This is one hell of a conundrum. On one hand, you have Georges St-Pierre walking away from the UFC in his prime due to what he described as (to paraphrase nicely) lax drug testing, but now you have fighters popping left and right while they maintain their relative innocence.
Let's look back on murkier times. Here's one of the many things he said over two years ago:
"I think this is a big problem in the sport. Remember, because I'm an athlete, I have information internally and I know what happens. If you begin to test everyone, how (many) will be caught? I do not want to speak in public and I'm not accusing anyone, but the image of the sport may be affected."
Now Mystic #GSP is being validated. USADA's implementation into the #UFC has caught a shocking number of fighters, including Yoel Romero, Jon Jones and Brock Lesnar. Those are some damn big names. And, as you can imagine, we're leaving off a large list of lesser names.
But, confusion still reigns. The issue the athletes have, however, is that USADA is not working closely enough with them to provide lists of banned substances, and in the case of banned substances, the penalties are proving incredibly harsh, to the point where careers are being put in jeopardy.
The 38-year-old Lyoto Machida is now banned from fighting until October, 2017 for what he says is a miscommunication:
"First of all, I want to say that I am very disappointed in USADA. I think this is all extremely unfair. I take the blame for 7-Keto. It wasn’t a banned substance since I bought it over the counter in a supplement store when it stated on it’s label 60 vegetarian capsules. For me, USADA didn’t give us proper instructions and I think they failed in educating us about everything. To be honest, they only sent me a list of banned supplements after my suspension, two days later. But before, when it was supposed to be, it didn’t happen. When UFC brought USADA in, I thought it was to instruct and educate all the fighters. Instead they came in to punish in an unreasonable fashion. So they came to the academy and I explained everything and disclosed everything during the test. I didn't know it was banned substance. Unfortunately, they didn’t see my honesty."
The general consensus is that these sentences are far too harsh, especially when someone like #LyotoMachida, who came to USADA with this information after he found out the substance was banned after the fact, is unable to appeal. He faces the potential for an increased sentence if he's ruled against for a second time.
"I came from two losses in a row. I was very hard training at that moment and so stressed. I used that for stress relief. I didn’t know that. My intention was in a good way. How could I take this supplement to the fight if I know it was banned? How? Somebody on a good conscious didn't do that at all. I took the supplement. I have two witness when I took it in my room and I knew that I would get blood test anytime. I took them because I didn’t know. So, I take the blame, made mistake, Okay, I get it. But I think it was extremely unfair to punish me like that."
No one can deny cleaning up the sport is a good thing, but there has to be some sort of context and working with fighters if USADA isn't going to overreach and ironically, affect the sport negatively.