Recently, two top professional mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters were banned for using Nandrolone Metabolite and Drostanolone. This news brought to light what many in the MMA world knew already – performance-enhancing drugs are very prevalent in the fighting ring.
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) emerged in the 1990s as an underground sport, which integrated fighting styles from striking to grappling, into one unique sport. Originally considered barbaric and dangerous, it was banned in many circles. By the early 2000s, the underground sport began to gain more and more visibility, and therefore, credibility. New standards for fighting were introduced to improve viewing pleasure and ensure fighters were protected from unnecessary injuries. The sport gained corporate interest, took on sponsors, and soon began staging pay-Per-View television events.
As with most sports, the moment a great deal of money is infused, two things happen. First, the level of performance increases greatly as many new athletes join the sport. Second, drug use becomes more prevalent as no longer are fighters fighting for a $2k check and a trophy. Suddenly, fighters are competing for hundreds of thousands of dollars. With that kind of money on the line, and the level of competition, performance-enhancing drugs quickly made their mark on the sport.
Most MMA fighters who do use choose Halotestin and/or Mibolerone. These substances create feelings of aggression and strength increases, without water retention or weight gain. Strikers often prefer Winstrol and Trenbolone. Testosterone and human growth hormone are beginning to get a foothold in the sport. These two compounds are very expensive, tightly controlled, and often only available to top athletes in sports like football and baseball. A physician typically prescribes testosterone, and human growth hormone is hard to obtain, even from a doctor.
As with other sports, the decision of a fighter to use or not use is a personal decision. The rules of every major professional fighting organization forbid the use of steroids, as well as many stimulants. Testing is very expensive and often only implemented at the top levels, where prize money and sponsorship dollars allow for this option. Are steroids cheating if many of the top competitors are using them? That’s a tough question to answer. What we do know is that with continued success of the sport – worldwide television coverage and millions of sponsorship dollars – the level of competition, and subsequent steroid use to compete, will continue to rise.