On March 27, following a news conference in Las Vegas hyping UFC 146, half a dozen fighters were subjected to unannounced tests for drugs of abuse and, more to the point, the performance-enhancing variety.
Alistair Overeem, long the subject of speculation in regards to performance-enhancing drug use, did not.
According to the Nevada State Athletic Commission, Overeem rendered a smoking gun of a testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio.
(The NSAC allows for a 6:1 ratio, 50 percent higher than the World Anti-Doping Agency standard. Overeem’s elevated T/E ratio was 14:1, according to the commission.)
Ironically, the last person who should have been caught off guard by the randomness of the commission's request is Overeem. The Dutch heavyweight was well aware that prior to June he owed the NSAC two urine tests at times and places of their choosing.
You remember why?
Overeem, 31, took a month to provide a suitable urine sample following a request by the NSAC leading up to his fight versus Brock Lesnar on Dec. 30. The muscular heavyweight had 48 hours from the date of the request, Nov. 17, to get himself to an accredited facility. He did not do so until Dec. 14.
A murky story led the NSAC to issue Overeem a conditional one-year license. Commissioners, right to be wary, decreed that Overeem submit himself to further testing. He was clean the rest of the way leading up to his destruction of Lesnar, earning a title shot against dos Santos that brought him back to Las Vegas just over a week ago.
Overeem, who hasn't addressed the NSAC's allegations of an elevated T/E ratio, had to consider the possibility that he would get tested.
Overeem claimed on multiple occasions that he never used performance-enhancing drugs. His massive build, the “Ubereem” effect, was a product of eating well and lifting weights.
Yet, after all that posturing, he’s seemingly dirty.
So what happened? Why the positive result? One of the worst bets in Vegas history? Was Overeem too arrogant to consider the possibility of a positive test? A false positive? What?
Overeem deserves an opportunity to respond. But will a commission that already felt toyed with remain open to whatever he has to tell them? I tend to think not. Presuming Overeem doesn’t have an unbelievably convincing argument, he’ll lose that conditional license, and perhaps even his place in the UFC. Oh yes, he’ll have to answer to his promoter too, which just unveiled its marketing campaign for UFC 146 as tickets went on sale Friday.
UFC president Dana White learned of the news while speaking on a conference call with Canadian media and was understandably apoplectic.
How could this happen? Fighters have to be so stupid to use, he said.
After being around Overeem over the years, I'm comfortable saying he doesn't come across as a stupid man. Flying into Nevada, owing the commission two tests the way he did, odds were good they’d come calling.
Overeem's test had to be the least surprising pop quiz in history.
Yet he failed.
The thing is, one could argue that UFC’s mixed-messaging on PEDs is partly to blame. At a minimum it’s become a source of growing and legitimate criticism leveled at the organization.
Take Brazilian Thiago Silva, for example. Not only did he use steroids, he attempted to deliver fake urine to Nevada officials to cover it up. And yet next week, in his first bout back, he's headlining UFC's debut event in Sweden.
If Overeem is indeed guilty of what's been accused, the UFC should do to him what they needed to do to Silva and others of this ilk. Use is rampant and the only thing that will shake fighters out of feeling like a.) it's OK to do or b.) they have to in order to compete, is alter the perception that taking this stuff is how business is done.
You do that by shaking the earth, rattling the status quo.
And isn't that exactly how White and Lorenzo Fertitta have operated the UFC for the last decade? Yet White said recently it's "impossible" to keep tabs on the drug-enhancing proclivities of some 375 fighters he has under contract. The man who wants to make MMA the biggest sport in the world claimed something was "impossible," which I didn't think was possible.
Let's give White the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it is logistically impossible and fiscally impractical to monitor everyone all the time. Maybe White is also correct when he says the matter of testing fighters belongs in the hands of the regulatory bodies, not promoters. But isn't there something Zuffa, in its role as the sport's dominant institution, could do?
Common sense -- i.e. use, get caught, bye bye -- would be a much better option and deterrent than anything currently in place -- i.e. use, get caught, come back following suspension and receive a rich fight. Repeating the latter accomplishes nothing except fulfilling some people's definition of insanity. It could be argued all this actually serves as a deterrent to preventing this sort of stuff.
Absent that, expect this garbage to persist until, eventually, something not so trivial as losing a chance to crown the UFC heavyweight titleholder as MMA's linear heavyweight king for the first time in years (a pending reality when Overeem was set to meet dos Santos) is lost. Nothing is guaranteed, of course, but it sure seems headed that way.