When the news broke Tuesday evening, that Jon Jones' B-Sample tested positive for Turbinol, many in the MMA world came to the realization that (minus his due process) one of the greatest, if not the greatest mixed martial arts to ever step into the octagon, would be no more.
As a second time offender, Jones could incur the maximum suspension … a whopping four years, which by most accounts, could completely derail his career. Can he come back and dominate again? Perhaps, but at the moment, unless he can prove his innocence, his career and legacy has been forever tainted.
But this issue - PED usage - is not something new in MMA and despite yours truly forever in denial about the topic, I have also come to the realization, that despite constantly turning my head away from this topic, it’s time for me to come accept the reality. There are cheaters in MMA, many of them and they have not only fooled me, but are masters of fooling USADA and any testers out there.
My knowledge of PED’s is more of a surface level understanding of what some of them are, what they do and how long they may stay in an athlete’s system. I understand various metrics, like an athlete’s testosterone to epitestosterone levels and what a carbon isotype ratio test will yield ( in essence … is there anything synthetic found in the blood ).
I was generally under the impression that PED’s always required an athlete to cycle on, then off, allowing just enough time for the PED to exit the system. They knew when they would be tested. It was a simple as looking at a calendar, calculating backwards from the date the athletic commission was going to test them, and pass the test. No rocket science degree required.
Then came USADA, with unannounced random testing, effectively messing with some of the athletes, catching the cheaters red-handed. I always thought that PED’s remained in an athlete’s system for days, if not weeks. Well, boy was I wrong.
The fighters were way ahead of me (and USADA) on this one, and in speaking with Luke Bernardi, a nutrition and supplement specialist (as well as a party who knows a fair amount about PED’s, what they do and how long they stay in the system), I experienced an incredible wake-up call.
“I know there are things that professional athletes use, that are in and out of your system pretty quick, and can give you that competitive advantage” said Bernardi, when asked about his initial thoughts when her first heard Jones tested positive. Instinctively, he also stated “I know what he’s probably using”.
He went on to explain, after hearing what Jon allegedly popped for, “It came to no surprise to me that the drug, which is Turinabol, which is also known as ‘T-bol’ … that specific compound has a very short half life, meaning the time it takes for half of the drug to be out of your system. Turinabol, or T-bol, has a half-life of about 4-6 hours. So after 4-6 hours, half of it is out. After 8-12 hours, it’s all out of you”.
In essence, forget about looking at a calendar nowadays; one just has to look at their wristwatch to ensure the latest PED compound is in and out of their system within 12 hours. Gone are the days of 21 day residue and synthetic metabolites in an athlete's blood. We are now talking about hours. To yours truly, this is insane. But to the majority of pundits and fans, this is reality.
And by what Bernardi is contemplating, the vast majority of fighters as well.
While he was unable to put an exact percentage on how many fighters he believes are using PED’s, he did mention that it would not surprise him if that number was very, very high, especially when they are not in a training camp. To my surprise, he also mentioned how the number is likely very high for women in MMA … perhaps higher for them than for men.
A portion of my conversation with Bernardi aired on this week’s ‘Holy Smokes’ Podcast, with more excerpts airing next week. We also spoke about the potential ‘tainted supplement” argument that may be forthcoming, whether over the counter (or perhaps the T-Bol compound being tainted).
Funny enough, one of the reasons why Georges St-Pierre left MMA was because of the PED usage and poor testing in MMA. In fact it was Georges who once told me that it’s not the best fighter who often wins, but the one with the best doctor.
Now that he’s back in MMA, I have to wonder how much longer he will actually stay when he hears about stuff like this.