As BJ Penn prepares to face Sean Sherk this Saturday at UFC 84, the hot topic of conversation has naturally gravitated towards steroids, something Sherk tested positive for almost a year ago. In fact the heated rivalry—that’s an understatement—that exists between the two stems from Sherk’s alleged steroid use. As most fighters tend to shy away from the topic, and often only speak about it anonymously and off-the-record, BJ Penn is putting his views out in plain sight for everyone to see.
In a recent appearance on MMA Weekly’s Radio show, Penn expressed exactly how he feels about fighters using steroids, growth hormone and blood-doping, and emphasized that while the athletic commissions are doing the best they can, it will never be enough.
[Random drug testing is] a positive idea, but it’s not like people can’t get around that stuff any time. The people taking steroids that they’re getting from their doctor, they know how to beat the test. They know what they’re doing. The athletic commission, it’s not their fault, they’re trying the best they can to see what’s going on, but steroids or blood doping, growth hormone or whatever, it’s a part of the sport. It’s a black eye on sports, but the athletic commission, that’s the best they can do and you can’t blame them for trying.
I fully support the NSAC for stepping up to the plate and instituting the random testing program. I am by no means any kind of expert on steroids and cycling, but from all accounts, it seems as if cycling on and off in time to pass tests prior to competing is a fairly easy task. One would hope that throwing the random testing wrench into the mix would deter most fighters from taking anything as they can’t cycle anymore without risk of being tested while using. Perhaps there are ways to get around that as Penn suggests, but there’s also the growth hormone and blood-doping options, which aren’t tested for.
Just because steroids are illegal doesn’t mean the other performance enhancers aren’t giving a fighter an artificial edge in the ring. Hopefully as this sport matures, other fighters will take a stand alongside BJ Penn. In this case, the most effective policing may be done by their peers. However, as Penn explains, those willing to do that are few and far between.
And fighters to fighters, I think so many fighters do it that they all back each other up and say, ‘No, I don’t think he was doing it.’ That’s because you were (expletive) doing it.
As much as we would like to think MMA is immune to steroid abuse, it’s just not. Especially as the sport grows and more and more money is on the line, more and more fighters will be looking for that extra advantage. Unfortunately, that’s the professional sports business, and there will always be that struggle to curtail performance-enhancing agents.
It’s unknown how much impact Penn’s public stance will have in the MMA world, but Penn believes he can make a small impact on May 24 when he defends the lightweight title against a man he truly feels cheated to get that title in the first place.
As he tells MMARated.com, keeping the title “clean” has him more motivated than ever before.
I want to keep the title and I want to keep the title legitimate. Keep it in somebody’s hands who’s not out there cheating, who’s just put in all this hard work. You know, who’s completely natural. I’m going to fight extra hard to not let that belt get in someone else’s hands that would use steroids and use growth hormone or blood doping or any of that other stuff.
We’ll never really know for sure if Sean Sherk took steroids or was the victim of a tainted supplement, and there’s certainly no proof that Sherk has used growth hormone or blood-doped, but even if that were the case, BJ Penn has enough talent to overcome any unnatural edge his opponent may have.