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Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Jones: The face of anti-doping campaign?

By Josh Gross

In a world defined by Jon Jones, he wouldn't have been asked to defend the UFC light heavyweight title against Dan Henderson.

Well, I presume not because in the absence of regularly injecting steroids (i.e. approved testosterone replacement therapy) Henderson, 41, couldn't, by his own admission, marshal the physical force to do what he's done the last few years.

And based on statements Jones made during a media conference call Tuesday -- essentially, athletes should not take the sort of stuff that helped Henderson extend his career, make a lot of money, and affirm a legacy as one of mixed martial arts all-time greats -- the 25-year-old champion comes off less than sympathetic regarding the challenger’s predicament.

Though it highlights the downside of a hardline policy I’ve advocated for and speaks to the sporting dilemma intertwined in the TRT debate that’s raged since Chael Sonnen fought Anderson Silva in 2010, Jones’s position is downright Darwinian. In the ultimate survival of the fittest competition, Jones sees drug use -- sanctioned or otherwise -- as counterproductive to competition.

Getting older? Adapt (injectables don’t count) or move on. That’s an admirable and just position.

While the notion of never seeing Henderson fight again is painful, it’s less so than the reality of a growing number of fighters spiking supplements with a little bit of the state-approved hard stuff.

For MMA’s drug culture to take a turn for the better, fighters in high-profile positions need to take a stand. (And, of course, live up to their words). They are the ultimate arbiters here. Zuffa, state regulators, whomever ... they can decree and attempt to hold offenders accountable, yet the onus for change hangs firmly on the fighter.

That’s why if Jones is serious about wishing MMA absent of drugs that, by his estimation, take a decade off the odometer, he should go even further and follow the lead of former two-division champion B.J. Penn, who will officially participate in the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association’s testing program for his bout on Dec. 8.

Jon Jones, without a lot of trouble, could become the face of anti-doping in MMA.
Henderson/Emelianenko
Would Dan Henderson have knocked out Fedor Emelianenko without the aid of TRT?

He’s young and dominant. He makes money in the cage and out. We know how he feels about the topic. So? Just do it. The champ should be that guy. He should stand for something other than lining pockets with cash. He should stand up for himself and stand up for the sport. Leave a lasting legacy of clean competition, one where physical gifts and hard work are enough.

As other top-class fighters echo what Jones said (they have), and, better yet, take action like Penn (more need to), couldn’t this shape a tainted industry to reform when previous efforts led nowhere?

I’m beginning to believe fighters are the only hope.

Commissions across the U.S. have given their seal of approval to use testosterone. Conditions must be met, of course, but nonetheless the precedent is there for all to see. Otherwise, Henderson would not have knocked out Renato Sobral, Rafael Cavalcante, and Fedor Emelianenko. There wouldn’t have been an all-time classic war with Mauricio Rua. None of it. Just fatigue brought on by lowered testosterone levels and, in all likelihood, retirement from competition.

And, hey, I’ll give you this: it’s an awful trade to make. Many fans won’t like it. Promoters surely won’t. The majority of fighters, with paydays to make, would likely be disinclined to move in this direction.

But over the long haul, isn’t it the right play?

Listen to Jones on this one.