Before the cut that recently bumped Rory MacDonald out of his UFC 152 bout with B.J. Penn, all MMA fans kept hearing about regarding the legend-versus-phenom welterweight bout was the drug testing program of the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency, better known as VADA.
Penn, the former UFC welterweight and lightweight champion, is a noted opponent of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) in mixed martial arts. Subsequently, in the wake of the various failed drug tests that have occurred in recent months and years in the sport, Penn and MacDonald—two men who have never tested positive for a banned substance in their respective careers—voluntarily enrolled in VADA’s testing program. As part of the program, both welterweights volunteered to subject themselves to random drug testing procedures at any time within the eight-week period prior to their bout.
VADA requires anyone involved in their program to provide a daily schedule so that testers may track them down and request a sample. Penn had no problem agreeing to the terms and conditions of the VADA testing program, which has been known to implement the usage of carbon isotope testing—a method of testing which many consider to be a more advanced and more effective way of catching testosterone users because it examines the makeup of testosterone. MacDonald, in turn, showed his willingness to do whatever would have been necessary to make the fight happen.
As far as the recent cut that led to MacDonald’s withdrawal from UFC 152, the cut itself has not softened the stance of Penn in regards to the VADA testing. Penn expressed his desire to keep on going with the program until the fight goes down. Although MacDonald looks to UFC 154 in Montreal this November for the bout to happen, Penn looks to an alternative date for the fight to finally commence. As of now it is unknown exactly when the bout will go down. However, the fight is secondary until we know both men are 100 percent for the bout.
Besides, in the big picture, VADA’s testing program means more for the sport of MMA than some may think.
For a long time, athletes have vocalized their stances against PEDs in sports, and the simple fact is that state athletic commissions do not consistently provide the testing needed to keep the sport clean like VADA’s testing program does. This is not to knock the commissions’ methods of testing, but as VADA’s mission statement explains, the commissions’ state-mandated testing is not comprehensive and not randomized, which allows some users to expel these banned substances from their systems before they compete.
In contrast, the always-evolving methods of VADA and even the World Anti-Doping Agency, find newer, more advanced, and therefore more effective ways of detecting PEDs and other illegal substances in athletes’ bodies. This in turn helps promote a drug-free atmosphere in the sports world because these advancements in drug testing nearly ensure that athletes will not try to abuse banned substances—after all, it is tough to use a PED when technology is changing to where someone will find a way to detect it anyway.
Penn and MacDonald, as clean as they’ve been throughout their careers, did a commendable act in agreeing to this program in the first place because nowadays, there is no definitive way of knowing which athletes are fighting on sheer talent and ability as opposed to fighting on PEDs. As the boxing world can attest to, having lost fights such as Andre Berto vs. Victor Ortiz and Amir Khan vs. Lamont Peterson II due to Berto and Peterson testing positive for substances after enrolling in VADA’s program, VADA knows how to detect PEDs and they know how to determine the amount taken by the athlete.
By enrolling in VADA’s program, Penn and MacDonald are agreeing to do what they need to do in order to prove that they will provide a level playing field come fight time, and they are letting the MMA world know that they are not taking any shortcuts just to add another win to their records.
It’s a stance that more fighters should take if they seriously hope to see something help end PED usage in sports. The more fighters that show their willingness to follow suit, hide nothing, and prove that they are every bit as good as their hype suggests without using a PED to do it, the better things will look for the sport of MMA. Not only will it benefit the sport to have more fighters follow the lead of Penn and MacDonald, but it will also benefit the business side as well.
If more fighters opt to get on board with VADA’s drug testing procedures, they will only further solidify MMA’s status as one of the most legitimate combat sports in the modern world, and at the end of the day, legitimacy is the name of the game.
Photo: B.J. Penn (James Law/Heavy MMA)
Photo: B.J. Penn (James Law/Heavy MMA)