MMA and drug testing: The good without the bad?

Josh Gross tackles drug testing in his latest podcast (check right column here), bringing on U.S. Anti-Doping Agency chief Travis Tygart as a guest.

Tygart makes the pitch that the UFC and state commissions should go whole-hog with blood testing, saying athletes otherwise have no incentive to steer clear of human growth hormone and other substances only detectable by such tests. That depends — HGH use is still illegal unless you’re under a doctor’s care, and a good raid on a black-market dealer could put any customer at risk. That said, blood testing is indeed a better deterrent.

But Tygart smartly allows a little bit of leeway to suggest the powers that be don’t need to follow the World Anti-Doping Agency’s rules to the letter. That’s good, because some of those rules already cause a few problems in other sports.

The classic examples:

Torri Edwards. Trainer misread a label that was written in French. Arbitrators accepted her story and duly … cut her two-year suspension down to 15 months.

Zach Lund. Took Propecia for hair loss. A component of Propecia was added to the list of prohibited substances. He didn’t realize this, but he duly listed Propecia as something he took, anyway. No one raised a red flag. Until the eve of the Olympics, of course. No Olympics for you. Oh, and then they took the substance off the banned list.

Alain Baxter. Did you know that the U.S. version of Vicks Inhaler has a substance that isn’t in the U.K. version? Neither did Baxter. That’s why he doesn’t have a bronze medal in skiing.

Anti-doping movements exist for good reason. No one wants to go back to the days in which East Germany’s athletes were basically lab experiments. (And if you don’t believe these drugs have nasty side effects, read the East Germans’ stories.) But it should be about athlete health and safety first. Not hair-splitting and bureaucracy.

And that’s why the MMA community should be grateful to Tygart for sharing his insights without first insisting that the UFC and state commissions sign everything away to WADA, which is finally emerging from years under the controversial leadership of Canadian Dick Pound.

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