Chris Leben's steroid suspension got me thinking about how the UFC deals with banned substances. Overall they do an adequate job of testing and their suspensions are stern compared to other sports. However, I think there is room for improvement. Here is my proposal for regulating banned substances.
1. Random testing throughout the year.
-Instead of only testing fighters when they fight, there should be an independent organization monitoring fighters throughout the year. Most banned substances work in a cycle format. Meaning you take the substance for a period of time, stop, then begin again at a later date. This leads fighters to delude themselves into thinking they can get away with it because they are not actively taking the banned substances when the fights and tests occur. Random testing throughout the year would help solve this problem. Fighters would be less likely to take a cycle of steroids two months from a fight if they had to worry about a random test popping up at any time.
2. Educate the trainers.
-The amount of MMA trainers setting up shop across the United States is shocking. Three years ago a gym would direct you to their techno kickboxing class if you asked about MMA training. Now we have Mixed Martial Arts training centers opening up like McDonald's restaurants every where you look. There needs to be an effort to make sure all these new trainers are included in the education effort. I think the trainers should even be the focus. Educate them about the banned substances, alternatives, signs a fighter is using, etc. They are the ones who are working closely with the fighters each day. There is a better chance fighters will listen to the message if it comes from their trainers.
3. Fine trainers with multiple offenses.
-If fighters from a particular training center repeatedly test positive for banned substances, the head trainers should be fined along with the fighters. When you agree to train a fighter, it is your responsibility to keep them healthy. Actively or passively participating in the training of a fighter on a banned substance should have a consequence.
4. Change the weigh-in rules.
-This might seem odd to include on the list, but give me a minute and you'll understand. One of the reasons fighters use banned substances is to lose weight. Stanozolol, the steroid Chris Leben was suspended for taking, is an example of a banned substance used to cut weight. This is not limited to steroids, as diuretics are often used as well. A way to subvert this problem is to change the weigh-in procedures and rules. If a fighter weighs in over their weight limit, they should have a larger window to lose the excess weight. Forcing fighters to go to extreme measures to lose those last few pounds is not good for the fighter or the sport. In the end the fights suffer. I'm not going to sit here and act like I know exactly how much time should be given. All I know is it needs to be increased, so fighters can do it safely without burning themselves out for the following night's event.