- Brett Okamoto, ESPN Staff Writer
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Alistair Overeem flew to London from Holland this week to submit a urine steroid panel test to comply with an out-of-competition drug test first requested by the Nevada State Athletic Commission on Nov. 17.
Overeem received a conditional license from the NSAC on Monday for his main event fight against Brock Lesnar at UFC 141, despite complications he experienced with initially submitting the drug test.
The UFC heavyweight had been training in Las Vegas prior to Nov. 17 but left the country on that date to support his mother in Holland, who had been previously diagnosed with cancer.
In an exclusive interview with ESPN.com, Overeem discussed the effect these issues have had on his preparations for the fight and how he’s handled ongoing accusations of steroid use.
Q: How have these matters -- your mother’s condition, the relocation of your camp, the issues with the commission -- affected your ability to properly train for this fight?
A: As far as training is concerned, I feel good. I’ve put in the work. The conditioning is there. I started on time with the preparation. This camp has been hectic, but as a champion, you need to deal with these issues. No complaining.
Q: Were you aware, when you signed the contract for this fight, that Nevada tests athletes out of competition and it was possible you would have to submit a urine test months out from the fight?
A: I didn’t know that could happen. Nobody told me. The rules and regulations were unknown to me. The other thing is, how do you get that done in Holland? How do you get that done if you live in China? How do you do that if you’re somewhere else?
Q: Had you known there was a chance the commission would test you out of competition, would you have remained in Las Vegas instead of returning to Holland?
A: My original plan was to fly back and forth -- see how my mother was doing and then go back. But then, she has another test coming up and Christmas was coming, I just figured I’d finish training like I always do in Holland. It was the right thing to go to Holland and support my mother. [If I could go back] I’d do the exact same thing.
Q: Explain the issues you had submitting your test in Holland. What led to the delays and the wrong test being administered?
A: The rules and regulations in Holland are different. Whenever you have a condition here, you go to your doctor. You have to make an appointment. They slipped me through within 24 to 48 hours because it was important. You then get a referral to another facility, where you have to make another appointment. First time I went there, I didn’t have the specifics of the test. I was only told I needed to do a drug panel test. With those instructions, I went to lab and did a test. It took a few days, and the commission responded, “These are not the correct results. You need to do it again.” So I went back to the doctor and he said, “We don’t know how to do that.” I had to go to another agency, which needs a formal request from the organization you’re fighting for to run the test. A combination of factors caused the delay.
Q: Were you ever, at any point in this process, concerned you would not be able to compete against Brock Lesnar on Dec. 30 in Las Vegas?
A: Not really worried, because I did what needed to be done when it was requested. So no, I was not very worried about that.
Q: What is your answer to those who would say it appears this is a cover-up for steroid use?
A: People have accused me of using steroids since I was 17. I remember my first fight, my girlfriend was in the audience, and she told me people, jealous guys, were whispering I was taking steroids. That was when I was 17. I was a middleweight back then. All I can say is my side of the story. When I was 20, I was already a natural heavyweight. I weighed 222 pounds. Cutting the weight to light heavyweight worked out in the beginning, but I couldn’t do a strength and conditioning program and I was dieting all the time. When I made the decision to move to heavyweight, I went on a food program, [and] strength and conditioning program, and I gradually gained weight. Eleven years ago, I was 222 pounds. Now I’m 265. That’s 40 pounds added in 11 years.
Q: Does it bother you that you’ve faced accusations of steroid use throughout your career?
A: I firmly believe everyone is entitled to his/her opinion. We have free speech. If people want to talk that way, let them talk that way. I can’t control what people say. If they want to insinuate things, that’s fine. I’m too occupied with my own career to bother with it.
Q: Do you have a reaction to the Nevada State Athletic Commission not only requesting more prefight tests of you, but also two random tests during the next six months, even if you aren’t fighting in Nevada?
A: It’s unfortunate I had the delays [responding to the out-of-competition test]. I understand it from their side. I turn a lot of stuff into positive. I’m going to do whatever the commission asks me to do. It’s my job. On a positive note, I’ll be the most-tested fighter ever. That takes away the critics’ argument.
Q: Have any of these issues ruined the experience of fighting in the UFC for the first time?
A: That goes back to my attitude. I’m positive. I can turn things around. I don’t see this as a negative. Of course, it’s been a little distraction, but it’s a requirement. In that sense, I love my job. I’ve been fortunate enough to make my hobby my work. I can only see myself as being extremely lucky in doing so.
Q: Do you still intend to hold future training camps in the United States?
A: I’ll be back to Las Vegas to train -- maybe at some other gym. I’ll be training in the States again, though, of course.