a cage to "kick the other guy in the nuts." To fully understand why this article was written, it imperative to look into the past of Mike Freeman.
In July 2003, Freeman held a position as a sportswriter with the New York Times. He is famous for breaking the story about academic fraud allegations against Maurice Clarett, a running back for Ohio State University. Freeman received a tip from a teaching assistant that Clarett was receiving preferential treatment from a professor. An investigation into the allegation revealed no proof of academic misconduct.
In January 2004, Mike Freeman accepted a position with the Indianapolis Star. Throughout the hiring process, Freeman claimed that he was a graduate of the University of Delaware. Upon further investigation, it was determined that Freeman had indeed attended the University of Delaware, but he had never graduated. Shortly thereafter, Freeman resigned from his new position.
In my opinion, Mike Freeman is the worst type of reporter that you can come across. He claims that "UFC has no credibility" and that "[I]t appeals to the lowest common denominator of human existence". Maybe he should look in the mirror. His past lies have shown Freeman to have little or no credibility. His article on MMA is just further proof that he is willing to write anything to further his own cause. The article was poorly researched with very little attempt made to state the facts. Hopefully, Freeman has ruined his reputation enough in recent years that his lies will fall on deaf ears.
Updated April 27, 2007 - 1:00 PM
Last night's episode of The Ultimate Fighter was, in my opinion, the weakest of the current season. I contribute this mostly to the fight and the aftermath, which highlighted a major problem in MMA.
This week's fight featured Andy Wang, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt who has trained with the Machado Brothers, taking on Brandon Melendez, an Elite Performance fighter who trains with Jeremy Horn. Within the first 90 seconds of the fight, it was obvious that Melendez was the better striker. In order to win the fight, Wang's best best was to take the action to the ground and try his luck there. While this seemed to be obvious to everyone, Wang did not seem to pick up on it. For two rounds, Wang got picked apart by Melendez on his feet, throwing only overhand rights in an attempt to score a one-punch knockout. In the background, you could hear B.J. Penn yelling for Wang to shoot in for a takedown. Except for attempting to close the distance for a brief instant in round 2, Wang ignored his coach.
After the fight, Wang broke down in the corner, disappointed in his performance. His explanation for standing the entire fight was to prove he could knock Melendez out. In mixed martial arts, we have seen that styles make the match. Therefore, a fighter should fight to his strengths and his opponent's deficiencies. Lately, we have seen a lot of great fighters lose due to having a poor game plan. Fabricio Werdum's performance against Andrei Arlovski is another example of this trend.
Airing on the ION network this Saturday at 9:00 PM/EST will be Cage Rage 21. The card features the following matches:
Murilo Rua vs. Alex Reid
Evangelista Santos vs. Jame Zikic
Vitor Belfort vs. Ivan Serati
Tank Abbott vs. Gary Turner
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