As much as we love MMA, most fans willingly admit that the sport is far from perfect.

Poor judging, refereeing and even matchmaking have caused major problems for MMA, but perhaps the most daunting problem in our sport, like so many others, is the use of performance-enhancing drugs (PED’s) among fighters.

International sports stars like Alex Rodriguez, Lance Armstrong and Barry Bonds have had their legacies destroyed due to steroid controversies, but since MMA is still widely considered a niche sport, the top stars that have been busted by athletic commissions have largely been able to avoid any crippling career damage.

Over the last few years, a plethora of high-profile MMA competitors have tested positive for some form of PED’s, most notably former main-event fighters Chael Sonnen and Stephan Bonnar, and despite the fact that it seems inevitable that a fighter caught engaging in some form of doping will be caught, the use of performance enhancers in MMA hasn’t exactly slowed down.

It seems like more high-profile fighters find themselves suspended for some sort of substance abuse every single year, and as the popularity of the sport continues to grow, the more critical the backlash is going to be on offending competitors.

Still, despite the fact that the risk of getting busted for PED’s is at an all-time high, fighters continue to try to gain every little advantage necessary, and it doesn’t seem like it is going to slow down any time soon.

As the sport grows, so do the paychecks and the pressure to succeed, the latter of which can cause fighters to take their chances with PED’s that they otherwise wouldn’t consider using.

This alone is a problem that could eventually cripple the reputation of the fastest growing sport in the world, and due to the reward currently outweighing the risks, it makes the temptation to cheat unbelievably high.

Fighters like Alistair Overeem, Nick Diaz and the aforementioned Sonnen have all been suspended for some reason or another over the last two years, but as we’ve seen the UFC hasn’t exactly punished these high-profile fighters enough to put fear into the hearts of their fellow fighters.

Sure, title shots were taken away and there was a small sample of justice when Overeem was publically blasted by UFC President Dana White, but for the most part if a top contender gets busted, they don’t fall too far out of the title picture.

It may seem like I’m blasting the UFC, but in reality the promotion has the right to do whatever it wants.

After a fighter serves his suspension with the athletic commission that forced them on the sidelines, it’s the UFC’s decision as to whether or not that fighter remains entrenched near the top of the division, and when a fighter is as marketable as a Sonnen or Diaz, it’s hard to justify throwing them too far down the card.

Also, the UFC has shown it has been willing to take the steps necessary to punish fighters in the past, with the most obvious examples being former champions Josh Barnett and Sean Sherk, both of whom were stripped of their titles after failing drug tests.

Sadly, until MMA becomes popular enough in the United States to draw major media attention, the PED problem in the sport isn’t going anywhere. The major promotions in the sport don’t have enough to gain by seriously cracking down on performance enhancers, and it’s going to stay that way for the foreseeable future.

Photo: Fighters such as Stephan Bonnar (L) put their reputations at risk with PED use, but the rewards far outweight the risks (Sherdog)

About The Author

Vince Carey
Staff Writer

Vince Carey has been writing about the sport of mixed martial arts since 2010. Although he is just 21 years old, the Omaha-based writer is looking to provide readers with interesting content on all things related to MMA.