Leben Fails Test, UFC Passes Test

November 4, 2008

News broke across the wire yesterday that UFC Middleweight Chris Leben tested positive for steroids in the aftermath of his bout with Michael Bisping. While the continuing drug test failures of MMA athletes is discouraging, the response by the UFC has to be hailed as a bright spot.

Such a positive response by the UFC wasn’t always a foregone conclusion. In the wake of Sean Sherk’s positive test for steroids, Dana White did an interview with Ryan Hockensmith of ESPN the Magazine that painted a picture of the UFC as woefully unequipped to properly manage the situation, especially in regards to their overseas cards. The overall tone of the interview was one that soft-pedaled the issue.

White’s answers hinted at:

A lack of transparency in the testing procedures

No, nobody tested positive. I’m not lying or B.S.-ing. Nobody tested positive. If they did, I would tell you. The reason it’s never been out there is because nobody ever asked me or Marc Ratner.

A lack of any mechanism (or willingness) by the company to suspend the fighter for a positive test:

ESPN The Magazine: And the biggest thing the UFC plans to do is withhold any extra contract money?

White: What else am I going to do? Kick these guys’ asses? You want to drag these guys and their families into the center of town and stone them? What else can you do? Their lives are f—ed. They lose their ability to make a living for a year. At the end of the day, these guys are stupid for doing steroids.

A general abdication of responsibility for testing to athletic commissions:

Every time we compete, we’re tested by the government. You can’t get more serious about it than that.

The UFC’s handling of the Leben situation gives evidence that at least some of these issue are being addressed so that the UFC has a more pro-active and hands on involvement in the testing process. The UFC should be commended for the evolution of their thinking when handling such cases. A concrete policy that is clearly conveyed to the media and fans is the best remedy to avoid a crisis of confidence that sports like track and field, cycling and Barry Bonds-era MLB faced with performance enhancing drugs.

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