–Kenny Rice

Most of you who are reading this I doubt have to submit to a drug test every time you work. But if you are a professional MMA fighter reading this, it’s all on you. The fighters are responsible to know what is going with and in their body leading up to a fight. If something illegal is found in the pre-fight exam or afterwards, it’s your fault.

The talented Nate Marquardt is the latest who failed to regulate his own regiment of supplemental intake and failed his medical exam before the UFC 4 Live in Pittsburgh because of elevated testosterone levels. He was subsequently fired and understandably so by UFC boss Dana White, putting a proven career in limbo.

Marquardt joins an impressive if dubious list of Josh Barnett, Sean Sherk, Chael Sonnen and the legendary Royce Gracie who have missed fights because of failing tests that brought into question some type of irregular testosterone, perhaps resulting from steroids or excessive consumption of supplements.

That the state of Pennsylvania may be stricter than other states in this testing, the current case of Marquardt, is irrelevant in the big picture of MMA. This only intensifies a focus on a growing black eye in the sport. That he was warned as he admits in a prepared statement to HDNet by the New Jersey Athletic Commission in March of this year for the problem only exacerbates the issue. What was he thinking when he also admits in his statement that he went on a “more aggressive” testosterone replacement therapy three weeks out from UFC 4 Live? That he did this “due to the close proximity of the fight” can only raise speculation. Why would any thirty-something man in prime athletic shape who makes he living this way need to do this?

It is performance enhancing, to what degree can be debated, but as noted Marina Del Ray Hospital Urologist Dr. Nickolas Tomasic confirms on Inside MMA, it does aid especially in the training of an athlete and is a certain ban for an Olympic athlete. UFC unbeaten heavyweight Matt Mitrione explains when he was in the NFL there was a number to call with any questions about any supplements from a simple vitamin to a protein shake to make certain it complied with the strict rules of the league.

There are states that have been more lenient along these lines as they told HDNet this week, but that doesn’t make it right. As the often outspoken, and usually correct in his assessment, Mark Pavelich the owner of the Maximum Fighting Championship stated “There needs to be uniformity with all commissions on this matter.”

And there needs to be punishment as the UFC dished out to Marquardt. Every major sport has drug policies that are enforced. Yes, there have been those it appears who have skated around these but by and large cheaters have been dealt with rapidly and severely. It only reinforces a commitment to rules and respect for the fans who pay their money to watch these men in action. Yes, respect for the fans, who have been disappointed too many times already in MMA when they come to see a fighter who didn’t live up to his end of the bargain and couldn’t perform because he didn’t pass his test.

It doesn’t matter if the fight is in Nevada, New Jersey or Pennsylvania. It doesn’t matter if it’s a regional show in Kansas City, Kansas or Abilene, Texas or a high profile MFC show in Edmonton or the main stage wherever the UFC is, the MMA organizers must demand a standard in testing and must strongly explain to their fighters what is expected and what will happen if they don’t do their part.

Nate Marquardt is a good guy. All the fighters mentioned who have failed tests have been on Inside MMA and I have found them to be good guys as well. But all, and again it’s not limited to them, have the relatively same excuse, “We didn’t know at the time this fill in the blank supplement would show up as a steroid or a testosterone booster.”

Well, why didn’t they? Who else is responsible? It ultimately can’t be the blame of the manager, trainer, publicist, training partner or physician.  This is their livelihood and the window of opportunity, as with all pro athletes, is precious and dangerously close to closing at any given time. In Marquardt’s case he has a wonderful family, two great kids and another on the way—yes again the question how much testosterone does this guy need?–and he now has a big problem of how to support them.

Since there is no commissioner, no governing body in MMA like the mainstream NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL, perhaps White and the UFC can lead the charge as they have before with other vital matters, in forcing states to have a uniform guideline for all testing.

Perhaps with this latest cautionary tale, other fighters will at last understand the onus of being ready to fight goes beyond training, there are other critical issues to appreciate. The top of the list is their body, their temple for making money. It can’t be defamed with lame excuses or conned into believing a little help from the pharmacy won’t go unnoticed or unpunished.

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