Leben suspended one year for failed drug test

November 30, 2011

Chris Leben has been suspended by the UFC for one year for use of painkillers. Instead of dismissing Leben, it appears the UFC will assist Leben in trying to rehabilitate the middleweight.

According to the USA Today, Leben tested positive for Oxycodone and Oxymorphone on November 5th. Leben lost to Mark Munoz that day at UFC 138. Leben also tested positive for the steroid Stanozolol at UFC 89. Ironically, both tests, and fights, occurred in Birmingham, England.

For his part, Leben acknowledged his problem and released a statement through the UFC:

“I would like to make it known that I fully accept this suspension and apologize for embarrassing the UFC, my friends and family, and sport of mixed martial arts. I’m learning that I’m my own worst enemy sometimes. I can’t succeed in the Octagon or in life behaving this way. I’ve got to make some real changes over the next year and I’m going to focus on getting my life and career back on track. Again, I’m sorry to the UFC and fans that’ve supported me since my days on The Ultimate Fighter.”

Payout Perspective:

For as much as this is a personal problem for Leben, it is a public relations issue for the UFC. Both Leben and the UFC handled it with tact, openness and there seems to be hope that there will be a future for Leben in the UFC.

We have seen in the past the UFC dismiss fighters that have failed drug tests. In this case, while Leben is a repeat offender, the UFC has shown support for him. The fact that Leben released a statement through the UFC shows Leben has accepted his problem and is willing to receive help.

Via the USA Today:

“If he needs professional help, we are going to be there for him,” Zuffa President Dana White said Monday in a statement. “We want to see him succeed not only in the Octagon, but in his personal life.”

Perhaps its the fact that the UFC is now partners with Fox and there are more eyes on how the UFC handles drug testing issues. It could be the type of drug that Leben tested positive. Many professional wrestling fans realize that pain killers have been a major reason for the deaths of many performers. Certainly, the UFC could have released Leben citing his failed drug test and the fact that he is a multiple offender. Yet, from a public relations standpoint, it seems callous to drop Leben, an individual with a self-destructive past, without offering some type of help. It will be interesting to see if this will be the start of a UFC-type Wellness Program similar to the WWE program.

For more info on the subject, Fight Opinion has a detailed article with text of an interview Dr. Johnny Benjamin did with Mauro Ranallo on the use of pain killers in MMA.

5 Responses to “Leben suspended one year for failed drug test”

  1. Assassin on December 1st, 2011 3:39 AM

    Leben is seen as a TUF alum (asset for cards as he has additional fan recognition), hard nose and exciting fighter, and “good guy” to the company. This is why he has been given a 3rd chance. I have no problem with that or the fact that others have not been given that many chances. Hey, life isn’t fair.

    Lad UFC is offering to provide assistance with the drug problem as well.

  2. Jason Cruz on December 1st, 2011 6:26 AM


    I think you are correct. I think that early TUF alums get more leeway. Certainly Bonnar could have been let go a while back but he remains on the roster.

  3. Carlos on December 1st, 2011 7:32 AM

    “Ironically, both tests, and fights, occurred in Birmingham, England.’

    This isn’t ironic – it is coincidence.

  4. Diego on December 1st, 2011 8:14 AM

    Steroids are the worse offense. Abusing painkillers only affects you, but using steroids in a combat sport has serious repercussions for your opponent. The punishment for using PEDs should not be the same as for using non-PED banned substances. For athletes caught abusing drugs (or racking up DUIs), treatment should be offered, with a suspension that can be lifted with the completion of a treatment program. For steroid abusers I think long term bans and forfeiture of purse and bonuses (to be given to the opponent, not the commission) should be applied.

    I like the fact that the UFC is offering to help Chris Leben, but I don’t think it’s beneficial to take this as his “strike 2”. His first strike was steroid use, which should be treated as an entirely different issue than this, though obviously it is not.

  5. Assassin on December 1st, 2011 11:16 AM

    I think Bonnar has more of a future as an announcer than a champion, although he certainly can still be competitive.
    To Diego’s point, you are right it is about the treatment being the main thing and not the number of strikes.

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